The Exhibition The Journey Continues on display at the Wayne State University’s Elaine L. Jacob Gallery
The exhibition of Carole Harris’s work on the gallery’s upper level opened November 5, 2021, in conjunction with the lower level exhibition of Harold Neal’s work, both on display through January 20, 2022. Over the last ten or more years, the fiber artist has overcome the trappings of traditional quilting to explore form, shape, and color expressed as non-objective abstract expressionism.
She says, “My work relies on improvisation. I am fascinated by the rhythms and energy created when I combine multiple patterns and textures. I let the materials and colors lead me on a rhythmic journey”.
The video presented here was created as part of her 2015 Kresge Visual Arts Fellowship award and provides insight into how the artist sees her work.
This writer has written about Ms. Harris and her work several times over the past five years at the Detroit Art Review and observed her work that has redefined the basic concepts of quilting to suit her own purposes. In taking her “working background” in fiber, she has expanded those tools to create colorful abstract compositions comprised of stitchery, irregular shapes, and textures.
It is well known that Harris was taught needlework in her early years by her mother, providing a base of knowledge and experience that served her well as she studied art and design throughout her educational experience. Her abstract compositions have been described as maps, perhaps ariel in nature, and often dominated by warm dark organic colors. The edges of shapes vary from torn to cut, as does the entire form of the works parameter. Although Harris’s work is rooted in a culture that has a deep respect for fiber, there may have come a time when the influences of contemporary artists such as Al Loving, Sam Gillam, or Frank Stella seeped into her sensibility.
The most recent development in her work is a centuries-old Korean felting technique known as Joomchi, where these layered pieces are built from heavily soaked and worked Mulberry paper. The composition is filled with unique surfaces that often reference maps of real and sometimes imagined landscapes. Using this process, Harris has archived the transformation of multiple elements into completely new structures.
Harris has recently (2021) had an exhibition at the Hill Gallery in Birmingham, MI where she had a display of both paper and fabric collages. From her statement in a recent review by K.A. Letts for the New Art Examiner, she says, “I now draw inspiration from walls, aging structures, and objects that reveal years of use. My intention is to celebrate the beauty in the frayed, the decaying and the repaired. I want to capture the patina of color softened by time, as well as feature the nicks, scratches scars and other marks left by nature or humans. I want to map these changes and tell the stories of time, place and people in cloth, using creative stitching, layering and the mixing of colorful and textured fabrics.”
For those young artists who are studying fabric/fiber visual art, it would seem the work of Carole Harris would be on their radar, not just the compositional designs, but the voyage of a lifetime of quilting and textile collecting – to making a significant transition from functional art to the gallery or museum wall.
Carole Harris’s work has been exhibited in museums and galleries nationally and internationally, including the Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C; The Detroit Institute of Arts in Detroit, MI, The Museum of Art & Design in New York City, as well as exhibitions that traveled throughout Europe & Asia.
Carole Harris earned her BFA from Wayne State University.
Note: Due to the upsurge in COVID cases and new protocols the show is now only available virtually through WSU Elaine Jacobs Gallery website.