Times Art Writer

“Textile Constructs,” at Cal State Northridge’s Art Gallery (to next Friday), takes us back to the late ‘60s and early ‘70s when the mere mention of a material--glass, clay or fiber--was enough to conjure up excitement. Since then, the craft movement and the use of non-traditional media have become so integrated into art at large that it seems rather quaint to hold out for separatism.

There are reasons to do so: publicizing the contributions of a university department or allowing the work to be seen in a safe context, for instance. The current show isn’t a self-promotional exercise; all 11 artists represented are graduates of other institutions, but their work profits from being seen in exclusive company. Put it out in the world to compete with the whole gamut of art and most of it would simply look respectable.

In its current haven, however, this textile work appears adventurous. It encompasses everything from Victoria Rivers’ garish black-light assemblages to Connie Utterback’s ethereal nylon mesh constructions and Nance O’Banion’s abstract landscapes of handmade paper. This is hardly a showcase for old-fashioned weaving, though James Bassler and Laurie Gross employ woven strips of cloth in compositions of understated beauty.

Karen Rucker capitalizes on the repetition of weaving but moves it into the territory of color-field painting as she twists equal lengths of wire around steel rods. Among those who take their cues from clothing, Marian Clayden makes such comfy-looking wearables as a “Mop Coat.”

The flashiest works long to be paintings but achieve the status of highly spirited and decorative panels. Jean Williams-Cicicedo’s splashy appliques are as likable as quilts for children’s rooms. Sheila O’Hara takes on such sporting subjects as motorcycle riders and skiers (both water and snow varieties) in posteresque panels and separately woven figures. Her work would make great hotel decor in a recreational area.


Fiber goes in all directions in “Textile Constructs,” but that only intensifies appreciation for Ferne Jacobs’ coiled and twined “vases” and pod-like sculpture. Borrowing from various traditions and investing them with fresh vision, she easily steals the show with quietly contained excellence.