Creative patchwork

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Palette Contemporary Art and Craft is hosting “Improv,” a contemporary art-quilt solo exhibition by fiber artist Sheila Frampton Cooper, through March 2.

"Venus in the Garden" by Sheila Frampton Cooper is not a revalidation of Hieronymus Bosch's "Garden of Earthly Delights" but is delightfully earthy.

“Venus in the Garden” by Sheila Frampton Cooper is not a revalidation of Hieronymus Bosch’s “Garden of Earthly Delights” but is delightfully earthy.

Regrettably, we have to address the art-vs.-craft nonissue still lurking at the liminal edges of the fiber arts before moving on. Contemporary fiber arts are almost universally considered fine arts on a global scale. There are some hidebound curators who shall not be named who remain troubled by both fiber art and any art made by women, although men make up nearly half of the fiber artist population.

As they exit stage right, we can move into one of the most colorful and well-executed fiber arts shows I’ve seen since my visit to the international fiber arts biennial in Shenzhen, China, in September.

The fiber arts have grown up during the past 50 years and are so far beyond macramé plant holders, knitted baby booties and such things that they have pushed the definition of the medium into all art and design realms. Three-dimensional sculpture, tapestry, rugs, constructions and assemblage are seen alongside easel painting techniques, traditional loom weavings and full-blown multimedia installations.

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Frampton Cooper however, is beautifully operating within, while stretching and pushing open the envelope of traditional quilting. These are not your grandmother’s quilting-bee-in-a-barn bed-warmers. Frampton Cooper is instead a quilted tapestry master who has an organic and abstract sense of design while still knowing her way around the sewing circle.

"The Living Room" by Sheila Frampton Cooper creates order out of apparent chaos and gives the artist enormous evolutionary space to expand her creative horizons.

“The Living Room” by Sheila Frampton Cooper creates order out of apparent chaos and gives the artist enormous evolutionary space to expand her creative horizons.

In works like “Venus in the Garden,” Frampton Cooper touches upon ancient mythology with a close-to-home backyard flavor. The piece brims with implied animation and movement throughout.

This is not Hieronymus Bosch’s “Garden of Earthly Delights” but Frampton Cooper’s “Venus in the Garden” is delightfully earthy.

Frampton Cooper takes us on a jaunt with Dorothy in “Yellow Brick Road,” a surreal composition so fascinating that you may not tap your heels together for quite some time. You might remember to bring some oil for the Tin Man.

Even though it remains fashionable to dis climate change in some fossil fuel lovers’ dreams, our oceans are suffering from high temperatures and acidification. Frampton Cooper’s “The Reef” and “Deep Sea Portals” allow viewers a snorkel-free visit under water. She avoids controversial commentary either pro or con to celebrate the unseen realms from which most life came. Her “The Reef” is powerfully designed to illustrate the stunning dynamism of reef ecology. Both of her underwater journeys are worth taking.

Back on the shore, viewers are delighted by “The Lighthouse,” a fluidly organic vertical piece of dancing architecture designed to warn off hapless sailors and correct their course toward a safe port as they are seduced by siren songs and the lure of solid soil.

The DNA helix is itself a woven form of genetic material that directs RNA to inform surrounding proteins to perform tasks leading to the construction of cells and organs. New Mexico weaver Nancy Kozikowski has been exploring the DNA of weaving, including motifs and techniques, for more than 50 years.

I see a strong oppositional relationship between Frampton Cooper’s layer-upon-layer design methods and Kozikowski’s painstaking drawing to painting, to weaving approach.

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In extremely complex works like “The Living Room,” Frampton Cooper had no clear idea about where this composition was going until she discovered the order in chaos that is in the forefront of chaos theory. The results are stunning and embrace the “everything goes” methods used by the artist.

I’m in love with both Kozikowski’s style of planned in-depth and studied density of complexity and Frampton Cooper’s insouciant spontaneity. Her “The Living Room” leaves lots of space for future aesthetic evolution and scads of room to live out the artist’s dreams.

Frampton Cooper’s work is gorgeously complemented by “Spectral Splendor,” glass art by Dorothy Hafner, “Branches and Bones,” a painted mural by Daniel North, and many other visually related works in the gallery.

This is a do-not-miss solo show.

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays through March 2. Information, 855-7777.
WHERE: Palette Contemporary Art and Craft, Suite 22, Mossman Center, 7400 Montgomery NE
HOW MUCH: Free

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