September 26th - November 7th, 2021
Bridge Red Studios/Project Space proudly presents Materiality, with Susan Banks, Regina Jestrow, Kerry Phillips, Evelyn Politzer, and Judy Leeson Polstra.
Materiality talks about the tangible, experiential quality one has when encountering a work of art in a physical space, as well as the choice of materials used to create the work, what they convey, and how they are seen.
The traditions of quilting, sewing, crochet, embroidery, knitting, and beadwork were borne out of the need to make functional and utilitarian goods. In themselves, the humbleness of these materials speak of home spun comforts and the hand made.
Materiality takes a look at how these five artists use these materials as a departure from the traditions they are rooted in, while revering and acknowledging their heritage.
A native of South Florida who is primarily known for her work in ceramics. Recently, just before the pandemic sent many artists indoors, Banks began working with beads and fabric, creating sculptural objects with mystical connotations. Of this new work Banks says, "This body of work began in March 2020. These highly embellished forms are dense with personal symbolism and objects with significant memories. During a very dramatic time for all of us I was driven by fears and anxiety to make them and in some cases they became a prayer. Absorbing myself in the work became a process to shift dimensions in time. Felt, needle, thread and beads allowed me to physically be one place and my psyche in another. Yet I believe these bead/embroidery works have always been objects I would make. Every bead, talisman, trinket, rock or odd small object is hand sewn onto felt. I have collected each one and can tell you where they came from. The extraordinary aspect of the work is the power of "making" to rebuild life."
Regina Jestrow is a New York-born, Miami-based visual artist. Her mother taught her how to sew when she was a child, and she's has utilized these skills throughout her practice. When she moved to Miami, she focused on quilting and crochet to cope with homesickness. Jestrow's artwork explores her ongoing interests in women's history and American quilt pattern traditions. Continuing research has led her to develop a body of work that includes painting, drawings, textiles, fibers, and sculptural installations.
She says of her Americana Quilt Series, "I found solace in my studio during the coronavirus pandemic when the Black Lives Matter protests were happening across the country and around the world. I began to examine America's history and to consider my relationship with what was happening, from the perspective of a white woman. While researching American women activists during the civil rights, anti-slavery, and suffrage movements, I discovered that quilts were used to further causes by way of storytelling, record-keeping, fundraising, and raising awareness during protests. The Americana Quilts project has transformed my research and my work.
Americana Quilts consist of textile-based materials: cotton fabrics, second-hand clothing, and hand-dyed muslin using pigments from plants and rust found in around my home. Specific colors represent the diverse landscape of the flesh tones of humanity. The hand-dyed fabrics are created with Shibori and contact-dying methods: wrapping, dipping, and folding textiles around roots, seeds, leaves, and rusty water. Fabrics are sewn into geometric patterns, raw edges exposed. These methods symbolize traditions and interconnectedness while accentuating human flaws. Jagged flowing lines are drawn in thread, mimicking these patterns. Completed artworks are sewn onto paper, stretched on rigid supports, or hung on wooden hangers created to match their silhouettes and allow access to view both the front and backs of the quilts.
One of my grandmothers Kept Things, the other was a Grand Storyteller. Guided by their lasting influences, I make sculpture and installation using found and collected objects working intuitively in response to place, relying on insight and a MacGyver-like resourcefulness. I work with familiar objects in unexpected ways eliciting relationships of a collective narrative while challenging notions of place and consumption. Shaped by my parents' and their post-depression-era farm upbringings, I trust my make-do tendencies and approach each project knowing that I have everything I need. I intentionally limit myself to working with what I already have, can scavenge, or can collect from others, embracing chance, working in concert with limitations instead of in spite of them.
I'm interested in the determination of finding material to work with, like artist Magdalena Abakanowicz' salvaging of used fibers – like sisal and burlap – in post-war Poland. I'm inspired to challenge the ways we can view art, as experienced in the interactive touchable installations of Ann Hamilton. I see my tendencies towards highlighting banal objects in the work of Abraham Cruzvillegas and a desire to build sites for collaboration, activation, and social practice in the beautifully challenging work of Nick Cave.
My process is similar to improv, where I work in union with objects, coaxing them into surprising, deft configurations. I construct spaces that foster wonder, challenge our assumptions, and create room to view alternate perspectives, bringing people together to build connections around our rescued memories and shared stories.
My work reveals an exchange of value, an understanding of the importance and limitations of memory, and the vitality of play. Even while remarkably unique, we all share similar stories. Although challenging, I seek to engage people with different thoughts, beliefs, and experiences in conversation about how we see the world, and how the world can be. Sharing our stories and listening to others' stories may not solve our problems, but it does create space for compassion.
Originally from Uruguay, Evelyn now lives and works in Miami, Florida. After attending Law School in Montevideo, Uruguay and moving to the United States, she pursued her passion for art.
Working with wool was only natural in her native country, where the number of sheep far exceeds the number of inhabitants. Through investigations of color, materiality and concepts, she seeks to engage with both global and local issues, establishing universal narratives. Working in fiber art allows her to foster community, bringing people together to knit for different causes. Politzer has co-organized World Wide Knit in Public Day in Miami from 2016 till 2019. During the 2020 pandemic, Evelyn felt compelled to create a platform for others to share their textile art journey. Together with two other local artists FAMA-Fiber Artists-Miami Association- was born, with the mission to educate and advance contemporary fiber arts in Miami.
Evelyn is a 2020 recipient of the Ellies Creator Award from Oolite Arts Organization and a 2021 MFA in Visual Arts candidate from Miami International University of Art and Design.
Judy Leeson Polstra
Judy Leeson Polstra is a self- taught multi- disciplinary artist who grew up surrounded by art, books, and sewing. Born in New Mexico in 1965, she grew up in North Canton, Ohio where her mother taught her hand embroidery basics at age 7. While Judy received her BA in business studies, she never lost her passion for the arts. Polstra inherited vast collections of vintage textiles that no one in the family wanted. It was here when her passion for hand embroidery was reignited. Polstra combines found photography with hand embroidery on abandoned textiles. She is fascinated with photos from other eras- particularly those featuring women working- as mothers, doing domestic chores, or working outside the home. All are doing what was considered "women's work".
Without knowing anything about these women or the many significant roles they performed during their lifetimes, Polstra's hand embroidery simultaneously masks and embellishes their identities, bringing added color to a time that was all too black and white.
Polstra says of her work, "Utilizing the historic process of hand embroidery is very important to me, cherishing and recontextualizing what was formerly marginalized as "women's work", while linking me with. the artisans that came before and continuing their legacy." Polstra's main studio is in her home in Tamarac, FL, though she can be found embroidering almost anywhere she happens to be. Polstra has exhibited her embroidered extensively and is collected throughout the United States, Italy, Belgium, and Australia."