Opposites Attract - Juror's Essay

Gail M. Brown

Opposites Attract—a boundless topic of seemingly infinite directions, where the blatant, the exuberant, and the subtle are all open to consideration. Some of the pieces in this exhibition have been modified or enhanced by ideas and recollection of other works, others by thoughtful titles and statements. Riveting discoveries entice longer exploration of each work: exceptional design, dramatic scale, singular palette, unique imagery, or a clever, outstanding narrative.

In some pieces, opposites attract visually. Contradictions in color, with multiple or complementary palettes, enhance the desired mood. Opposing visual forces can be readily apparent or coyly hidden among figurative, geometric, or abstract designs. Recycled materials imbue some of the works with an elusive past, suggesting previous hands and a previous purpose.

In other works, opposites attract intellectually. Narratives abound, making cultural or historical references, expressing concerns about the fragility of natural and man-made worlds, or exploring personal and social issues. There is a balance between innovation and tradition, past and present.

Opposites also attract emotionally, with the artists using a tactile experience to inspire shared experience, sentiment, and passion. The viewer’s response is enhanced by contrasts in color, scale, voice, media, design, and levels of embellishment.

I was seeking ideas and works of authenticity that have an abundance of personality and diversity. As a juror, I took into consideration individual style and quality of design, intent, masterful workmanship, emotive palette, unique, memorable storytelling, and the artist’s passion and commitment to ideas and issues. I appreciate the larger context—the antecedents in history and utility, and the referential echoes of domesticity. I also enjoy the potentially unique and unexpected visual, intellectual, and emotional narrative as it reveals itself.

Coming full circle, I savor the seemingly unlimited fabric choices. Fabric and fibers offer rich individuality in hand and machine weaving practices, stylistic vocabularies, and hands-on production. Fibers and quilts continually aspire to re-invent the ordinary to become the unusual. They remind us of our shared, finely crafted, well-woven knowledge—locally, regionally, and internationally. The familiar can become new and unexpected, invasive and observant, true and yet also open to interpretation.

The language of fiber affirms our shared human roots, as we come to appreciate the differences between traditional and contemporary work, hand and machine  skills, broad design and narrative aspirations. We become more aware of the distinctions between individuality and community—between our own tribal identities and those of others. At their best, quilts can evoke joy and empathy as we share in the vagaries of the human condition. Creative discovery and affirmation mark, authenticate, and celebrate our lives without limitation.

— Gail M. Brown

About the Juror

Gail M. Brown is an independent curator whose interest is to enhance visibility and education about contemporary craft within the larger visual arts community. She trained as a printmaker at the Philadelphia College of Art where she identified her own connection to process and media while exploring etching and lithography. She curates focused exhibitions which share exceptional works from a national and international body of mature and mid-career artists, and introduces potent ideas and forms by younger makers.