Invisible currents of air created by visitors entering the Hess Gallery are revealed as Sandra Golbert's "Sun Room" installation ripples a welcome. Suspended just beyond the entry gate, this curtain of hand-painted silk ribbons lights up the space with a gradient of sunset hues, confronting every entrant with subtle movement.
“Reef,” a similarly constructed piece of suspended fabric elements, is the keystone of the fiber arts show “Caribiana: Tropical Sights and Colors by Sandra Golbert” at the Hess Gallery, located in Pine Manor College’s Annenberg Library. A cascade of hand-painted silk crepe de chine and organza slowly turning in the library’s atrium, “Reef” has only been on display once before, in a church. Its indigo-to-turquoise hues conjure at once the celestial and the nautical realms. Golbert envisioned each component as a floating painting, working with French cold-water dyes and salt to achieve brilliantly speckled, cooling washes of color.
The sea resonates in Golbert’s work as a lifelong muse. In a series of enviable life-stops that read a bit like a romance novel, Golbert’s past mailing addresses include her native Puerto Rico, Curacao, Mexico, New York, and now a studio on Massachusetts’ North Shore.
The seascape’s influence is evident in works like “Shipwreck,” a diaphanous blob of studio detritus ranging from burnt polymer clay to cast paper and whorls of nylon thread, preserved behind acrylic panel. Although it looks very spontaneous, like a proudly displayed low-tide discovery, Golbert insists the work was actually “very architected.”
Most of the work reflects this tendency toward careful construction, not surprising since Golbert began her career in costume and dress design. Getting her start sewing dolls’ clothing and doing detailed beadwork as a child, by high school she had moved on to design colorful Carnival costumes and fine debutante and bridal dresses. At the tender age of 21, Golbert’s designs were even featured in Vogue Magazine.“It was all downhill from there” she quips.
After moving to Mexico, Golbert had to table her fashion design ambitions due to work restrictions on alien residents. From designing for the body, she deftly moved to designing for the wall, a realm in which “artists could take more license.” Eventually she moved to Curaçao where she had her first solo show at the Curaçao Museum in 1974.