This year, the turning of the calendar page brings about change at the Hope Arts Gallery, when Jenny Wolpert and Michele Franklin join forces to bring Nostalgia & Other Entanglements to local residents and visitors alike.But unlike their other pairings, this Back Room show will include the addition of a surprise guest, Jessica St. Germain, which will make it a show to remember.
An experienced fiber artist, Franklin spins yarn from diverse sources including camel, wool, alpaca, silk, and bison before she fibres, hand-dyes some of them, for weaving with. She has created a variety of hand-woven goods that include wool-filled pillows, cushions, and unique laptop cases.
In September’s show, Franklin’s one-of-a-kind hats will be showcased. Inspired by her interest in historical designs from the Mongol period, Franklin has embellished her artistic, handmade head wear with hand-stitched embroidery and semi-precious stones, which bring to mind historical figure, Genghis Khan.
A founding member of the Hope Arts Gallery, Wolpert is contributing more than 20 paintings and embellished prints to the show, which will be her 21st Back Room show.
A collection in its own right, Wolpert’s images exhibit her personal exploration of beauty in decay, relationships with our natural heritage, and the vastness of humanity’s foibles that we all experience. And each year, Wolpert explores a new artistic medium: 2021 turned out to be the year of collage, which is present in her show pieces.
Franklin and Wolpert say they are each inspired by each other’s art and craft, and it was through their mutual conversations that they both became interested in vintage woven rag rugs that are made on rigid heddle looms.
And although Franklin’s forte is weaving fibres, she says there’s always room to explore some new form. And while fibre arts aren’t in the forefront of her wheelhouse, Wolpert recalls a faded red and cream rug that protected her from the slivered floor of the log overflow station house in Kersley where she grew up, and knew she wanted to create something so comforting again.
And so, the challenge was on—they would both share a woven rug or two in their joint Back Room show.
But weaving rugs isn’t easy or quick work: and with each pass of the weaving shuttle, the artists say they felt some imagining of how former generations helped keep their feet warm on drafty floors by up-cycling worn clothing into woven rugs.
And as much as the process of weaving the rugs was for artistic and emotional value, the two women agree that the exercise taught them a lot about what these rugs used to mean to our ancestors: for decades, the time required to create each rug with a scarcity of available fabric meant much was invested in the creation of each rug. Also highlighted was how modern society so often ignores or overlooks the simple enjoyment and pride that often follows the completion of a project involving so much time and effort on one’s behalf.
And it’s dealing with scarcity of such intensity that most people these days don’t know how to cope with, so instead of using/fixing up older items, many people are now happy with buying a new one.
But creating woven rugs in an old-fashioned manner gave the artists an inkling to the personal value of these rugs in their era. The time required to create each one, not to mention the scarcity of available fabric, endowed each rug with a value the people of today may find hard to imagine.
New to Hope, St. Germain is a young emerging artist who will also be sharing her artwork in September’s Back Room show.
Inspired by nature, the conflict between societal expectations and the possession of a youthful spirit, and human inventions, St. Germain has worked hard these last few months creating diverse artwork to exhibit at the gallery this month.
Staffed by artists who volunteer their time, the Hope Arts Gallery, located at 349 Fort Street, invites all to visit the current Back Room show on Wednesdays through ‘til Sundays, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. And don’t forget to check out the building’s exterior makeover that includes murals on three sides and funky downspouts.
For more information about the Hope Arts Gallery, please visit HopeDistrictArtsCouncil.com.
Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.