Fiber arts show to open in North Little Rock

Rachel Trusty created At the Beach, 1954, in 2018, using fabric, felt, applique and hand embroidery on cotton, with seashells, displayed in a wooden hoop, measuring 24 by 24 inches.

NORTH LITTLE ROCK — Several local artists will be featured in the 2018 Arkansas Fiber Arts Exhibition, which opens Monday in the gallery of the William F. Laman Public Library in North Little Rock.

This is the third year for the fiber arts exhibition and the second year that it will be at the main branch of the Laman Library System. Rachel Trusty of Russellville continues as curator of the show.

Among the 25 artists with works in the show are Melissa Gill of Little Rock, who teaches at Hendrix College in Conway; Deborah Kuster, Holly Laws and Cathy Wester, all of Conway; and Trusty. The fiber artists work in a variety of techniques, including quilting, embroidery, dyeing and more.

The show will be on display through Jan. 5, with an opening reception set for 6-8 p.m. Friday. The exhibition and the opening reception are free to attend, and no tickets are required.

“The show has grown every year in terms of participants,” said Trusty, who is working on her doctorate in women, gender and sexuality studies at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, as well as teaching art-appreciation courses online at the University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton.

“I look throughout the year for fiber artists in Arkansas to invite. This is the first year I invited male fiber artists to participate,” Trusty said.

“The first year I really wanted the show to be all women because of the history of fiber arts and to promote more female artists. I was open the second year to male fiber artists, but I did not know of any at that time in Arkansas, so it was only female artists again. This past year, I have come across a handful of excellent male artists working in quilting and mixed-media fibers in Arkansas, so I was very excited to have them participate.”

She changed the name of the show from the Arkansas Women’s Fiber Arts Exhibition to the Arkansas Fiber Arts Exhibition to reflect the shift.

Following is a look at the local participating artists in the fiber-arts show, which do not include any male artists from this area:

Melissa Gill

Gill is a multidisciplinary artist whose practice includes printmaking, mixed media, drawing, collage, embroidery, artist books and installation. She is in her 10th year as associate professor of drawing and printmaking at Hendrix College in Conway.

“You might say that I am a printmaker who is deeply in love with the textile arts,” Gill said. “My work combines relief, intaglio and stencil printing, with textile processes such as dyeing, pigment-lifting, embroidery, quilting and piecing. The imagery I use — the human figure, flowers, undergrowth and trees, as well as decorative patterns — points to existential questions about the relationships between body and mind, physical and ephemeral. It is directly inspired by Buddhist concepts such as interdependence (all things are interconnected) and impermanence (the nature of everything is that it changes).

“I work with this idea of constant change and transformation, both internal and external to ourselves,” she said. “In that sense, my work reflects the state of the world today in the sense of shifting identities, rapidly changing ecological and political systems, and the enduring presence of the potential for rebirth and renewal.”

Deborah Kuster

Kuster has been involved in the field of art education for 40 years, having taught art to all ages in schools and museums. She has been a professor of art education at the University of Central Arkansas since 2003. Her art is made from her personally hand-woven textiles and has been featured in many regional and national exhibitions and was most recently featured in issues of the national publication Art Quilting Studio.

“Most recently, I have been forming my pieced weavings into three-dimensional vessels,” Kuster said. “I have sewn terra cotta clay feet onto these vessels to represent our human experience in this world. Each of them is obviously flawed, but carefully and thoughtfully formed and embellished, making it highly treasured.”

Holly Laws

Laws is a sculptor who makes objects and multimedia installations. She said her approach is informed by “a love of experimentation with all manner of materials and processes.” She said her sculpture has focused on issues of personal fragmentation and perceptions of memory.

Laws, associate professor of art at UCA, teaches classes in three-dimensional design and sculpture.

She said that lace, first developed in the 1500s, was a luxury item reserved for royalty, clergy and the aristocracy.

“Rusted Lace is a metaphorical snapshot of our current social, cultural and political climate. The work Pink Lace Stalagmites explores a moment in history, caught between stagnation or reactionism, and the desire for outward transformative movement.

Rachel Trusty

Trusty is a native of Russellville and a 2006 graduate of UCA and received her Master of Fine Arts degree in studio art in 2001 from Lesley College in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Trusty said her piece in the show, At the Beach, is a hybrid piece from two series that she is currently working on — the embroid(HER) series and the Friends and Lovers series.

“Embroid(HER) was begun in 2016 and featured famous women in sewn fiber portraits,” she said. “Like At the Beach, these portraits were created from mixed-media fiber techniques and were displayed in wooden hoops. Friends and Lovers seeks to show same-sex love and companionship through anonymous portraits of women.

“In At the Beach, two anonymous women stand in casual embrace for a portrait,” Trusty said. “Their relationship is undefined. At the Beach balances between the two series as it takes a fiber approach but shows anonymous women in a double portrait.”

Cathy Wester

After many years away from art, Wester said, she began drawing again in 2012, exploring oil pastels, and is exploring combining photography, painting and embroidery into a single medium.

“I remember from an early age watching many of my family members make embroidery by hand with a needle and thread,” Wester said. “That inspired me to join them in their creative fiber endeavors at an early age.

“Currently, I am exploring painting with analog pixels. My piece in the show, Analog Pixels: Learning Curve 2.2, is a counted cross-stitch of 38,720 stitches and is the latest version of this image, which began as a micro section of a photograph, then became a painting and drawing and now is fiber art,” she said.

Gallery hours at the William F. Laman Public Library, 2801 Orange St. in North Little Rock, are 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The gallery is closed on Sundays. Call (501) 758-1720 for more information.

For more information about the exhibition, visit