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Donna Sharrett, "Dancing Barefoot," 2014; men's shirt, women's dresses, wedding dress hem, jewelry, blue jeans, neckties, guitar-strings, needlework, damask tablecloth, negligee edging, interfacing, buttons, bone beads, pins, synthetic hair & thread; 48 x 48 in.

The Thread You Follow: Debra M Smith & Donna Sharrett

October 1 - December 20, 2016 Admission

Debra M Smith and Donna Sharrett are fiber artists who employ an eclectic and intricately technical practice that bridges the conventional divide between crafts and fine art. Both artists repurpose found fabric in their compositions, which is painstakingly cut and stitched together to form compatible, yet distinct, bodies of work. Sharrett employs a sculptural approach to explore memory and symbolic ritual in her circular assemblages. Smith takes a more painterly interest in the arrangement of her fabric scraps, and concentrates on the formal language of shape, color, and texture in rectangular arrangements that yield a cubist-inspired graphics.

The exhibition seeks to spark an aesthetic dialogue between Sharrett’s and Smith’s oeuvres by installing them in a single, large gallery that affords each a discreet but common space. The work of both is clearly slow to make and there is obvious care, patience, and skill. This is an essential and shared characteristic; however, while they explore similar media and processes, they diverge in terms of intent and presentation.  Sharrett’s assemblages invite close scrutiny and play to archetypal understanding; Smith’s compositions are best contemplated as unified wholes and offer stimulus for the viewer’s imaginings.

Donna Sharrett, who is based in New York City, combines sculpture, craft techniques, and non-traditional materials to create detailed objects that draw on the historical and symbolic significance of the circular form. In her Arrangements, these circular forms and compositions reflect the seamless continuum of ritual that binds the past to the present, and the present to the future. Mirroring the Buddhist mandala, the circle enveloped by the square background characterizes the infinite within the finite. Sharrett incorporates rose petals, synthetic hair, and rings, as well as old neckties, denim and other scrap fabric, buttons, jewelry, and dirt. The materials are chosen specifically for their symbolic values. A variety of needlework techniques are employed, including crochet, embroidery and needlelace, each serving to tie together the ideas of fragility and strength, power and beauty, loss and rebirth, beginning and end.

Debra M Smith, who maintains a studio in Kansas City, has the aesthetic sensibilities of a painter, but rather than applying pigment to a fabric support, Smith creates her compositions from a palette of already-dyed textiles. These she cuts by hand into geometric shapes, manipulating a limited range of colors and patterns within the grid of an intuitive, planar abstraction. Her practice involves the stitching together and overlapping of found silk fabric, primarily from vintage Japanese kimonos. Smith incorporates both dense and sheer cloth, which creates an interplay of translucent and opaque areas that add air, movement, and dimensionality to the work. Smith hopes that the historic nature of the fabric might connote another layer of meaning for viewers, suggesting an intangible narrative that disrupts the otherwise formal quality of the compositions with ghostly and poetic connections to the past.