The Penland Gallery and Visitors Center’s Focus Gallery has opened Aviculae, its second exhibit of the season. A suite of felted-wool sculptures and drawings by artist Stephanie Metz, this exhibition is on view from Friday, May 4 through Sunday, May 27.
“The wool drawings and sculptures in the ‘Aviculae’ exhibit are an investigation into capturing the likeness of birds while calling attention to their complicated place in the human psyche. (‘avicular’ is Latin for ‘birdlike’). Birds are a loaded subject: people layer them with meaning, portent, and human-like characteristics; breed them into seemingly impossible forms; use them as living decorations; and depend on them to gauge the health of the environment. Birds tend to provoke strong and irrational responses: doves are revered and pigeons are reviled, yet they are the same species; crows are credited with cleverness and tool use and yet considered sinister for those same qualities. I’m drawn to the contradictions embodied in birds, and I am aesthetically attracted to them for the same reason: they are elegant in the large view, but also delightfully grotesque in the details– those feet!”
“In the same way, the material I use, wool, brings up dueling responses: it’s soft and warm and full of domestic references, but it is hair, which also triggers the ‘gross-out’ response. Depending on its use, wool is noble or humble, arty or crafty, sophisticated or simple. I am a ‘gray’ person: I have a hard time seeing all black or white on any issue, so it seems fitting that I also embrace a complicated material to reflect on the complicated world.”
“To sculpt with wool I use a technique called needle felting. Taken from industrial origins and a subsequent craft tradition, needle felting refers to using specialized sharp, barbed needles to mat individual fibers into a united solid mass, held together by the microscopically scaly surfaces of the wool. In a process similar to hand building in clay, I repeatedly plunge hand-held felting needles into a mass of loose, fluffy wool to create nearly solid forms. To create my wool drawings I force wool fibers through paper so that the dark-colored hair acts as a mark or a line, yet has a three-dimensional character.” – Stephanie Metz
Penland’s Focus Gallery is a space primarily dedicated to single-artist exhibitions. Focusing on individual artists over the course of the year, it will present a larger selection of their work to gallery visitors and patrons.