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Exhibit Celebrates Women

a review by Marcia Hirst for The Bakersfield Californian
March 23, 2001

view article at The Bakersfield Californian web site

Tattooed dolls, photographs of fabric draped over the human body, paintings that link the patterns of old afghans to modern architecture -- wouldn't seem like it, but there is a connection.

And it can be found on the hill at Bakersfield College.

They are all part of the "Fabric, Pattern, Needle and Thread" exhibit, on display at the Wylie and May Louise Jones Gallery at Bakersfield College. The exhibit brings together the experience of three female artists to commemorate Women's History Month.

Deborah Ricketts of Los Angeles has submitted a collection of unusual photographs, called "Tricks," that can be mistaken for paintings on first glance. The artist chose patterned fabrics and draped them in such a way as to obscure the identity of what is underneath or poking through.

The photographs allow the viewer to play peek-a-boo with what is behind them. In one work, the artist's eye is camouflaged amid a blue animal print. A photograph of solid red fabric shows a fleshy protrusion, which -- after considerable contemplation -- can be identified as an earlobe.

But one person's earlobe could be another person's kidney bean.

"I think Deborah wants us to get it wrong," said Theresia Rosa Kleeman, gallery director. "She wants multiple interpretations so we can play with it."

Needle artist Sherri Wood's collaboration with female tattoo artists brings the Tattoo Baby Doll Project to life.

"I find cloth-bodied baby dolls at thrift shops and send them to the artists, who draw original tattoos directly on the dolls," Wood notes in a written statement about her work. "Then they send the dolls back to me and I embroider the images on the cloth bodies."
Embroidery is a difficult needle art even in its simplest form, using a hoop and sturdy fabric. The intricate stitches of Wood's tattoo babies are a wonder given the difficult, curved surfaces of the dolls' bodies.

The Tattoo Baby Doll idea germinated in 1998 when Wood, studying the history of embroidery in San Francisco, found herself mesmerized by the incredibly intricate tattoos she saw on every street corner.

"I chose to recycle and transform used and discarded dolls as a direct vehicle for merging the two art forms," said Wood, who lives in North Carolina. "Each tattoo artist was asked to create a persona for her doll by writing a brief story of the doll's philosophy and how she came to look the way she does. These stories are as whimsical as the dolls themselves."
Karen Head, a gallery assistant and art major, positioned five of the six dolls to face one another, like kindred spirits in a quilting circle.

"The student response to the dolls has been remarkable," Kleeman says. "All of a sudden art is not in an ivory tower. This is art based on tattoos."

The third component in the exhibit is Melissa Thorne's three paintings in ink on velum. Thorne, an art instructor at the University of Southern California and self-described "manic collector" of afghans, first realized the connection between afghans and modern architecture when she started to study the geometric patterns of the needlework.

Her paintings of old afghans are done to scale and represent pieces in her collection down to the finest detail. She strengthened the link between afghans and architecture by using ink on velum, the same materials used in architectural renderings.

The desire to have her paintings displayed in a warm environment, "because they are paintings of afghans which are very domestic," prompted Thorne to travel to Bakersfield and paint two walls of the gallery a soft butter yellow.



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