Published February 7th, 2024 by Pauline Moll
One of the two 2023 McKnight Fiber Art Fellowship exhibitions on view at Textile Center, Fedyszyn's show celebrates a newfound sense of joy
Even from the street outside Textile Center, Marjorie Fedyszyn’s exhibition Open Work is impossible to miss. Infrastructure, a huge piece knitted from white rope and hung from the ceiling, invites me into the open gallery space, while Unspooled I – VIII, paper forms cast over similar knitting, hang mysteriously on the wall behind.
I start with the artist statement, half to read Fedyszyn’s account of her own work, and half to touch the work samples hanging underneath. I pick up the knitted rope square and jostle it around, feeling its satisfying weight in my hands. I touch the paper form gently and instinctually recoil because it seems so fragile. In her artist statement, Fedyszyn mentions that much of her artistic work historically has been about processing trauma, but more ease is appearing these days.
Rope and paper samples visitors are invited to touch. Photo by Pauline Moll.
The samples next to each other, as well as the much larger artworks, remind me of a cicada that’s shed its outer layer, the supple flesh emerging and the delicate shell left behind. I walk in, around, and through Infrastructure. Visually, the wide knitting stitches remind me of neurons, almost as if I am walking inside of Fedyszyn’s brain. Somatically, I feel a desire to jump up into the knitting and lay in it like a hammock. It seems strong, like it could cradle me.
I feel my bodily relationship to Unspooled I – VIII much more as a viewer, with less desire to participate with the artwork. The paper husks seem to ask me for close, quiet attention, and I feel stillness within.
The next day, Marjorie and I spoke on the phone after her meeting with her critique group, who had very supportive things to say about Open Work as well as thoughtful questions.
Pauline Moll: Did anything come up in that meeting that you want to share?
Marjorie Fedyszyn: In the weeks from transferring this work from the studio to [Textile Center] and coming back to this space over and over again, it became more and more clear what the meaning of the work is: it’s been coming from a place of joy. [My colleagues] have helped me realize that. It’s a huge shift from my art practice the last ten years. All my previous work comes from a place of trauma from my childhood — a lot of it’s heavy or helped me process the trauma, and with all of this work, I feel like I’ve moved through the hard stuff. The use of all the openness, all the portals in the rope work, and the title Open Work, represents a new beginning, a new foundation for what’s to come. The physicality of knitting the rope was playful and fun every day! I would go home from the studio tired but so happy.
Top: Infrastructure (detail), rope. Photo by Rik Sferra, courtesy of the artist. Bottom: Unspooled (detail), paper. Photo courtesy of the artist.
PM: That’s really exciting to hear. I felt that duality when I was experiencing the exhibition. The image that came to mind was like a cicada or a snake, with the moving body and the shell or skin left behind. It made me think about shedding trauma and finding joy in what’s left over. I enjoyed playing with the piece of rope knitting you had on the wall, but the paper pieces seemed so fragile, I almost didn’t want to touch them.
MF: Yes. One thing I want to tell you is that the paper is not fragile, it just has the illusion of fragility. Illusion comes into my work often. I think that comes from my theater background, where you’re always fooling the audience. The paper pieces are actually flat, but I’ve attached them to the wall in such a way that they’re undulating. There’s a flexibility to them, they’re actually not fragile at all.
PM: Wow. That makes me think about how we treat other people’s pain as too fragile, we’re not sure how to touch it. Maybe we need to trust that both trauma and joy can stand up to handling. I’m glad you told me that, because it totally changes how I think about the work. I’ll have to play with the paper sample more next time. But I did love walking through Infrastructure, ducking under it and seeing it from the inside.
MF: I’m so glad you weren’t afraid to experience it like that. A lot of people just stay on the periphery. I like it when people get up close to it.
Infrastructure (detail), rope. Photo by Pauline Moll.
PM: What do you want to share about the fellowship itself?
MF: The fellowship’s been an extraordinary experience. I was given a blank page and filled it completely with experiences this past year, including seeing incredible art by the grandmothers (to me) of fiber art. Cecilia Vicuña and Magdalena Abakanowicz both had their work at Tate at the same time this past year. I was able to experience the work firsthand. You could walk in amongst it much like this work [of mine]; that bodily experience of being immersed in an artist’s work was expansive and so powerful.
PM: On this foundation of joy, do you have visions of what you want to do next?
MF: It is so new! I do have visions, I’d like to give it time to distill and see what floats to the top. Knitting will be a part of whatever I’m doing, but it may not be in the traditional sense. I want to push the boundaries of knitting even farther.
PM: How are you celebrating this exhibition at Textile Center?
MF: I have a list of people I’d like to invite to come and see the work and just be in the space with them. The collaborative element of art is so important to me, so I try to engage others in the work I do. All of this work was done by myself, so now to invite people to share and celebrate will add to the meaning of it for me.
PM: That’s beautiful. Because joy, of course, is—
MF: —is something to be shared! ◼︎
Marjorie Fedyszyn. Photo by Rebecca Zenefski Slater, courtesy of the artist.
Open Work is on view at Textile Center through April 6, alongside Blanket Teachings by Delina White, who also received the 2023 McKnight Fiber Arts Fellowship.
Banner photo by Pauline Moll.
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