Most Yukoners love the microcosm of moss and little alpine plants that contrasts with our grand vistas.
The snow has not yet melted from that rich soft fabric. Lyn Fabio’s verdant veerings gives us a preview.
Light ochre, dark greens, dull greens, and glimpses of red root the show in a limited, unifying palette. This simplicity sets off the splendid variations in shades of green, and depth and richness of worked texture: French knots, folds, nets and frays.
Aside from the more conventional fibres, Fabio works in hog intestines. That’s the material that made me think of seaweed.
She takes fine, thin sheets of intestines, and layers and dries them. She makes elegant translucent vessels, often with beaded mouths. She was initially inspired by traditional seal or walrus intestine clothing of the Far North, but over the years has made the art form her own.
Last fall Fabio was awarded a residency at the nearby Ted Harrison Artists’ Retreat. This show is the culmination of her work there.
In her time out at Crag Lake, Fabio returned to the printmaking of her McGill fine arts training, and rediscovered the happiness she feels with a needle in her hand.
Fabio forages in the fall, seeking berries and mushrooms to complement her cookery. Searching among the mosses, she fell in love with a lichen.
A leaf-like lichen in the pulmonaria family, with its intricately scalloped edges and recessed red spots, ensnared Fabio’s attentions and focused her artistic explorations.
And explore she did. Normally she works with the hog gut in its natural colour, but for verdant veerings she dyed many pieces predominantly green.
Fabio pushed her medium hard, and of course there were lots of failures. Without those failures, you wouldn’t get the edge of originality that you find in the pieces that are in the show.
This experimentation explains why a few pieces suggest you contact the artist before purchasing them.
Fabio is a conscientious craftswoman, and wouldn’t want to sell you something whose lasting power is less than certain. If you contact her, she’ll let you know what care and possible pitfalls the piece might have.
This show contains many remarkable pieces, carefully installed. A series of small round intestine bowls sits on a shelf in front of a paper-muted fluorescent bulb, so you can see their translucence.
“Flutter Bowl“ sports lovely loopy wire petals, encased in a single layer of gut. Some little loops don’t have gut on them – it looks as if they’ve only just started growing, and haven’t matured. I love details like this that mimic nature in its own methods of growth and creation.
In “Hanging Garden”, a three-panel textile piece, Fabio uses hand and machine embroidery as well as needle felting. She applies these techniques to create puffed out round forms, shallower circles over cloth and felted layers with long loopy green stitches.
Her hanging gut pieces stand perpendicular to the wall, out into the gallery space a little.
They catch the light. “Dance”uses waxed, layered, dyed gut in leafy lichen forms, as well as round orangey-coloured shapes reminiscent of toadflax berries.
Empty space is an exciting compositional element in Fabio’s work. In “Mossy Circle Game”, varied fuzzy green textures surround round holes in a layered, crinkly pale gut surface.
“Lichen Lace” creates the lichen form entirely out of thread. It hangs, starch stabilized, suspended in a shadow box, an incredibly delicate rectangle of free form machine and hand embroidery.
In many pieces, among her wide range of media and techniques, Fabio uses heat-activated puff paint, most commonly used in (usually pretty cheesy) t-shirt designs. She runs a bead of it around the edges of her lichen leaf-forms. It effectively evokes their leathery presence.
Walking through the show reminds me of another ecosystem, too – it feels like a walk along the seashore. Have you seen fine sheets of seaweed washed up on the rocks, stretched between a couple of rocks maybe, then dried in the open air? It’s a beautiful, delicate, earthy thing, surprisingly strong.
Arts Underground hosts verdant veerings until May 3. Not long after that, you’ll be able to see your lichen friends in person again.