“Felt Experience’ Offers Touchable Sculpture at Brattleboro Museum & Art Center
In a departure from typical hands-off rules, the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center invites visitors to touch the art — that is, one installation in a group exhibit titled “Felt Experience.” And, yes, it refers to sculptures made of felt. Artist Stephanie Metz made the six organic-looking “pods,” as she calls them, that hang like giant ornaments from the ceiling. Covered in off-white sheep’s-wool felt, they are otherwise constructed from polyester fiberfill, polyurethane foam rubber and steel. Nearby, printed guidelines for engagement go beyond mere touching: “Please hold and hug the Hanging Pods,” they suggest. However, visitors must not lean on, hang from, swing or push the pods and are advised to move slowly and gently among them. You might pretend they are sheep or perhaps toy sheepies. Hand sanitizer is provided.
Naturally, this makes you want to touch everything else in the exhibit, though that is not encouraged. If Liam Lee’s elegant merino wool-on-mohair tapestries weren’t hanging on the wall, you’d definitely want to roll up in them à la bug in a rug. His plump little chairs, of felted merino and cedar, are safeguarded on pedestals.
You would not want to bump into Marjolein Dallinga’s large and rather alarming sculptures in the dark, especially the pointy one. Sure, her elaborate constructions are made of soft felt, but they look like exotic sea creatures that may very well bite. Dallinga might agree. “I often dream of something deep and colorful, which moves and is very mysterious,” she writes in an artist statement. “There are many corners, strange places and holes; I feel them on and under my skin.”
Ruth Jeyaveeran’s sculptures seem to belie the medium or perhaps expand its horizons. She rolls white wool felt into hollow tubes — some pocked with holes like Swiss cheese – smudges dyed colors into them, laser engraves them and assembles them into myriad shapes. A large wall piece she calls “Gatherings” is a collection of inventive experiments in felted form, suspended on thin dowels.
Melissa Joseph’s wall pieces resemble fuzzy paintings, with genre scenes or loose portraits pressed into the fabric. Like her unbound tableaux of wet felted wool and silk, the images seem like fragments of memory.
Cocurator Katherine Gass Stowe identifies this idea in a statement about the ancient material: “Felt embodies a collective memory that transcends time,” she writes. “It symbolizes our shared histories and our connection to the earth.”
It also presents welcome softness in a sharp-edged world.
“Felted Experience” is on view through October 10.