Working with textiles means working with a portable medium. You can fold your piece up, stuff it in a backpack or purse, and pick it back up again out in the world, says 23-year-old artist and recent Colorado College graduate Eleanor Anderson.
Anderson enjoys a flexibility unknown to Jeanne Steiner, whose 16-harness AVL dobby loom is an elaborate, boxy contraption that no one curls up with in a coffee shop. Yet the two have more in common than not.
For one thing, they're both showing in the quaintly named Illoominated, opening this week at Marmalade at Smokebrush. The two women are also connected via CC: Steiner was an instructor to Anderson, who majored in studio art and works with textiles, printing and bookmaking.
"I'm really honored to be in this show next to her," Anderson says of her former professor, "because she's the master weaver and the master colorist with dyes."
Where Steiner — who also serves as CC's Arts and Crafts Program director — works on complex weave structures and intricate dye patterns, Anderson takes a more deconstructed approach.
She begins with a 14-inch-square swatch of muslin (at about $3 a yard, it's cheap for a recent graduate, and possesses a grainy quality she likes) and prints a basic background on it using a press. With stencils, she applies designs. And after they dry, Anderson embroiders on top of it. The results are part-retro and (to borrow from KRCC's The Big Something, which interviewed Anderson earlier this year) part-Bauhaus images that are as sophisticated as they are organic.
"They're quirky and they're a little bit off and they're not precise," Anderson says.
They're also touchable, and Anderson invites you to lay your hands on them as part of experiencing the work. It's hard to resist anyway, with the way the fabric tugs with certain stitches or pulls beneath a sewn net design. It all speaks to Anderson's handmade aesthetic; she taught herself, after all, and still doesn't know how to use a sewing machine.
Steiner's work maintains a similar effervescence, despite weaving's highly structured system. "It's so process-oriented and you have to have so much foresight, and sometimes I think weavings can really come out looking kind of stiff," says Anderson, who has some weaving experience herself. "But I think hers look so lively and playful."
Anderson has shown in her hometown of Cleveland as well as in Phoenix, but this is her first exhibit locally. Her second is already scheduled for August: Bright Young Things, a showcase of emerging Front Range artists at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs' Galleries of Contemporary Art.