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Janet Kawada, Related (studio view of work in progress), yarn, thread, wooden spindles (photograph by Elizabeth Michelman).


Elizabeth Michelman

“Is This Something?,” a fiveperson exhibition curated by Janet Kawada at Lasell College opening on January 24, grew out of her conversation with Deborah Klotz after Klotz returned from an archaeological dig in Israel. Klotz had spent a day sifting sand and searching among shards for any that might have greater personality than the rest. Each time she picked up a fragment and inspected it she wondered, “Is this something?” Klotz came home to the realization that she brought this same expectant awareness to her own art process, and that often it was the most humdrum of artifacts that sparked a “Eureka” moment.

Kawada thinks all artists hover in anxiety as their process falls into place. “Is this something?” they constantly ask. “Is it even anything?” One might well wonder — at what point does a process of no apparent value feed into a meaningful product that we should call “art?” She asks us to ponder this with her own installation of fiber sculpture, along with works of photography, printmaking and sculpture, installation and performance by fellow artists from Boston’s Kingston Gallery and the arts faculties at Mass Art College of Art and Design and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (now the Tufts School of the Museum of Fine Arts).

Two years ago, Kawada embarked on a spree of wrapping yarns and threads around wooden spindles from antiquated industrial looms. She found that a single, tightly wound strand could confer a specific identity through unique combinations of oppositions — fine or coarse, fuzzy or shiny, short or tall, slender or squat, monochrome or rainbow-hued. The result is a potentially infinite community of related individuals whose differences enrich the whole.

Kawada uses the vertical rise and cathedral window of the Wedeman Gallery’s central atrium as a framing device. She has set 100 vertical spindles dangling over the visitor’s head like a prismatic chandelier. Along a narrow ledge on the curving wall behind the second-floor balcony, another host of spindles stands guard. Their warm glow calls out to hands and eyes below.

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