The cutting edge
What: Sheila Klein and Ries Niemi discuss work from "Making Up Stories and Looking at Things Sideways"
Where: i.e. gallery, Edison
Wednesday, May 16, 2018
Work by two prominent artists this month, Sheila Klein and Katherine Wesselman, appear very different but share a congruence in conception and execution. Each brings back something from a foreign clime, transforming it into a novel work of art—Wesselman by subtraction, Klein by accretion.
For an exhibit at the Perry and Carlson Gallery in Mount Vernon, Wesselman photoshopped images from a European trip and printed them as brisk, minimalist abstractions. Reviewers have commented that she transforms the familiar into “something unidentifiable yet totaling engaging.”
She chooses a single brushstroke in the 17th century Borromini chapel in Rome as the seed for a multi-armed crucifix. By computer manipulation she adds and subtracts color, spinning overlapping layers into a spare, modernist work of which Joseph Albers would approve.
Her “Fritz” is a softly abstract photograph of pastel colors on burlap —the subject is a wall in a Danish workshop upon which designers had daubed colors for comparison.
“Double-take collages” are delightfully subtle and inventive abstract prints, each several layers stacked and pierced to give a pleasant sensation of depth as one approaches. Anyone who has ever worked with an X-Acto knife will appreciate the discipline involved.
Sheila Klein, last year’s recipient of the prestigious Washington state “Arts Innovator Award,” is best known for public art, particularly huge projects dressing public buildings with items such as hand-crocheted and knitted steel.
For her show at i.e. gallery in Edison, Klein brought from the streets of Buenos Aires awnings, burlap, plastic mesh, Argentine-flag-colored bandera shade cloth, handmade lace, hankies, towels and napkins to bricolage into tapestry wall pictures.
In her “Still Life” we find a rectangle of delicate fencing behind which lurks the family cat (or is it a cow?) beneath a closed window. It’s an altogether very gentle and engaging composition.
Beneath another delicate mesh I spy a Madonna who, upon closer inspection, turns out to be a lace doily.
The overlapping shiny plastic fabric of “Landscape” offers a satisfying contrast to the underlying burlap. “Flag” arises from similar materials, with the addition of a charming pair of naïf, printed hankies.
Klein is joined at i.e. by her husband, Ries Niemi. His inventive and playful public art is all over Bellingham (Railroad Avenue benches and tables), Anacortes, (Tommy Thomson trestle), La Conner (the fish bridge), not to mention Seattle and Denver.
Ries’s contribution best embodies the theme of the i.e. exhibit: “Making up stories and looking at things sideways.” Not exclusively wedded to heavy industrial techniques, he has a domestic side, expressed in embroidery, sewing and crochet. He has always made clothes, “both wearable and not” and his contributions “discuss the ever-present problem of what to wear.” Not to be missed are his fabric banners, “My wife picks out my clothes,” “How many fingers am I holding up,” and (the three-armed shirt) “I am hard to fit.”