The Thread of Life

September 13, 2012

Im plant by Lisa Kellner
Im plant by Lisa Kellner utilizes silk organza, thread, and various pigments.


Art, at least in a traditional sense, is made with paint and canvas, oils and brushes. Or is it? Who is to say it can’t be made with felt, yarn, and fabric? That’s the question being pondered in today’s art world as artists begin to rethink the gray area where high art and handicrafts meet and mingle.

According to Jonathan F. Walz, curator of the Cornell Fine Arts Museum (CFAM), this re-evaluation of art forms and processes has been trending for the past few years. “Artists today have become interested in questioning—and thus blurring—the boundaries between the traditional categories of ‘art’ and ‘craft,’” he said. “They are using everyday materials like acrylic yarn and mundane techniques like crochet but pushing them conceptually to explore quite complex ideas.”

As illustration of this point, CFAM will present the exhibition Mysterious Content of Softness beginning September 15, 2012. Organized by the Bellevue Arts Museum and curated by Stefano Catalani, the show will bring together eleven national and artists who have employed techniques such as knitting, embroidery, and loom weaving to explore the physical, psychological, and cultural associations of fiber to the body.

“The artists were selected for their emotional response to and understanding of fiber's potential for capturing the fluidity of life," said Catalani, who conceived the exhibition to be an investigation of the transformative power of fiber and its connection to the human body.

“It’s also about the fragility of life and how textiles can metaphorically capture this idea,” Walz said. Featured artists in The Mysterious Content of Softness include Diem Chau, Lauren DiCioccio, Angela Ellsworth, James Gobel, Angela Hennessy, Rock Hushka, Lisa Kellner, Miller & Shellabarger, L.J. Roberts, Jeremy Sanders, and Nathan Vincent.

To complement the exhibition, Walz has organized a series of events and programs including a panel discussion with five of the artists on Saturday, September 15, as well as two knitting workshops with textile artist John Brinegar scheduled for mid-November.

In October, Elissa Auther, associate professor of contemporary art at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, will lecture at CFAM about the intersections of art and craft in the post-war era. In early December, guest curator Stefano Catalani will visit campus and make several presentations, providing his personal insights into the exhibition.

Mysterious Content of Softness will be on view at the Cornell Fine Arts Museum from September 15 through December 30, 2012.


By Kristen Manieri

Office of Marketing & Communications
For more information, contact

Copyright © 2012 Rollins College, 1000 Holt Ave., Winter Park, FL 32789  407.646.2000

News Archives: