by Mary Vuk

Repetition & Discipline: Life Through Lists is an exhibition of beaded and/or quilted work by Anne Kingsbury, fiber artist and executive director of Woodland Pattern. The exhibition will continue until March 15 at the Woodland Pattern Book Center Gallery, 720 East Locust Street, with an opening reception from 1 to 4 pm, February 4.

The exhibit consists of 10 beaded and/or quilted works, which are accompanied by a limited edition of 33 reproduced journal pages written by Kingsbury over the past quarter century. There also is some Woodland Pattern memorabilia on display, which accompanies the artwork and journal pages.

The densely-filled journal pages include drawings that sometimes served as the basis for Kingsbury’s formal artwork, along with daily logs of the time she spent each day doing various tasks – relating to working on her art, or to housework or a range of other activities and engagements.

Kingsbury does not seem to believe in wasting time. Or space, for that matter: Timed entries appear side-by-side with drawings, clothing designs, telephone numbers, addresses, garment measurements, and pinochle and scrabble scores. Despite the day-to-day ordinariness of the jottings, one finds oneself drawn in by them. Some of the entries and drawings are in a vertical orientation, some are sideways – others seem to veer off in their own direction. The edges of the entries are irregular – but there is a compact fitting together of pieces – somewhat like a jigsaw puzzle.

Her formal artwork is similarly complex and tightly stitched. The beaded work is done with small beads of different colors and sizes. It has a rich density with respect to the colors and shapes Kingsbury uses in her designs and representations. This density is intensified by the words she stitches into her designs.

On the front of a small handbag, for example, she beads the word LUCK, preceded by a graphic letter P, which forms the word PLUCK. On the top of the bag’s shoulder strap, is the word OPPORTUNITY. On one side of the strap, is the word TIME; on the other, TOIL.

I asked Kingsbury if she ever dared use the purse after all the hard work that went into making it. She said that she did, indeed, use it and showed me some leftover food and beverage coupons from the 2006 Indian Summer Festival still inside from the last time the purse had an outing. In fact, when I really considered it, the beaded bag looked quite sturdy and functional, although it seemed extravagant in its intricacy and beauty.

On another beaded cutout, this one in the shape of a woman, Kingsbury emblazoned the word REPETITION on the left arm, and DISCIPLINE on the right arm; the word STITCHES on the left foot, the word SECONDS on the right foot.

Repetition and discipline “seem to come into the kind of work I like to do,” Kingsbury said. “Beading is repetitive. Quilting is repetitive. The repetitive motion after a while becomes a kind of meditation.”

The relationship between work and time is not lost on Kingsbury. A charming beaded rabbit bears lines written by Emily Dickinson: LUCK IS NOT CHANCE IT’S TOIL. FORTUNE’S EXPENSIVE SMILE IS EARNED. [punctuation added]

Despite the utilitarian emphasis on work, time, discipline and success in the works, there is also a storybook quality to them. For example, in “Fairytale Quilt,” a wall hanging with a regal red, gold and green quilted background, a goat-headed human (made of ceramic) is surrounded by beaded words: ONCE UPON A TIME, TIME REWARDED LABOR, VIRTUE EQUALLED BEAUTY, WISDOM VALUED KINDRED AND DAY BY DAY BECAME EVER AFTER. [punctuation added]

In choosing journal pages to display in the show, Kingsbury said she looked for visually interesting pages that contained drawings that could then be followed into completed artwork on display. Kingsbury said she often creates a drawing on a blank page and then fills in the surrounding spaces with her daily logs and other entries.

Kingsbury likes to draw animals and seems particularly fond of drawing a character she calls Fairy Beaver. Fairy Beaver has a number of different personae. Sometimes Fairy Beaver works her way onto the journal pages as Arts Administrator who wears a crown, at other times she is Fairy Beaver as Happy Homemaker, who pushes a vacuum cleaner, or she is Fairy Beaver as Concrete Dancer (with her feet plastered in concrete), and still other times she is Fairy Beaver as Artist, with a scissors dangling from her belt and paintbrush in hand. The exhibit features a 5×3 foot work entitled “Fairy Beaver Cope,” which shows the fairy beaver in three roles – homemaker, artist and arts administrator.

Also included in the show is a beaded representation of an entire journal page, as well as an accordion-fold book, the pages of which are reprints of journal pages.

Give these works close attention and they’ll reward you twice – once with the fine detail and again with the “Aha!” when you see the big picture.

Ed. Note: Want to read more about Anne Kingsbury’s art? Check out “Bead by Bead, Stitch by Stitch,” a review of a Kingsbury show at Milwaukee’s Peltz Gallery by Jackie Reid Dettloff, Riverwest Currents, January 2004. Available online.

Riverwest Currents online edition – February, 2007