When it comes to the term “fiber art,” Beth Marino knows that people often have a very particular or specific idea of what it should look like. Whether it’s a quilt or a tapestry, Marino says that it’s this mindset that she hopes to expand on.
“That’s exactly why we wanted to have this exhibition with this group, because they’re so varied,” says Marino, who works as the director of Museum and Visual Arts at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido. “They go from the more traditional of what people might think about, whether that’s tapestry or weaving, but then there are people who push the envelope so far to the other side.”
Marino is speaking about “Surface, Substance, Structure: Selections from California Fibers,” a new exhibition opening Jan. 15 at the Center. It will feature 21 artists from California Fibers, a Southern California collective of artists who work in a variety of materials and practices.
“I love the way some of the artists use some of the more traditional materials and methods, but are very contemporary and forward-thinking in their ideas” Marino says.
One of those artists is Lydia Tjioe Hall, an Altadena-based sculptor who works in a variety of materials including wire and fabricated steel, as well as natural elements such as wood and rocks.
“Anything that’s a line that you can weave into something, it can become fiber art,” says Hall. “That’s the nice thing about our group is that it does encompass everything, from quilting and coiling, to three-dimensional work and weavings and crochet. It’s nice to see the ways in which people can express themselves even if they’re not working under the same umbrella.”
Marino says the center’s vast gallery spaces provide ample room for some of the more large sculptural works from California Fibers artists such as Hall, Ben Cuevas and Gail Fraser. And because of that space, each of the artists is able to showcase up to five pieces. Marino says this has made for an interesting curatorial process.
“We’re blessed to have such a huge space. Many of the artists work very large, and I really try to tap into the rhythm of the art and find connections not only between color and shapes — with visual cues that encourage me to put one piece next to another — but also sometimes I’ll put things together conceptually,” Marino says. “Even two pieces that are opposite can have a nice conversation if they’re put next to each other.”
Founded in 1970 in San Diego, California Fibers’ mission of “encouraging and supporting both young and experienced artists” has remained much the same over the past 50 years. The group has a 25-member limit and juries each artist that applies. Each member is expected to contribute in other ways to the group, whether it’s working to curate exhibitions, doing publicity or, in the case of Charlotte Bird, serving as the group’s treasurer.
“California Fibers has been a continuing thread through most of my personal growth and changes as an artist,” says Bird, a self-described “textile-based, mixed-media” artist who has been a member of California Fibers since the early ’90s.
The collective meets regularly and has up to four group shows a year.
“One of the most important things is that it’s provided exhibition opportunities,” Bird continues. “The group is very active in searching out venues and putting on very high-quality fiber and textile-based exhibitions.”
One of those artists is Polly Jacobs Giacchina, a La Mesa-based sculptor who has shown in group shows at the California Center for the Arts, but says “Surface, Substance, Structure” marks the first time California Fibers has shown collectively at the Escondido space.
“It’s just an incredible connection you make, being able to network with other fiber artists,” says Giacchina, who studied fiber art at San Diego State University. She also serves as the chair of the exhibition committee for Fiber Arts.
“I’ve never worked with a group that’s so supportive of one another. They’re such a well-oiled machine,” Marino adds. “I’ve wanted to work with them for a long time. Obviously they’re a well established group and very well respected so that’s definitely something we wanted to bring to the Center and to the community.”
“Surface, Substance, Structure: Selections from California Fibers”
When: Jan. 15 through March 6. 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday
Where: California Center for the Arts, Escondido, 340 N. Escondido Blvd., Escondido
Phone: (800) 988-4253
Combs is a freelance writer.