John McQueen, “Beside Myself”
The Textile Museum in Washington, DC, recently had an aptly-named exhibit, “Private Pleasures: Collecting Contemporary Textile Art”, showcasing over fifty pieces of textile art from eighteen Washington-area private collectors.
Thumbnails of some of the art may be seen here.
Since the theme of textiles is rather broad, pieces ranged from tapestries to quilted art to cast paper to willow withes, both 2D and 3D. The curator, Rebecca A.T. Stevens, had a good eye for interesting and masterful work. The collectors are to be commended for buying such pieces and their willingness to loan it to the museum for lengthy display.
Part of Ms Stevens’ notes for the exhibition:
Textile art represents a significant change in art making which occurred in the mid-twentieth century when artists began to explore textiles as an expressive medium by investigating the “the language of thread.” The collectors represented in this exhibition are fascinated by “the language of thread” which includes both the formal properties of fiber — line, color, texture — and the significance of textile objects in the human story — identity, status, and memory. Collector Marc Grainer observes, “These works have everything a collector seeks. They combine technical virtuosity with challenging, interesting ideas.”
One work I particularly enjoyed was “Beside Myself”, by John McQueen, pictured above. He often poses a question with his pieces. With this one, in his statement he asks, “Does a basket symbolize me if I am known for my basket sculpture?”
Besides being obviously well-crafted, I found it witty and worth examining closely. The figure’s posture is literally navel-gazing. Looking down into the basket, it is apparent that the figure and the basket become all of a piece, rather than the basket being separate from the figure. I also find this medium interesting for its semi-transparency, for how a relatively stiff object like a twig can be shaped at the artist’s will.
More examples of John McQueen’s work:
“Turning My World On Its Ear”
an image from the Schweinfurth Art Center: