Jessica Hemmings

Textile Writer

Beth Nobles

Beth Nobles BY JESSICA HEMMINGS

Beth Nobles

Hibberd McGrath Gallery
Breckenridge, Colorado, USA
1 – 31 March 2002

Miniature in scale and confrontational in nature, Beth Nobles’ work tackles a variety of topics. The small dimensions and rich layers of stitches draw the viewer near. Paradoxically, many of the narratives that are then revealed repel the viewer from the intimate distance they have assumed. “Diane Nash” depicts the young American university student whose role in the non-violent protests of the late fifties and early sixties in the southern United States helped bring an end to segregation. Regular sit-ins at restaurant lunch counters, as depicted in the piece, were an effective aspect of the protest. In the early sixties Nash argued that the Freedom Riders, subjects to great acts of violence, should not retaliate in kind. Nobles explains that the recent deaths in American of James Byrd and Matthew Shephard, both victims of prejudice, inspired her research into the history of the Civil Rights movement in the United States. Celebrating the work of Diane Nash through embroidery was her natural response.

On a rather different, but equally emotive topic, “Summit of the Elders” shows a group of ladies sitting together on what looks to be a beach. Their backs face the ocean view with the waves lapping behind their deckchairs. The tedious silence of the group, seemingly mocked by Nobles’ chosen title, is immediately palpable. Of the piece Nobles explains, “We all know these ladies, I think. They’ve always been a mystery to me: why certain things are important to them, how as a group they come to a consensus, and why they wear hot dresses and nylons to summer picnics, especially on days that would melt Jello-O.” Nobles’ chosen subject matter is both broad and provocative. Often, the scale and style of her embroideries seem unexpected for the narratives she seeks to convey. The results loosen many preconceptions about the value and purpose of embroidery by interrogating the viewer in unaccustomed and unexpected ways.

Embroidery Magazine, volume 53, September 2002: 48.