Passing Through, 2021
Materials: Cotton and synthetic thread, hand-woven on digital jacquard loom, hand-dyed painted warp, 46.5” x 40.5”
Location at Summa: Juve Family Behavioral Health Pavilion, second floor, south waiting room, west wall
About this work and this artist:
A gorgeous triad of color - deep red, muted green, brief bits of yellow that transition to red and green -- sweeps in and out of the pictorial space of this woven abstract. Realized on a digital jacquard loom, multiple undulating ribbons of color float past one another, weave into and out of what might be a suspended panel in the middle ground and recede somehow into the depths on the right. We note the subtle wave-like patterns of that background panel, and then notice how the mechanics of weaving break up any suggestion of unbroken line, even as the ribbons seem intact and drifting languidly past and through one another.
The artist's evocation of floating, of moving through water, is deliberate, echoing her understanding of similarities of bodily movement involved in both weaving and swimming. The title of the work, of course, refers on one level to the basic motions of weaving, passing the weft threads over and under, though, the warp on the loom. At another level, Meagan Smith connects her own years as a competitive swimmer to making art: Both rely upon structure, technique, and rhythm.
In Passing Through, Smith amplifies the range of possible effects by using a digital loom - still not universally accessible in college textile programs -- where the design is first composed in a software program like Photoshop and then sent to the loom to be woven digitally. Further interventions contribute to the final effects: Before weaving, Meagan Smith has painted by hand some of the threads composing the warp in order to achieve precisely the desired color gradations. The result is highly soothing and a bit mesmerizing, as the somewhat unusual palette escapes what might be expected in a watery image: The deep crimson and yellows almost glow, while the green hue throughout the composition modulates the effect, softens it, even as it again brings water to mind by suggesting streamers of seaweed.
Meagan Smith came to Ohio to swim for the University of Akron and stayed to complete a B.F.A. in drawing and painting, to which she added ceramics study after graduation and then, up at the Praxis Fiber Workshop in Cleveland, began to transform her paintings by cutting and sewing. This led her to graduate work at Kent State with internationally renowned fiber artist Janice Lessman-Moss, where Smith worked on digital looms and earned the M.F.A. degree. That period included travel to Japan to study patterns in nature at the Studio Kura and was followed by multiple residences to learn more about digital weaving in Norway.
Today she describes her practice as interdisciplinary, involving the hybridization of craft, design and technology with the digital jacquard TC1 loom. She teaches in the foundation program at the Cleveland Institute of Art and has received awards from the Fiber Art Guild and the National Alpaca Design Competition, among others.
Where you can see more work by this artist:
Meagan Smith has begun to exhibit in Ohio, Louisville (KY), and abroad. She was recently profiled in the online publication, Canvas, while the Collective Arts Network of Cleveland's online Journal explored more fully how the artist explores fluid motion in her work. Work is presented on her Cleveland Institute of Art webpage and also on the report from the summer 2022 residents at Digital Weaving Norway.
Where you can see more work like this:
Other textile works in the Summa Collection include digitally woven realizations of photographs by Michael Loderstedt and the more abstract weavings of Stephen Tornero.
Other abstract works at Summa which involve abstract patterns and/or movement include those by Nancy and Ned Siebert, Ruth Bercaw, and Lainard Bush, as well as Diana al-Hadid's A Way with Words.
And the collection is comprised of many works which feature water or incorporate water elements into their imagery, as, just by way of example, those of Michael Greenwald, John A. Sargent, Mark Badzik, Tara Lynn, and Hilary Gent.