by Jenelle Porter. DelMonico, October 2014. 256 p. ill. ISBN 9783791353821 (cl.), $60.00.

Reviewed January 2015
Sara DeWaay, Arts and Architecture Librarian, University of North Carolina Charlotte, sdewaay@uncc.edu

porterFiber: Sculpture 1960-Present is the publication associated with an exhibition organized by the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston. The book consists of four essays, multiple images, and detailed information about each of the thirty-four artists represented in the exhibition. Important themes include fiber art history, the tension between art and craft, the gendered nature of art, and dimensionality.

The essays are well-written, interesting, and of a comfortable length. The writing style is academic, and references to art movements are not explained, which may require inexperienced readers to do additional research. Each essay contains a bibliography with relevant references and notes and is written by an expert art historian. The opening essay outlines the need for this body of work, and addresses the history of American fiber art in the 1960s and 1970s. Another essay elaborates on the gendered aspects of fiber arts and critical reception through the concept of flaccidity. The penultimate essay is about the intimate relationship with the environment, move from utilitarian object to art form, and increased dimensionality of fiber art. The final essay elaborates on the theme of tension between art and craft as it describes the conceptual and physical shift from tapestry to fiber art.  It is important to note that the essays are historical. Although the work in the exhibition includes twenty-first-century artists, the discourse mentions the present only fleetingly. Overall, the essays lay a fantastic foundation of fiber art history in the United States from multiple perspectives and suggest viable reasons for its underrepresentation.

In addition to the quality essays, the images make this publication stand out. Each of the artists has full-page, color representations of their artwork. Also included are historical photographs and images of other pieces placed throughout the essays. It is frustrating that there is no plate list or index, leaving image discovery somewhat up to chance. However, the quality of the reproductions makes the hunt worthwhile.

The final section of the book contains information about the artists. Each artist is given a full-page narrative that includes biographical information, their influences, and a selected bibliography and exhibition list. In addition, the facing page contains a large reproduction of a work by the artist.

Fiber: Sculpture 1960-Present is a solid addition to any library whose holdings or constituents are focused on textiles, the relationship between art and craft, or the history of fiber art, art criticism, or fine art. The strength of the images, thought-provoking essays, relevant artist information, and useful bibliographies make it suited for art institutions and university libraries.