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” Land Sky Water”
Donna Kjonaas & Vickie Kessler
What sustains us? What nurtures us? What holds us in connection? What is satisfying? What is enough? What challenges turn us toward awareness? Collaborative, contemporary fiber artists Donna Kjonaas and Vicki Kessler explore these fundamental questions in their artwork. They reclaim historic, vintage and practical fiber through a variety of processes including discharge, painting, monoprinting and dyeing. Rich embellishment with stitch, beads, buttons or felting completes each piece. What was once old or useless emerges as an energetic and unexpected creation. Tactile and multilayered, the art invites viewers to visually move toward the inside of each piece. Their abstract compositions open new vistas of connection through the imaginative use of color and common materials.
Donna Kjonaas and Vicki Kessler began their work as collaborative artists in the mid-1980’s with liturgical installation art. In the last three years, their combined efforts have produced a significant body of work which has been featured in five collaborative solo exhibits and in group shows across the country. Their work is in public and private collections.
My first stitches, uneven and unsteady, were fashioned with bits of yarn on left-over scraps of fabric. Sneaking into my mother’s sewing basket for small treasures, I sought to repeat the image of beauty everywhere around me in my homeland of southwest Wisconsin. The wide and turbulent Mississippi River taught me about the subtleties of color shading. Muddy, brown shore waters gradually shifted toward blue until they reached the islands, where greenish hues took center stage. Tall, verdant hills with rocky outcrops demonstrated the power of texture and contrast. Wild, dappled valleys revealed their secrets in undulating rhythms and surprising bursts of color. These true delights of earth became my first teachers.
Color, rhythm and shape are key components in my art. As in nature, the whole is more than the sum of parts. The hideous stands beside the beautiful, the predictable companions the surprise, the exotic and the mundane are born in the same ground. The ancient, seasoned and well-worn offers perspective. Newly emerging patterns bring a leap of inspiration.
Working with old fabric, linens, quilts, yarn, sweaters and clothing provides a balance to consumptive patterns and habits that threaten us. It offers an opportunity to reflect on values of connection and relationship, and helps me feel that with each stitch, I am mending a little portion of the world.
Vicki Kessler, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, was born and raised in southwest Wisconsin. She currently resides in Fargo, North Dakota. She is a self-taught fiber artist who has been experimenting with cloth and stitch since childhood. Vicki is a founding member of The Women’s Fiber Art Collective in Madison, Wisconsin. The Collective’s work work is permanently installed in the Wisconsin Conference of the United Church of Christ in DeForest, Wisconsin; Pilgrim Heights Retreat Center in Green Lake, Wisconsin; First