Ones to Watch
Textiles that Talk
The work of these 4 fiber artists testify that textiles are the new paintings
Interest in fiber art has seen a sharp rise in the last few years, evidenced by a steady flow of museum exhibitions as well as expanded gallery representation. The genre’s traditional associations with unadventurous craft culture has been overthrown, and a new generation of artists are embracing the expressive magic of textiles, needles, and threads—media every bit as capable of communicating personal narratives and innovative concepts as paint. The work of these four artists exemplify the exciting energy swirling around fiber these days.
The quilted tapestries crafted by fiber artist Gerri Spilka—a native New Yorker currently based in Philadelphia—feel much more in the lineage of modernist painting than traditional quilt making. Maybe that’s why she considers herself to be a kind of “alchemist.” She draws inspiration from urban life and people watching to collage vivid, visual stories about the collective human experience. Of her practice, she has said, “I take ordinary pieces of cotton and transform them into larger than life shapes of glorious, luminous colors.”
Paris-based multi-hyphenate François Mascarello exercises his many talents across a wide range of media to craft sumptuous furniture, lighting, and decor that feature an alluring, painterly aesthetic. Offering a perfect example of the multifaceted nature of his practice, his tapestries begin as images rendered first on a computer and then painted on paper. In the final step, he recreates the images as textile collages, which he composes with individually hand cut and sewn strips of raw silk. In a recent interview with TV5Monde, Mascarello reflected on his unique approach: “The gesture of the painter is also the gesture of the dancer. The work must seem spontaneous; I do not want the materials to dictate the rules. I use my savoir faire to push beyond their limits and adapt them to my projects. What brings it all together is emotion”
Born in Manilla to a US Navy family, Paolo Arao is a Brooklyn-based artist whose practice explores modernism’s formal vocabularies through the dual lenses of his queer identity and Filipino heritage, alternating between and mixing paint and fiber media. “My work is rooted in geometric abstraction,” he explained in an interview with Maake. “There’s a lineage of history that I’m both working with and against… And one of the questions I ask myself in the studio is ‘Can abstraction or geometry be gay?’ Working with textiles feels like an appropriate material to help soften the geometry and ‘straight’ system of the grid.”
Coulter Fussell was born into a family of seamstresses and quilters in an old textile town in Georgia. Now based in rural Mississippi, she uses discarded and donated materials sourced from her community to create decidedly contemporary quilted textiles that tell the story of her life as well as Southern US culture more broadly. Each work is a rich tableau reflecting the world around her. “All of my material comes from people who know I’m making quilts,” Fussell recently told Art News. “I’ll be in my studio, and some guy who’s got his aunt’s old stash and doesn’t know what to do with it throws it off the back of his pickup truck and honks his horn and drives off.” Of her practice’s local focus, she added, “I found that the artistic universe was bigger the deeper I dug where I lived.”