Listen – Talk – Learn
A blanket of cold and gray has enveloped Chicago almost every day during the month of January. So imagine the bright surprise that greets me and Samuel when we enter Rockefeller Chapel, the immense Gothic architecture inspired space that dominates the skyline of the University of Chicago. A monumental display of resplendent colors ranging from warm yellows and reds to the cooler blue and green hues hangs within a niche of its interior space. “Seasons,” a fabric installation by fiber artist, Libby Chaney, offers a vibrant display for worshippers to reflect upon as they ambulate around the Eastern transept of the chapel.
Diminutive in comparison to the stained glass windows that provides natural light into the interior, Chaney’s soft and flowing work non the less embodies a unique kind of grandeur that is rooted in “a feminine quality.” In “Seasons,” we witness the power of capability in one woman’s work whose choice of materials elicits the dexterity of her delicate hands and the strength of her conviction as an artist. At times appearing like cascading altar piece triptychs these assemblages echo the qualities of holy relics, grand objects of devotion.
The installation is framed at both ends with a mesh like curtain covered with cut out circular fabrics. Cloth worn by individuals have been transformed into a tapestry of decorative design. Stitches are visible throughout each cloth of canvas like lines on the road keeping travelers on the right path. Every destination leading the audience to an exquisite juxtaposition of patterns and decorations. Chaney carefully arranges a myriad of fabric designs and patterns, from batiste chintz, flannel to silk brocade, into a conglomeration of undulating colors that define summer, winter, fall and spring. She manipulates large pieces of textiles, crumpling, wringing and twisting them to conform to her desired placement thereby creating textures that bring depth into our visual plane.
In one particular hanging, Chaney unleashes her power as a fine artist. Her winter composition is bold and filled with nuanced artistic maturity, looking more like a large canvas upon which thick white paint has been applied. In this exceptional rendition of winter, single strands of dark colored fabrics dive into a chasm of light. A cloth of white is folded, flattened and pressed to represent a white abyss.
Libby Chaney’s installation inspires me to admire the individual fabrics that contribute to the monumental design of our personal lives and view those as a compendium to the dynamic changing seasons. Diversity enlivens and illuminates the story of nature’s ebb and flow. In “Seasons” we witness the assembly of fabrics to create an epic installation of colorful delights.
“Seasons” Fabric Installation by Libby Chaney is on exhibition at the Rockefeller Chapel, University of Chicago from January 17th-March 3, 2015
For more information, please visit http://rockefeller.uchicago.edu/events/visual-arts-seasons
“I love the process of working with fabric, and it gives my work a soft, flexible, feminine quality. Cloth brings together a big world of aesthetic sensibilities, spans time and connects me with other individuals. Fabric is alive with movement, with history and with possibility. It is universal.”
“The cool gray windows of Rockefeller Chapel are the stoic, elegant colors of winter. They inspired me to make a series of work based on my feelings for winter, spring, summer and fall.” Libby Chaney