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March is Contemporary Art Month in San Antonio and there is a lot going on but I want to draw your attention to a small but unique exhibit at the Clamp Light Gallery, 1704 Blanco. Though modest both in scope and presentation, it’s definitely worth a visit. Curated by art historian Alana Coates, it features artists who use needle and thread to express themselves. Yes, it’s embroidery but it’s definitely not your grandma’s pretty pattern. These works reflect a contemporary “conceptual” approach to art, with innovative stitching techniques and surprising results.

Coates said she became interested in fiber arts after seeing a Jesse Amado exhibit at Ruiz-Healy Arts where she works when she is not pursuing independent curatorial projects. “He often works with felt,” she noted. That led her to explore the fabric/thread medium further. She recently curated a couple of exhibits in Austin that focused on political themes, so for “Thread” she wanted something different and lighter. “This is much more playful, an enjoyable exploration of form, style, shape and technique,” said the curator.

“Thread” features twelve artists from San Antonio, Texas and beyond, including an Argentinian artist named Sol Kesseler. Her work “Presence” combines two embroidered pieces with an electronic element that starts emitting sounds when two people connect physically with the pieces and each other. A fun way to interact with art!

The most visually striking work in the show is Bianca Alvarez’s wall sculpture “The Ecstasy of Santa Sucia,”a basically abstract, gently concave “shell” stitched out of cornhusks. It was sold on opening night, said Coates.

Also intriguing is an array of smaller pieces, collectively titled “Nothing 1-50,” by Fort Worth artist Martha Elena Flores. She used tight stitching to generate imaginative “symbols” based on a code.

Linda Arredondo’s “portraits” on a gauzy material mock the Korean cultural trend called Ulzzang (the artist is part Korean) which involves online beauty competitions among young women who make their faces up in a certain “ideal beauty” way. (That’s the best I can explain it.)

A very different work is a low-key pair of fabric books which tell the story of a romantic breakup in an original way. San Antonio artist Abby Hinojosa executed a series of simple embroidered images depicting what she and her beloved wore on the day of the breakup. “What We Wore” is charming and almost touching in its simplicity.

Sarah Fox’s “Frog, William and Bear” is another striking piece due to  its composition elements and the execution.

Other artists in the show are: Sara Barnes, Sarah Castillo, Justin Korver, Nicole Tovar,  Michael Martinez, Jose Villalobos.  

You have three chances to see “Thread”: March 23, March 30 and March 31 when a big closing reception is planned.  (www.clamplightsa.com)
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Photos by Jasmina Wellinghoff (from Top) Works by: Sol Kesseler, Bianca Alvarez, Sarah Fox, Linda Arredondo