A Philly artist's textiles pay homage to abstract expressionism
by Natalie Hope McDonald
March 8, 2012
“I am interested in the gestural quality of the woven line,” says Kathryn Pannepacker, a Philadelphia artist who showcases her new works (March 9) during an opening reception (6 – 9 p.m.) at the William Way.
The new exhibition “Shagging” not only introduces the artist’s latest textile work, but it’s inspired by the ongoing public art she’s been creating around the city. The work’s designed to “bring an ongoing outdoor series of textiles that I do on fences, gates, and chain link to the gallery and museum walls,” says Pannepacker, “to tie knots on the (indoor and outdoor) fencing as if I were painting large abstract paintings.” She describes the finished pieces as a “celebration of color, texture and intuition.”
The new pieces in “Shagging” draw from impressionism and abstract expressionism – typically associated with painterly movements. But in Pannepacker’s textural pieces, the materials are woven rather than painted even though the end result lends itself to abstraction.
Along with her own solo studio work, Pannepacker has created five community projects in recent years – called “shags” – that use textiles as murals. Two community pieces were done with adults from the Bethesda café and homeless shelter at Broad Street Ministries and The Foyer, a shelter program for LGBT homeless youth. Pannepacker, a Leeway Foundation award winner, has worked with Arts Street Textile Studio and the Mural Arts Program (with Porch Light Initiative) to encourage both adults and kids to make a statement with art.
The new textile pieces are created by a process of stitching using wire in a “juxtaposition of antique motifs alongside of pop-up materials,” she says.
In a statement to the Craft Council recently, Pannepacker says that both her gallery work and public art have something in common. She spends time where they are created and installed. And in the case of the public works, she essentially resides within a neighborhood while the work is finished.
“A lot of murals in town are painted on parachute cloth in an artist’s studio and then attached to the wall – ‘parachuted’ into the community,” she said. “There’s a remarkable transformation in those neighborhoods when that happens, but for me, there is something about being at the same intersection day in and day out – working, talking and interacting with people and really getting the time, attention and commitment, the dedication, focus and interest of the neighborhood. There is this whole human interaction. No pretense. We’re all just showing up doing our thing. I am just doing my thing, weaving and painting.”
In 2010, Pannepacker went a step further and took on the stigmatization of homelessness by leading weaving workshops at Philadelphia shelters and other public sites. The workshops were supported by the Mural Arts Program, and brought together participants – with homes and without – to create a woven canvas for the mural, “Finding Home,” now located at St. John the Evangelist Church at 13th and Ludlow Streets, not far from the William Way.
“Shagging,” March 9, 5 – 8 p.m., William Way, 1315 Spruce St., 215-732-2220.
(Photo from Kathryn Pannepacker)