Knotty Ladies Make a Beautiful Mess

Eleven women have been curated into a group show that throws new light on fiber art. (A Beautiful Mess: Weavers & Knotters of the Vanguard, at the Sarasota Art Museum of Ringling College of Art & Design through June 25, 2023) What has previously been a somewhat marginalized medium — often considered to be “mere craft” — is shown here to embody the aesthetic and technical qualities that elevate the work well past “crafty.” Both sculptural and conceptual, the works in the exhibition are visually arresting, intricate, enigmatic and thought-provoking.

Installation view, A Beautiful Mess: Weavers & Knotters of the Vanguard

These eleven conceptual artists push the boundaries of their textile-based medium, using rope, yarn, clay and wire, knotting and twisting their media into sculptures that range from minimal and super-organized to exuberantly chaotic, from micro artworks the size of a hand to room-sized installations.

While freely breaking the rules, they are serious about making a strong cultural and intellectual impact, while deftly and masterfully weaving meaning into their work.

Take, for example, Flower For An Hour by Kirsten Hassenfeld. Using a radial form, with the weaving emanating from the center, Hassenfeld upcycles materials from thrift stores, salvaged from basements and dug out of long-ignored storage spaces, weaving them into densely packed, vividly patterned arrangements that embody the stories of strangers.

Two pieces by Dana Hemenway were woven using heavy-duty extension cords, elevating those utilitarian objects to new form and function. By separating everyday objects from their purpose, blurring the distinction between intended design and art, she creates hybrid constructions that are both functional and aesthetically engaging.

Lisa Solomon is known for her work with textiles and color theory. In a large-scale installation Sennibari {1000 stitch knot belt}, she explores the number 1000 as it relates to Japanese culture. In Japanese folklore, the number one thousand, or sen, symbolizes good luck. In WWII, the wives of men going off to war would gather in groups of a thousand to produce Senninbari belts, made using French knots. The belts were worn by the soldiers as talismans. Solomon created 1000 French knots and dyed them in an ombré of pink to red. Installed on the wall opposite the opening into the second gallery, it created a stunning effect. Given the reference to soldiers going to war, I wondered if Solomon’s color choice was intended to conjure an image of a bloody battlefield. Once that concept was in my mind, I couldn’t shake it.

Windy Chien is best known for her year-long project, The Year of Knots, in which she gave herself the assignment of learning a new knot — out of the almost 4,000 documented — every day for one year. In her words, “To the intersection of function, science, and history where knots reside, I introduce aesthetics to illuminate what’s most fascinating about them: the journey of the line.”

The eleven artists included in the show are: Windy Chien, Kira Dominguez Hultgren, Kirsten Hassenfeld, Dana Hemenway, dani lopez, Hannah Perrine Mode, Liz Robb, Katrina Sánchez Standfield, Meghan Shimek, Lisa Solomon, and Jacqueline Surdell. A small show with a big impact.

Hmmm … maybe it’s time to plan a little trip …

A Beautiful Mess: Weavers & Knotters of the Vanguard  on through June 25, 2023

Sarasota Art Museum of Ringling College of Art & Design
1001 S Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL

Art Things Considered is an art and travel blog for art geeks, brought to you by  — the only search engine that makes it easy to discover almost 1700 art museums, historic houses & artist studios, and sculpture & botanical gardens across the US.

Just go to and enter the name of a city or state to see a complete interactive catalog of museums in the area. All in one place: descriptions, locations and links.

Use ArtGeek to plan trips and to discover hidden gem museums wherever you are or wherever you go in the US. It’s free, it’s easy to use, and it’s fun!

© Arts Advantage Publishing, 2023

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *