An engaged crowd was on hand at N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art in Detroit on June 11, for an artist talk between veteran artist Carole Harris, whose multi-layered fiber works are on display in the Rose Gallery through June 25th, and Ash Arder, who brings youthful energy and a hunger for history to her practice of contemporary fiber and found object art. The conversation took place before a full house at N’Namdi, a Knight Arts Challenge winner, and demonstrated the kind of legacy-building that is possible when we look to our human resources for direction and inspiration.
“I’m an old-school fiber artist; Ashley is the new school,” said Harris, by way of introduction. “She came up with the Internet; I came up at my mother’s knee.”
Still, despite the generation gap, there is much conceptual overlap between Harris and Arder–although their finished works appear quite different. Harris’s practice has always been process-driven, rooted in sewing from a young age, something that her mother introduced to her, “to keep me busy, out of trouble.” Harris can recall when sewing was part of the Detroit Public Schools curriculum, and she leveraged these practical skills to make clothing better suited to her diminutive frame than what was commercially available. Sewing and quilt-making always occupied a functional aspect of her art-making, being subsumed in a successful interior design business that was her main means of support for decades. Only in the last five years, after retiring from interior design, has she had the creative space and energy to allow her fiber arts practice to expand in highly experimental directions. The results are stunning.