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Summer shows at Waterworks feature globalization and women’s issues

Feminism, globalization, women’s issues, and female craft traditions all feature prominently in the Waterworks Visual Arts Center’s summer exhibits.
From May 30 n September 6, the Center will display the work of three women artists: California fiber artist Cathy Breslaw, Chapel Hill photographer and mixed-media artist Susan Harbage Page, and Florida sculptor Kathleen Holmes.
The public is invited to attend a free opening reception from 6 n 8 p.m. Friday.
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The large, colorful wall hangings and circular floor pieces of California artist Cathy Breslaw first appear to be quilts or blankets. While her works are made from fiber, they are not of the soft variety from which quilts and blankets are made. Instead, Breslaw creates from plastic fibers: thin, multicolored, layered sheets of the common plastic mesh used all over the world in different products.
In her exhibition “Suspension: Color and Light,” the artist takes this mundane material and n through creative layering and the addition of yarn, ribbon, plastic beads, and drops of paint n transforms it into something truly imaginative and beautiful, subtly touching on the concepts of globalization and femininity along the way.
Globalization refers to the increasing international integration of today’s society. Immigration, multiculturalism, economic outsourcing, and global trade agreements all contribute to this phenomenon. Globalization results in a blurring of cultural lines. For example, Americans calling their computer company’s customer service hotline may be answered by a representative in India. MacDonald’s® restaurants can be found in Costa Rica, and the Asian company Sanrio’s® Hello Kitty® products are found in gift stores across the world.
Breslaw touches on globalization in her art. The plastic fibers she uses as the basis for all of her pieces have such diverse international uses as American and European produce containers, South American floral wrappings, and even Japanese garbage bags. The artist unleashes the “latent beauty of manufactured materials” by transforming this common, industrial material into art.
A strong feminist undercurrent also emerges in Breslaw’s colorful creations. Formally, her art recalls the work of Miriam Shapiro and the Pattern and Decoration Movement of the 1960s n 70s. A major leader of the Feminist Art Movement, Shapiro championed the crafts of textiles, weaving, and patterning: art forms that had been typically associated with women (and therefore undervalued).
Breslaw earned an MFA in Visual Arts from Claremont Graduate University in California. The artist has exhibited for over twenty years in Colorado, Florida, Texas, and Alabama. Her work can be found in multiple corporate collections in her home state of California.
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The region in which an artist grows up often has a strong influence on the appearance and concepts of his or her work: sculptor and painter Kathleen Holmes is no exception. Born in Monroe, Louisiana, Holmes focuses her art-making on exploring her Southern heritage, particularly the women of her youth who encouraged her creativity. In “Domestic Goddess,” the artist uses a wide variety of mixed media n including glass, metal, ceramic, and crocheted cloth n to create richly detailed sculptures of dresses. These beautiful domestic icons explore the symbolism of materials and pay homage to the many generations of Southern women who have endowed her contemporary art with their historic crafts.
Crocheted fabrics and their status as women’s handicrafts form the conceptual cornerstone of Holmes’ art. In incorporating traditional fiber art into her work, Holmes gives recognition and respect to the talented craftswomen of her Southern heritage. Through their cultural contribution, the artist is able to make her work today. The physical act of crochet, which involves the continuous weaving of one thread, underscores the artist’s relationship with her predecessors. The artist notes that “just as a single thread returns again and again to loop and interlock in crochet, the creative legacy of so many women repeatedly endows my artistic heritage and creates a conceptual ‘whole cloth,’ the ‘fabric’ of their lives clothing my vision.”
Holmes has participated in over 70 solo exhibitions and numerous group shows all over the United States for nearly 25 years. The artist was featured in FIBERARTS magazine in the fall of 1998 and Ceramics Monthly in December of 2004. Her work is included in 300 private and 40 corporate collections. She lives in Florida.
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At first glance, the embroideries of Susan Harbage Page seem like charming domestic artifacts from a simpler time of generations past.
However, on further examination one finds that these beautiful and detailed fabrics are anything but nostalgic. In “Embroideries,” the artist reclaims old doilies, table runners, and handkerchiefs from yard sales and flea markets; to these she adds her own stitches, introducing stark and sometimes disturbing feminist and political commentary in the process.
One piece, entitled “Control,” shows four pretty Southern belles, each holding a bouquet of colorful flowers in a self-contained gesture; their faces are concealed by large, beribboned bonnets, showing that their individual identities matter less than their function as decoration.
The viewer’s eye next becomes aware of a string, a leash, extended to each girl’s neck and clasped by a large, masculine hand in the very center of the composition. This hand is faintly outlined in a peach colored thread and is nearly invisible at first glance. It is no coincidence that this controlling grip is not noticeable right away n just as systems of social control are embedded within culture as natural and therefore invisible, the misogynist grasp in which these four women are trapped is also not immediately apparent.
Page’s work also provokes a dialogue on current events in Mexico and the Middle East. “Dying to Get In” depicts the Texas-Mexico border stretched across a flowered table runner. “Security” outlines a security wall being built around Palestine. “Iraq “presents a geographical view of the country’s rivers, lakes, and major roads.
Because embroideries can be seen as symbols of everyday life, the introduction of politics into embroidery reminds us that overseas events surface within daily life. Page’s art helps us realize that all parts of our global society are connected.
Page teaches photography at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She received her M.F.A. in photography from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2004 and a M.M. and B.M. in saxophone performance from Michigan State University in 1983 and 1981 as well as the Certificate of Knowledge of the Italian Language, The Italian University for Foreigners, Perugia, Italy in 1984.
Her work has been exhibited around the world and hasbeen collected and exhibited by numerous venues such as the Corcoran Museum of Art in Washington, D.C. and the Israel Museum, Jerusalem.
For more information, call 704-636-1882
She is the recipient of numerous grants from the Andy Warhol Foundation, the Camargo Foundation, the Center for the Study of the American South, the North Carolina Arts Council, and the Fulbright International Exchange Program.

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