Manifestations in Fiber presents the work of a diverse group of artists from the greater Bridgeport area who tell stories and express ideas and feelings through fiber art. The artists use traditional quilt, collage, embroidery, beading, and weaving techniques to manifest their thoughts, feelings, and perspectives about contemporary political, social, and environmental conditions. Much of the work is pictorial. Some incorporate words. All are vibrant, with a range of textures and materials, responding in some manner to current issues, including racial reckoning and celebration of diverse cultures, climate change and the environment, gender identity, the stressors of the pandemic and separation from loved ones.
Rita Valley is an artist living in maintaining a studio in Connecticut, close enough to New York to dive frequently off the deep end into the vagaries of the art world, but distant enough to enable a life of bucolic scenery, complete with a Dog and Pony show. She grew up as a self professed “political firebrand” (Despite politically indifferent parents who eked out working class livings) and early on explored issues Of inequality, the waging of war and financial disparity. These motives continue in her work to this day, with the near collapse of our economy providing further fodder for her studio investigations. She trusts-perhaps in vain-that her art practice will help to correct the wrongs so manifestly present in the world today, but she is not holding her breath.
Rita studied at Bard college, and graduated from Bennington College with a degree in Studio Art and a minor in Literature. She has shown extensively throughout New England and sporadically in New York City. She has received three state of Connecticut Individual Artist Grants.Her work has been shown at Odetta Gallery in Brooklyn and Real Art Ways in Hartford CT. Rita Valley had her first New York one person show at Capsule Gallery in February 2018. Her work was recently included in the Spring/Break Art Fair in NYC.
Valley says of her work: “all of my work is intensively hand-made, I am my own third world sweatshop. I sew as a meditative practice, the individual stitches referencing any variety of art mark-making as well as the persistent notion of sewing as women’s work. I explore the uneasy relationship between the physical beauty of my work with the (sometimes) uncomfortable messages I am presenting. I refer to many of my pieces as “PSAs” (Public Service Announcements) as I see my role as an artist/activist to remind people of their duty to participate in our endangered democracy.”
Joan Wheeler is a recipient of the CT Commission on the Arts artist grant and has exhibited in countless gallery and museum exhibitions. She has been represented by Monique Knowlton Gallery in SoHo, featured on the cover of Gallery Guide, listed in Art in America’s guide to contemporary art and exhibited in New York Galleries, including Galerie Protégé, Exit Art, First Run Gallery, Broadway Windows, the Works on Paper Show at the Armory, Kohn, Pedersen Fox Gallery, and the Outsider Art Show in NYC, as well as the New York Hall of Science. She also has exhibited several times at the Smithsonian affiliate, The Annmarie Sculpture Garden.
Her paintings, sculptures, and photography have been featured in solo and group shows in the following museums: Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, New Britain Museum of American Art, Mattatuck Museum, Stamford Museum and Nature Center, Discovery Museum, Barnum Museum, Housatonic Museum, Monmouth Museum, Morris Museum, and the Shore Institute of Contemporary Art in New Jersey. Her work is in the permanent collection of the Mattatuck Museum and the Barnum Museum. She is an artist member of Silvermine Guild of Art, a past board member of Silvermine and was inducted into the National Association of Women Artists.
Her fiber art was selected by the Textile Alliance of the Cleveland Museum of Art for the five month exhibit “Focus: Fiber 2019” at Kent State University Museum Our work has been exhibited at many other university galleries, including UNC Pembroke Gallery, Penn State University HUB-Robeson Galleries, Robert Morris University Gallery, Sacred Heart University Gallery, Manchester Community College Dean Gallery, and the Schelfhaudt Gallery University of Bridgeport.
Scott Schuldt is a self-taught multidisciplinary artist working in a variety of themes including nature and natural sciences, politics, history, and environmental issues. His first medium was hand sewn beadwork. A full-time artist since 2005, he has added mixed media, installations, photography, video, drawing and mapmaking to his repertoire. His work is strong in concept, contact driven, and often narrative.
While living in the Pacific Northwest, he began working with the process of environmental exploration and creating artwork that documented his discoveries. These projects intellectually and emotionally explore the idea of wildness, wilderness, and mankind’s often counterproductive relationship with nature. His work is in several public collections including the Museum of Arts and Design. He moved to Connecticut in 2012.
Iyaba Ibo Mandingo
Iyaba Ibo Mandingo Is a painter, poet, writer, actor, playwright, arts collaborator, artist advocate, and arts educator. He came to the United States from his native country of Antigua as a young boy. Iyaba owes his love of the arts to his mother, a trained singer, and his grandparents, a tailor and a seamstress, who first introduced him to colors and patterns, paving a path to the many ways of expression. Iyaba studied fine arts at Southern Connecticut State University and today teaches in and around the tri-state area as a Master Teaching Artist. Iyaba currently resides in Bridgeport CT, where his art gallery -9104- serves as a workspace, classroom and a creative hub.
Iyaba has appeared regularly as a performance poet in venues across the United States and abroad, including the Fort Green Juneteenth Arts Festival, where his clothing brand MandingoWear made its debut in 2017. He has also appeared at the Nuyorican Poetry Cafe, Brooklyn Moon, and Next Door Cafe among others and was the Keynote performer at the 2011 Westchester, NY Poetry Festival. In 2015 he embarked on his first African tour to bring his one-man play “unFRAMED,” his first novel “Sins of My Fathers,” and his poetry to South Africa and Nigeria.
Originally from the Hudson Valley, this serene setting set the stage for an eruption of color, clothing and creativity. Sooo-z holds a BFA from FIT in Fashion and Textile design and her early experience as an Art Director cultivated “Mastropiece”, a silk painting business to create wearable designs infusing art with purpose. She enjoys curating, judging, costuming, and classical bass playing. Her current work under ‘Knitiot Savant’ is a unique fiber art form she developed utilizing a triumph of fabric tubes which has been shown all over the country in juried shows and has appeared internationally in publications.
Ruben Marroquin, (American Born, Venezuelan/Guatemalan) 1979, Visual artist, textile designer and weaving instructor. Ruben studied for two years at the Armando Reveron University Institute in Caracas, Venezuela, specializing in painting under Professor Luis Lizardo. It was during his painting studies at the Reveron University that Marroquin found a strong connection with textiles. Marroquin left Venezuela in the year 2000 to learn more about his Guatemalan roots and traveled throughout the country creating art from textiles and yarns found in the local markets. Ruben is an FIT alumnus, with an AAS and BFA in Textile/Surface Design and was part of the artist-in-residence program in the Art and Design Gallery. He attended a semester at the École Nationale Supérieure de Création Industrielle (ENSCI, les Ateliers) in Paris, concentrating on weaving, through a scholarship from the Carla Bruni-Sarkozy Foundation. Ruben participated in the Rijswijk’s Museum’s Textile Biennial 2015 and has collaborated with the Metropolitan Museum of Art in educational programs related to weaving and the fiber arts. In 2020, he received the grand prize at the Fiber 2020 exhibition at Silvermine Arts Center in New Canaan, CT for his large embroidery, View from Norwalk. His work is sought out internationally, by interior designers, collectors, museums, galleries, and embassies.
Carlos Biernnay – Life experiences and growing up in Chile during the regime of Augusto Pinochet crafted his sardonic attitude and a compulsion to create and sew. The events of 9/11 in New York city increased this propensity caused by the brutal absurdity that the military coup in Chile also took place on September 11, 1973. His art depicts a sharp point of view with a stark sense of humor that is a mixture of imagery from the ecclesial to pop-culture, along with references from art history, and memories from his youth and life events, combining a curious exchange of the profane, the pagan and the secular. Carlos is a perpetual maker of art and collector of materials and textiles. He adopted the art of quilt making when he studied in Maine. Creating textile collages, embroideries, drawings and paintings, he resonates with Dadaism. Like Klimt he believes there is an unspoken truth, that beauty is perhaps an answer or at least a consolation to life’s absurdities. His work shows internationally. Recent exhibits and residencies include City Lights Gallery Bridgeport, MOCA Westport, Expressiones New London CT, Clementina Foundation Stamford CT.
In March 2016, Darron quit his job as an accountant at a prestigious investment firm in New York City to start his own graphic design business in Stamford Connecticut. Shortly after obtaining a Graphic Design Certificate from Hunter College in May 2015, Graphique Couture, LLC was born. Whether Darron is working with textiles, silkscreen, paint, photography or digital imagery, he leverages his graphic and computer illustration skills to create modern, clean, and simple art.
Early influencers in his career include photographer Annie Leibovitz. Her keen sense of composition and color grading coupled with the way Leibovitz captures light and mood has definitely had an impact on Darron’s work. However, it’s the masters like Michelangelo Caravaggio and Diego Velazquez that first captured Darron’s imagination with the incredible realism their paintings conveyed. Like Caravaggio, Darron is drawn to the intersection of traditional art, photography and technology. His fascination with 3-D design has definitely had an impact on his art. Darron is a self-taught textile artist who loves to infuse humor into his work. Combining textiles like linen, cotton, leather, paint and found objects with appliqué and embroidery techniques allows Darron to bring 3-D elements to his art. In 2021, Darron was awarded Best in Show for his embroidered piece called “Lights Out” that explored the theme of Chiaroscuro.
About the Curator:
Suzanne Kachmar of City Lights Gallery
As a young artist, Suzanne Kachmar studied, lived and worked abroad in Italy. She received her MFA at the New York Academy of Art. She is the curator of City Lights Gallery and the Executive Director of City Lights & Company, a nonprofit arts organization that serves the community through art. A focus of her curatorial endeavors is to create provocative shows that activate thought and conversations about relevant issues and current events and to offer a platform for a full spectrum of visual expression. A particular aesthetic passion is her fascination with fiber art. She collects and has curated multiple exhibits of textile and fiber art.