When they’re created by talented artists, crafts can play tricks on the eyes, momentarily blurring the lines between art and reality.
“Currents 2020,” a national craft exhibition showing through April 10 at the Schack Art Center in Everett, is full of these little surprises.
One piece looks like a hollow log dyed with a rainbow of colors, but is actually finely woven, hand-dyed and hand-stitched fabric. Another appears to be an old-fashioned girls’ dress with creases so intricate that it couldn’t possibly be manufactured, when it’s really made of birch plywood.
“Currents 2020,” presented by the Northwest Designer Craftsmen and Schack Art Center, features 134 artists and their works of ceramics, basketry, glass, jewelry, mixed-media, paper and paper cutting, textiles and wood. It also highlights trends, rising stars and established makers in the 21st century craft movement.
“Our goal was to bring in artists from around the country who are at the top of their game,” said Nancy Loorem Adams, president of the Northwest Designer Craftsmen and a sculptor in the exhibit. “Nothing like this has been mounted in this region in recent memory.”
Well-known artists featured in the exhibit include fiber artist Lia Cook, bead crafter Joyce J. Scott and quilter Michael Francis James. There’s also Seattle’s Tip Toland, known for her 3D stoneware sculptures, and the late Ron Ho, a respected jewelry maker.
The exhibit was juried by three leading voices in the craft movement: Michael Monroe, director emeritus of Bellevue Art Museum, curator-in-charge of Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., and honorary fellow of the American Craft Council; Nora Atkinson, curator of craft at Renwick Gallery and curator of Bellevue Arts Museum; and Bruce Pepich, executive director and curator of collections at Racine Art Museum in Racine, Wisconsin.
Jurors selected artists based on how they blended craft traditions with contemporary ideas, found inventive solutions to design and made personal statements through expression. Adams, of Langley, said the exhibit not only showcases the best examples of their craft, but inspires conversation about the complexities and beauty behind the art form.
“There was a long history of time where craft was thought of as a highly technical skill, but never considered part of the art arena,” she said. “It’s taken quite a long time for craft to be recognized as fine art. It truly has been a growing crescendo. Now we’re at the point where the American craft movement is strong.”
Seven artists showing in the exhibit are from Snohomish County. One of them is Snohomish’s Terri Shinn, who mixes multimedia with fiber.
She said her piece “Chinese Red Birch” — the finely woven fabric log mentioned earlier — explores the beauty of different textures, colors, shapes and lines of trees. Shinn, 63, hand-stitched every rectangle, square and pattern, while also dyeing every thread. It took about 700 hours to finish.
“It’s a very long process for both the fabric and the thread,” she said. “You’re thread-painting and blending those colors over and over.”
Adams, 66, said she expresses her feelings on acceptance, love, femininity and androgyny in today’s society with her sculpture “She and They.” Adams crafted the upper halves of a woman and a gender-neutral person with stone clay, paper mache and pigment, then placed them side by side. She clothed them in robes made of weaved cane.
Adams said the expressions on the sculptures’ faces evoke the sense that the two have a serene, loving and accepting relationship, despite what the outside world might think.
“It’s about how people can be together and love each other, no matter who they are and how they are defined.”
Evan Thompson: 425-339-3427, firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @ByEvanThompson.
If you go
The exhibition “Currents 2020,” about the American craft movement, runs through April 10 at the Schack Art Center, 2921 Hoyt Ave. in Everett. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Call 425-259-5050 or go to www.schack.org for more information.