Pulling "Threads" at Detroit's Scarab Club

Michael H. Hodges
The Detroit News

"Uncommon Threads" at Detroit's Scarab Club, up through Aug. 29, offers a lively and intriguing  tour of the breadth of work that falls under the term "fiber art." Works range from very traditional weavings to a head plastered with lace remnants and studded with beads and acrylic pearls.

The show was curated and juried by Jeremy Noonan, who's head of fiber and textiles at the College for Creative Studies. This is, he said in an interview, the first show he's ever juried by himself. If so, he seems to have a deft touch.

The call for entries in February brought 134 submissions, which Noonan whittled down to the 41 artworks on display.

"The Thinker" by Rachel Esquives in "Uncommon Threads" at Detroit's Scarab Club.

But back to that head ornamented with pearls, "The Thinker" by Rachel Esquives.

It's one of the show's stunners, in part because at first it doesn't seem to have much to do with fiber -- the numerous pearls and turquoise-and-green beads dominating your first impression.

But a closer look reveals delicate fragments of lace applied to the head that underlie the complex construction. In his video gallery talk, Noonan had a lovely summary. The piece, he said, was virtually "drowning in elegance."

"How Did This Happen?" by Carol Williams at the Scarab Club, starring 10 itsy-bitsy sheep buttons.

Carol Williams' "How Did This Happen" is another attention grabber, with its array of small, cotton American flags punctuated by a large question mark created with, of all things, small resin sheep buttons. Who knew?

Black fence wire radiates out from the work, a bit like antennae pumping out distress signals.

Today, in the wake of Covid-19 and economic collapse, Williams' piece has a distinctly political edge. But of course, it was created and named before the current crisis, and picked in February.

The itsy-bitsy sheep raise obvious questions -- are they a reference to us all?

"I think it’s open for interpretation, for sure," said Noonan. "It poses a lot of questions, but doesn’t take a side – yet engages us in the narrative."

Detail from "Kolkata Chronicles" by Boisali Biswas, which took first place in "Uncommon Threads" at Detroit's Scarab Club.

First place in the competition went to Boisali Biswas for her "Kolkata Chronicles," which is a study in dazzling complexity.

In his talk, Noonan noted he was "excited about use of custom dyed materials, appliqued together, woven structures, inlays of copper, and double-weaves on the surface."

He said he was immediately struck when he saw it. "Her piece was a definite standout when I got to see all the work together," Noonan said. "It has references to a cityscape with individuals looking like they’re isolated. It spoke, perhaps, to what a lot of us are feeling."

Ardele Monkkonen's "Everyone Loves a Log" is another exercise in stunning color, with various elements arranged on top of dark blue crushed velvet, with its almost shimmering appearance.

Noonan says he was drawn to the work's energy, which he found almost graffiti-like. It's also puckish. Embedded in the bottom right corner of the plush surface is a teensy plastic astronaut.

Noonan laughed, saying, "It has this galactic energy that I thought was kind of fun."

Finally, second place went to Feather Chiaverini's "Tree Topper," another color-rich composition that's organized around two fabric stars, one large, one smaller, and a donut hole.

Feather Chiaverini's "Tree Topper" took second place in "Uncommon Threads."

Noonan says he was drawn to the its assemblage of different materials -- muslin, beeswax and polyester among them. It's also got a batik panel that seems to contain two shadowy figures. Noonan's got his own ideas as to who they are.

"I think it's Dolly Parton and Bob Hope in an embrace," he said.

The third-place winner was Dorothy Jett-Carter for "Walk With Me." Honorable mentions went to Sam Dienst, Lisa Hermesmeyer, Stephany Latham and Kayla Powers


(313) 815-6410

Twitter: @mhodgesartguy

'Uncommon Threads'

Through Aug. 29

Scarab Club, 217 Farnsworth, Detroit

Noon-5 p.m. Wed.-Sun.

(313) 831-12550