Jessica Hemmings

Textile Writer

Congruity in Nature… The Patterns We Find

BY JESSICA HEMMINGS

Congruity in Nature… The Patterns We Find
La Jolla Fiber Arts Gallery, California, USA
27 May – 6 July, 2002

This exhibition presented 55 miniature works by Catherine Varvis Herrera. Working from organic patterns, Herrera’s pieces reflected upon the many visual similarities that appear when the scale of an image is reduced or a section of the image makes the original form unrecognisable. The results were rendered in painted and embroidered silk and a variety of woven tapestries combined painted warp and weft threads. A substantial number of the works on display were successfully grouped as diptychs or triptychs. In these groupings uncanny connections appeared between such disparate references as the spinning streaks of colour in an aerial view of the galaxy and a detail of a nautilus shell. From a distance the artist’s hand was apparent. Herrera weaves as though she were drawing in pastels or painting with watercolours. The images are fluid and gestural. Closer inspection revealed a commitment to the spontaneity of these rhythms. The weavings were typically unstructured, breathing in air and light between each pick of thread or cloth strip.

Accompanying these textiles were a series of quotes displayed on the floor under the work and on nearby walls. Drawn from a range of great thinkers, from D.H. Lawrence to Kahil Gibran, the quoted passages drew attention to the often overlooked marvels of the natural world. For instance, Herrera quoted Eden Phillpots who wrote, ‘The universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.’ The quote was an apt one for this particular exhibition, one in which the viewer had to slow to contemplative pace in order to absorb the details which these weavings revealed.

Congruity in Nature… The Patterns We Find demonstrated how Herrera manages to balance an acute level of observation with an unrestricted freedom of creative expression. The modest scale of each of her pieces brings greater emphasis to the vastness of scale she works from. Here the infinite and the minute were handled with equal tenderness and attention to the fundamental rhythms of the original source. In the bight light of southern California, La Jolla Fiber Arts Gallery offered a superb environment for the presentation of these quiet works.

Journal for Weavers, Spinners and Dyers (Sept. 2002: 36)