Pictured, from left (see below for more information on each):
Materials: Hand-woven linen, each 55" x 26”.
Location at Summa Health: Dr. Gary B. and Pamela S. Williams Tower on the Akron Campus (141 N. Forge St.), blue neighborhood, sixth floor, hallway, east end, opposite corridor.
Stephen Tornero works with yarns that he dyes himself, building on processes he learned as a graduate student in the textile studios of Janice Lessman-Moss at Kent State. He uses an open-weave structure for these pieces because color is critical, and such a weave permits light to penetrate into and through the work – light that comes from various reflections, including from the color of the wall against which the piece is hung – all affecting the beholder’s perception. He allows for each person’s perception to differ, depending on those ambient conditions and on what the viewer brings to the piece. Additionally, Tornero works a zigzag line into most of his weavings by means of color manipulation, in order to energize the work and give it an active spirit.
Not surprisingly, with such practices, Tornero’s weavings are highly personal, despite their strong abstraction. The artist goes beyond creating a work in which we are meant to pay attention to its craft; instead, these textile pieces are the equivalent of painting but using a very, very old medium that the artist controls carefully in order to achieve desired effects.
Tornero, a Canton resident, earned a Bachelor of Arts in Art Education from Kent State University, followed by the Master of Arts in same. He teaches 7th and 8th grade art at Oakwood Middle School in the Plain Local School district, where he was once himself a student, and has previously taught at the Massillon Museum, the Summit Academy Canton Secondary, and Arts in Stark Partnerships. He continues to pursue parallel careers as artist and teacher and uses them to inform one another.
Like many artists, Tornero is continually alert to inspirations for his work. He describes the circumstances of this work:
Many of the pieces I create begin as photos I take while driving to different areas of Ohio. The different combinations of sky, clouds, and slights create color schemes that I use as a starting point when dying the yarn used in each weaving.
The blue sunset here aims to explore the ways in which colors found in nature — in the sunset — interact with the artificial colors of electric light. This is not a literal sunset but an impression, in a vertical format unusual for such a subject, that invites us to enjoy the equivalents to a visual experience that the artist recreates in a medium with its own restrictions and advantages.
The title of this work refers to the vertebrae in the middle of the lumbar spine that play an important role in supporting the weight of the torso.
In this weaving, I was thinking about my recent discovery of a herniated disc in my spine that was causing pain to radiate along the sciatic nerve. Weaving demands a lot of movement throughout the process of winding, dyeing and weaving the fibers together. During each of these processes, I had to adapt my movements to limit the bending and twisting I was normally able to do to accomplish these tasks. This piece was a way to explore that experience of seeing the x-rays of my spine, which is expressed visually by leaving out places in the horizontal threads that do not connect all the way across the piece, or make a hole in the work.
Sometimes poets make poems or playwrights plays to express their sorrow or suffering, responding to the injunction to “make art of it.” This piece is exactly that, in linen and dye: Tornero transforms the experience of injury and pain into something that can be shared in the visual terms he has chosen.
Where you can see more of this artist’s work:
Stephen Tornero has won a number of awards for his fiber works, which he has exhibited frequently throughout Ohio and in Pennsylvania.