Opening at the Lederer gallery this past Thursday was Pins and Needles, a show by Maggy Rozycki Hiltner and Melissa Haviland. The two are radically different artists: Hiltner primarily manipulates embroidery and Haviland draws and sculpts her works. This contrast creates a dynamic playing of one set of works against the other, though the two shows present a united message that things in art and reality are never as simple as they appear.
Hiltner's works are "a response to antique embroidery." The idea first came to her when she looked at old embroidery patterns and Dick and Jane books and thought "that's not really what's going on." Her images on display are false realities, showing only part of the story or glossing over what was actually happening. Hiltner says the images are somewhat "autobiographical" but they "transcend the personal stories" and become something much more.
Hiltner's newest set of wo-rks, the "Mad Mom" series, was inspired by a friend's six-year-old boy. "It was my first time using adult figures," said Hiltner. Her friend's son had drawn pictures of his mother when she was mad "and using those outrageous angry 'v' eyebrows." Hiltner was inspired by the drawings, so the series features embroidered bodies of typical 1950s women with the angry faces designed by the six-year-old, making them into something totally different.
A lot of Hiltner's works may at first glance appear mundane, but when looked at more closely create a disconcerted feeling. "Playtime," for example, features a little girl surrounded by animals, and appears pleasant, until the viewer notices that the girl is scowling and one of the dogs is sniffing up her skirt. "Playing with Bears" is another strange scene. There are bear cubs stitched in with sleeping children, with no way to tell if the children are actually asleep or hurt by the bear cubs.
"Fourth Grade Patriot" also has an eerie feeling, with several children singing in front of the Statue of Liberty, and a single girl who looks like she's having stomach pains off to one side.
When asked about the meaning of her pieces, Hiltner suggested that each person who looks at the work needs to find their own meaning in it.
Haviland's works include several charcoal drawings and a pair of sculptures. The sculptures include an impressive collection of huge pins crafted out of metal and ceramics scattered on the floor. It's a bright, colorful display that looks very much like someone just dropped it on the floor then let it lie. The other sculpture, "Seam Stress" is a large piece of red fabric pinned elegantly by another large pin, this one with a pearly teardrop top. The colors compliment each other, and the fabric falls on the ground like water, making it a visually stunning piece.
Haviland's charcoal works are "examples of the allure and pitfalls of typical feminine roles in our society," she said. "Arm Yourself," and "Ready for Battle," a two-work set, each show nude females covering themselves with everyday objects, reflecting Haviland's idea that "we use habits and daily rituals... to arm ourselves and protect our fragile identities." Her other works also reflect these ideas, but she adds a little color to the charcoal for an even more unusual presentation. Haviland prints out massive patterns on large pieces of paper, and then uses the charcoal on top of them, giving the pictures extra depth.
The exhibit is an interesting and poetic one, and will be hosted in the Lederer Gallery until Feb. 19.