Cleveland Fiber Artist Jessica Pinsky Unveils “Equal” Exhibit at BAYarts

Praxis Fiber Arts Executive Director Jessica Pinsky

Fri 8/11 @ 6PM

Even though the loom in a primitive form dates back to early human existence, the machine still inspires artists in the 21st century. Take fiber artist Jessica Pinsky, who these days is quite busy.

Not only does she open her Equal exhibit Fri 8/11 at BAYarts, but she’s also executive director of Praxis Fiber Arts in North Collinwood’s Waterloo Arts & Entertainment District.

CoolCleveland talked to Pinsky about her upcoming show, her undeniable love of a loom and the thriving Praxis Fiber Arts.

Let’s start with your upcoming BAYarts show. What will you be displaying?

It’s a series of weavings where I have handspun and hand manipulated all of the patterns. They’re talking a little bit about the theme of equality. I’m using half of the weaving with handspun silk and half of the weaving with store-bought silk — it’s seeing how by treating the same materials differently it will make the cloth behave differently.

What’s the origin of the “Equal” theme?

I had been thinking a lot about equality in my own life. I don’t really make a lot of conceptual work. My work is really very formal and very much about color. I thought it would be a nice way to kind of mix the things that were happening in my personal life with the things I make in my studio.

If you can elaborate, how are you exploring equality through the work?

I definitely don’t think I’m discovering anything new. I’m engaged to my partner, who is also a female. So it’s paying attention to how we’re treated as a couple versus how I’ve always been treated with male partners. And then just kind of talking about even though all of the yarn is natural material, like all of the people, just because it’s been treated a little bit differently, it just behaves very differently. I’m trying to make the comparison between the way people are treated and the way the yarn is treated.

As a fiber artist, how has your work evolved over the years?

I went to college and graduate school for painting. Then I started weaving. That’s been about eight years now. I’m just constantly inspired by what this equipment can do and how many ways it can be manipulated. Also, I used to try to kind of put every idea and thought into one piece, and now as I’ve gotten older and wiser, I think I slowed down. I just focus on one thing at time. So the work is a little bit less colorful and more cohesive.

Let’s switch gears and talk about Praxis Fiber Arts, which is a nonprofit fiber art center available to the community.

Praxis came from the elimination of the weaving equipment from the curriculum at Cleveland Institute of Art. I wanted to maybe find a way to continue. We moved the looms and found a space we renovated in North Collinwood. Praxis Fiber Arts has been open just over two years. We have a tiered membership, very much like the Zygote model for printmaking, where you can pay different levels to have different access to the studio. We run three sessions of classes year around, Saturday workshops and weeklong classes. And we have a huge community programming component where we try to do work in and around the community. We also offer accredited courses for CIA students.

What’s funny about the loom is most people know what it does but have no idea how it works.

I think the really cool thing about the loom is it was really like the very first computer. The way you program a loom is the same way you programmed computers initially with zeros and ones. So there’s just a really long technical history of that kind of equipment that I feel like it’s really relevant and interesting in this technological age, but also it’s the same technology that every single culture has been using for centuries to create cloth. And cloth is like the most important thing we have in our lives — it’s our clothing and shelter and all of these things. It’s a really beautiful piece of equipment. And I like old things, that’s part of it too. Like anything can be a loom as long as you have yarn that’s held under tension in some way.

Finally, how do you balance your responsibilities with Praxis while also attempting to evolve as a fiber artist?

My role as executive director at Praxis is just to provide the community with the most comprehensive programming and equipment in our field. And also to run a gallery where we’re showing contemporary fiber art. Education is a huge part of our mission, and it’s a big part of my life. I always wanted to be a teacher. I went to graduate school to teach college, and so this is a very important part of I think who I am, which is to have to a deeper connection with the community around me. Then in my personal work I get to be a part of the community we build. So it’s a little bit like compartmentalizing, but it’s nice I get to share it with all of these amazing people who share the same passion as I do.

Equal is on view at BAYarts through Sat 9/23. It’s free and open to the public.



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