Fiber art blurs lines of reality

Amber Foley

A new Goldstein Gallery exhibition, “Fiber Into Fantasy,” uses exotic, myth-inspired gowns to lead its audience from reality into illusion.
The free exhibit, located on the third floor of McNeal Hall on the St. Paul campus, displays unusual garments created by two internationally renowned textile artists, Zandra Rhodes and Robert Hillestad.
“This (exhibition) is different from the usual ones,” said Joni Horak, a College of Liberal Arts sophomore. “The designs are so amazing; it gives it a fairytale-like atmosphere.”
Rhodes’ designs were originally created as Christmas window displays, said exhibit curator Marilyn DeLong, a professor in the Department of Design, Housing, and Apparel.
Hillestad’s elaborately designed coats, collars and wall pieces illustrate how clothing is used for celebration throughout the world.
In addition to Rhodes and Hillestad’s displays, many local artists and art teachers contributed their work to the exhibition.
Displays are set up so that they tell a story with Gaia, the spirit of the earth, guiding viewers through the exhibit and its designs.
“It’s beautiful, wonderful and fantastical,” said Mary Larson, executive secretary for the Department of Design, Housing, and Apparel.
The focus of the exhibit shows that “fiber can be used as a medium for fantasy,” Hillestad said.
“The exhibit is a laboratory of ideas,” Hillestad said. “The kind of techniques used in these clothes are unusual. We don’t see them in stores.”
DeLong said the element of fantasy appeals to children, the exhibit’s main audience.
“Ten- to 12-year-olds like the relationship between fantasy and reality,” DeLong said. “It’s a notion of creativity, like a child looking at a fairy godmother.”
But although the exhibition is aimed at children, DeLong said that a lot of adults are also enjoying it.
“I think that everyone that’s gone to the exhibit says, ‘I’m going to come back,'” she said.
Part of the attraction is that many educational programs are offered in conjunction with the display.
One workshop for elementary school children next weekend will be conducted by University design students.
Design students also worked with Hillestad last week to create innovative apparel in a workshop titled, “Art Wearable Design.”
Other art and design classes are incorporating the exhibit into their curriculum, DeLong said.
“Fiber into Fantasy” continues through Jan. 9.

Amber Foley covers the St. Paul campus and welcomes comments at [email protected]