Sabrina Gschwandtner takes a canny approach to traditional crafts. The New York-based artist has been experimenting with various forms of fiber arts for years and is known for her innovative takes on crochet and knitting. In Sunshine and Shadow, her new solo exhibition at the Philadelphia Art Alliance, her singular kind of quilting shines.
The name of the show comes from a pattern–often used by the Lancaster County Amish community–composed of teensy squares stitched together to form diamonds that grow successively larger as they extend out from the center. In this way, Gschwandtner’s material of choice–film–is a perfect fit; each frame acts as a pattern in microcosm, creating a patchwork that adds intrigue to a functional art form already known for its intricacy.
In yet another layer of narrative depth, the majority of clips included in the works were sourced from a stash of educational 16-mm specimens from the Fashion Institute of Technology deemed too out of date (or damaged) to be kept in the collection. Gschwandtner took to Google to find out more about their titles, history, and production. “Perhaps the most surprising thing I learned was that The Enchanted Loom, a documentary about then-current brain research, had a soundtrack by Pink Floyd,” she tells Co.Design. (“Another Brick in the Wall,” perhaps?)
Each of the six pieces on display also features a range of footage she shot herself: “Anything from a test roll of friends hula hooping to capturing the sunlight moving across the grounds of Wave Hill, where I was an artist-in-residence in 2012.” After a handful of tests, she used a mix of colorless polyamide thread that disappears into the composition and bright colors that stand out against the stock, which she manipulates to get just the right effect. Seeing these backlit against framed light boxes demands that viewers lean in for a closer look.