Palo Alto Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - March 16, 2012

Art by design

Interior designers display the work of many artists in their new pair of galleries

by Cristina Wong

Walking through the Fibre Arts Design Studio in Palo Alto, visitors are drawn into stories told through collages, layers upon layers of metallic pigment and quilted visions on display. In the studio shop are colorful handcrafted felted scarves and pieces of ceramic jewelry.

Open entryways allow visitors to roam freely into a group art exhibition, or experience a different atmosphere in a solo show. There is a modern feel throughout, with white walls and high ceilings.

The Industrial Avenue studio, which opened its two exhibition spaces to the public last fall, is also an interior-design studio offering residential and commercial services. Fibre Arts general manager Shira Adriance is both designer and head curator of the galleries.

Adriance said she and her team, the majority of whom have lived in Palo Alto for years, chose the area to be a part of its thriving design community.

The studio's galleries are a dominant part of the 5,000-square-foot Fibre Arts space. Adriance and her team plan to feature more than 80 artists and a dozen solo exhibitions throughout the year. Seven group shows each year will feature a particular theme or medium. Overall, Fibre Arts will show a variety of media, including mixed media, oil painting, clay, glass, textiles and photography.

At the moment, the studio is hosting the group exhibition "Anima: The Self Within," which was inspired by Jungian psychology's exploration of the unconscious mind. The 11 featured artists portray various interpretations of the mind, through abstract expressions, figurative sculptures, colorful textiles and layered mixed media.

Colorado artist Kathryn Hart is one of those featured. She created a series of mixed-media pieces titled "Mind Mapping," based on the struggle she faced when her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. The 15-work collection includes the titles "Synapse," "Mind Mapping I," "Journey," "Memory Trail," "Cry Freedom" and "When the Noise Dies."

Through her raw colors and abstract forms, Hart said viewers can see how "the aggressiveness of each piece dissipates a bit more with each subsequent piece."

The last piece, "When the Noise Dies," is about "what is left of the memories after the confusion and disorientation has taken over," she said.

When choosing the themes for exhibits at Fibre Arts, Adriance and two other curators generally make a list of about 50 interesting ideas and vote on them, she said. "It's a personal process we go through, but it's definitely a team process," she added.

Adriance said this traditional collaborative process is common to the design world and ultimately influences the Fibre Arts staff members' decision-making as curators. The group is "used to examining things, pulling them apart, and putting them back together," she said.

The staff members also believe the themed exhibitions add an unexpected twist on the usual gallery space.

"It's about finding artists that can delve into that and really explore the themes rather than just saying, well, this guy is a landscape painter," Fibre Arts marketing manager Dan Caple said.

The studio gathers works from Bay Area artists, as well as those who live out of state. Adriance said that exhibiting in her studio provides a good opportunity for emerging artists to make a name for themselves in the art world.

"When you're so deep into your own art, it's hard to step back and determine how you should create a sellable, marketable show," she said. A gallery can partner with new artists to help them learn how to present themselves to the world "in a successful way, and have people appreciate their work and get a lot out of it."

In the Fibre Arts shop, the staff choose pieces that reflect themes of sustainable and urban designs, Caple said. Items have included serving dishes made from traffic lights; Italian-designed teapots; and wooden cutting boards.

The studio also hosts tours and open visits, and acts as a community resource for local school and senior groups. Benefits are planned as well. Later this month, Fibre Arts will exhibit artwork made by residents of Moldaw Family Residences, a senior community at Palo Alto's Oshman Family Jewish Community Center. Proceeds will go toward art classes at the center.

Info: Gallery and shop hours at the Fibre Arts Design Studio at 935 Industrial Ave. in Palo Alto are Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The group exhibition "Anima" runs through March 24, with "Object As Memory," a solo exhibition of mixed-media and assemblages by Lynn Powers, through April 29. For more on these and later events, go to http://fibreartsdesign.com or call 650-485-2121.

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