12 FOR OUR 12TH
SAMANTHA FIELDS, WORK ON VIEW IN: STITCH: SYNTAX/ ACTION/REACTION
NEW ART CENTER, 61 WASHINGTON PARK, NEWTON,MASSACHUSETTS
THROUGH MARCH 24
HARD: SUBVERSIVE REPRESENTATION
UNIVERSITY HALL, UMASS BOSTON, UNIVERSITY DRIVE NORTH, BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS
THROUGH MARCH 9
CHILDREN’S MUSEUM BOSTON, 308 CONGRESS STREET, BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS
THROUGH MARCH 31
by Elizabeth Michelman
In her quest to understand the politics of fabric and fiber in the lives of women, sculptor Samantha Fields has already mastered (and teaches, along with color theory) traditions of weaving, stitchery, knitting, crocheting, beading and embroidery. Last summer, supported in industrial glazing and ceramic technique at the Kohler Art Center residency, she reproduced scores of table legs, chair backs, and oddly shaped finials in glossy bathroom porcelain. Finding their way into the work she exhibited in November at Gordon College, the intensified dynamic polarities between the hard and the yielding drove home her feminist, social and economic critique.
In Fields’ labor-intensive work, the connections between fibers, fabrics, and forms become metaphors to explore the female psyche. “Curtain Mother,” a giant agglomeration of sheers, cascades down a wall from ceiling height. In “Under Primping,” an interactive project serially develops in successive exhibitions, as collaborators ornament an upward-growing petticoat while reading women’s literature round-robin.
Fields’ methods keep shifting in an interplay of refinement and kitsch. She’s invented a frameless floor-to-ceiling loom at the Boston Children’s Museum where children can weave with homemade yarns, strings and ropes. She encrusts fig leaves with beads, balances cushions on clawed chair legs and creates abstracted cocktail gowns and shower curtains. Delicately removing and reweaving the original weft of Ikats and brocades, she resensitizes us to the means by which fabrics are constructed. Her works unveil the history of women’s labor, often by hand and relegated to a hidden domestic sphere. Charming and outrageous, they convey the sensual thrill as well as the tedium of the female-identified traditions we associate with luxury, comfort and sustenance.