Camas art exhibit to showcase ‘A Different View’

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Fiber art pieces, including "Somewhere in Morocco" by Mary Arnold will be featured throughout the month of February, during the "High Fiber Diet: A Different View" art exhibit, at the Second Story Gallery inside the Camas library in downtown Camas. (Photo courtesy of Mary Arnold)

“Our world has changed in ways we could not have imagined. Often these changes have required us to adapt in unexpected ways. How are you dealing with change? Have you found new insights or a new perspective? Have you rearranged your priorities? Have you found a different way of looking, feeling, experiencing or responding?”

Those were the questions posed in 2023 to members of High Fiber Diet, a subset of the Columbia Fiber Arts Guild that promotes fiber art throughout the Portland-Vancouver metropolitan region.

The answers to those questions will be represented by 25 artists through 31 different art pieces at the Second Story Gallery’s February art exhibit, “A Different View.”

The gallery, located on the second floor of the Camas Public Library in downtown Camas, will host an art reception for A Different View during the Downtown Camas Association’s First Friday celebration, from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 2.

Clark County fiber artist and former Vancouver elementary school teacher and media specialist Mary Arnold is one of the 25 High Fiber Diet artists showing their work at the Second Story Gallery this month.

Arnold will have three pieces in the show — two wall hangings and a three-dimensional “vessel” crafted from one of Arnold’s older quilts.

Though this year’s High Fiber Diet prompt asked artists to consider how their lives have been affected by the global pandemic and used a haiku by the 17th century Japanese samurai-poet Mizuta Masahide — “Since my house burned down, I now have a better view of the rising moon” — as a jumping-off point, Arnold said she was not thinking about COVID-19 when she was working on her submissions for the independently juried “A Different View” exhibit.

“I interpreted it as viewing things from a different perspective,” Arnold explained.

One of Arnold’s fiber art pieces that will hang in the Second Story gallery show, for instance, is an art quilt titled, “Desert Ride,” portraying camels and inspired by Arnold’s trip to Morocco.

“In Morocco, I took a camel trip in the Sahara,” Arnold explained.

The view shown in “Desert Ride” is Arnold’s view of her friends riding the camels. The scene is realistic, but Arnold has flipped the script with her colors — “The sand is blue and the sky is orange,” she said.

It is, in fact, a “different view.”

And though the High Fiber Diet group always has a prompt on which to base their entries for that particular year’s exhibit, all of the fiber artists will interpret the prompt in their own unique way, said High Fiber Diet facilitator Pam Pilcher.

“There will be variety” at the Second Story Gallery show, Pilcher said.

“People have interpreted this theme in a variety of ways,” Pilcher added. “Everyone’s technique is different. There are several abstract (pieces) … and some are much more realistic.”

Having a prompt, question or starting point helps Pilcher, a Portland fiber artist who will have two pieces of her art at the Second Story Gallery exhibit, focus on her work.

“That’s one of the things I like about High Fiber Diet,” Pilcher said. “Having a theme for our yearly show directs my thoughts. Otherwise, everything is so wide open.”

Pilcher said she had a tougher time interpreting this year’s “A Different View” theme.

“It was one of those themes I kind of struggled with,” Pilcher said. “How do I portray that visually? I would sometimes lie awake at night thinking about it. Some of the themes I can think up ideas really quickly, and do two or three pieces for a show. And then there are other times when there’s been a theme and it takes more thought and imagination.”

For Pilcher, a lifelong sewer who found her love of art quilting after decades of garment-making, this year’s High Fiber Diet theme was about the pandemic, but also about the wildfires, changes to the environment and other big changes happening on this planet over the past few years.

The theme brought out two very different pieces of art that Pilcher entered into the juried show: a colorful, flower-adorned jacket punctuated by a stark black background and an art quilt in more muted shades of browns and tans.

“Generally, I like bright colors … greens, purples, pinks, reds,” Pilcher said. “Interestingly, (my art quilt in “A Different View”) is very neutral.”

Pilcher took the idea for the art quilt from an old 1940s black and white snapshot of her uncle climbing a windmill in Iowa. She took the grainy snapshot and blew it up, then sent it to be made into fabric and used that fabric to recreate her version of the scene.

Family also played a role in Arnold’s journey toward becoming a fiber artist.

“I started out making very traditional quilts,” Arnold said. “But, after a while, I got tired of making 25 or 30 blocks that were exactly the same. So, in 2000, I started making art quilts of realistic scenes. My first quilt was a memorial quilt for my mother, who died in September of 2000. It was an ocean scene — my mother loved the beach; it was her favorite place.”

After that, Arnold’s love of art quilting took off. She had been a member of the Clark County Quilters group, but when she moved away from traditional quilting, she found that the Columbia Fiber Arts Guild was a better fit. As a member of the guild, she could also join High Fiber Diet, which initially started a critique group but has since evolved into a group focused on putting together an annual, in-person, juried exhibit of members’ artwork. Arnold has been a member of High Fiber Diet for 15 years and is currently in charge of the committee that helps find venues throughout Washington and Oregon for the group’s annual shows.

Friday will be the first time Arnold and Pilcher will have seen all of the artwork accepted into the “A Different View” show in person.

“The High Fiber Diet shows are stunning,” Arnold said. “It’s almost indescribable to see all the work hanging on the walls.”

Both Arnold and Pilcher agree that fiber art is a creative medium inspired not only by the visual aspect of the art but also by the luxuriousness of the fabrics and the depth of the colors.

“The color is what draws me into it,” Arnold said. “The texture, the thread … there isn’t anything I don’t love about it.”

Pilcher has a similar response when asked why fiber art is her medium of choice.

“Color is a big part of it,” Pilcher said. “I’m drawn to colors and the way they blend together and contrast. … and the fabrics that have come out — with their amazing colors, patterns and depth — it kind of drew me in and moved me a little bit away from garments and more into art quilts, but I also can blend them.”

To see Arnold, Pilcher and other High Fiber Diet artists’ work, visit the Second Story Gallery on the second level of the Camas library, 625 N.E. Fourth Ave., during the month of February. To meet many of the artists, visit the gallery during the First Friday art reception from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 2.

Second Story Gallery is seeking young artists for its March art show, “Fill the Gallery! Elementary Art Exhibit,” which will display artwork created by local elementary school students. To learn more about the elementary art exhibit, or for information about how to submit a local elementary student’s artwork for consideration, visit brary/page/fill-gallery-ele mentary-art-exhibit.