Iris Nectar: Traveling Feminist Fiber Art Show

Iris Nectar is an artist based out of Rochester, NY. In August 2015 she curated a travelling exhibit of fiber art based on feminist ideals. With provocative work by many talented artists, the show has grown in popularity and will continue indefinitely. I talked to her about inspiration, her work, and the future of embroidery.

What sparked your interest in fiber art?
I have always been interested in the aesthetic of fiber art and I grew up watching my mom cross stitch. I became most seriously interested in fiber art after coming across the work online of two contemporary artists, Ýrúrarí and Jaz Harold, as well as an artist that I went to ;school with at Boston University, Mia Cross. After being exposed to their work I completely fell in love with the medium and started to delve further into the world of fiber art.”

What artists do you gain inspiration from?
The artists I just mentioned have impacted me greatly, and I am inspired by all of the artists that submit their work to Feminist Fiber Art and that I choose to feature in exhibitions.

by Alaina Varrone
What motivated the exhibit? How did you come up with the idea for a traveling show?
I studied Art History in school, and when I graduated I knew that I wanted to curate my own pop-up exhibit. Initially, I had just considered doing a small show in Boston, where I was living at the time, but there was such an overwhelmingly positive response to the project online and locally that I decided to keep the exhibit going indefinitely. What had initially started out as an idea for a small pop-up exhibit turned into a three-venue art crawl opening festival to kick off Feminist Fiber Art, a project that I knew that could grow over time. After the opening festival went well, I decided to travel with the show to expose the work of my artists to as many audiences as possible. So far we have had exhibits in Boston, Philadelphia, Rochester and have plans to bring FFA to L.A. and Toronto later this year. I also dream of bringing the show to New York, Portland, London, and Sydney.”

It seems the exhibits take a lot of planning between the artists, locations, and performers; how are you able to coordinate everything?
I have an amazing team of volunteers that help me pull off events. I rely on my volunteers to help me set up art, sell art (embroideries, pins, patches, stickers, etc.), and run house shows. Feminist Fiber Art is truly a community project in that we are a group of women working together to promote the work of feminist artists and musicians from around the world.

Many have seen Hannah Hill's Arthur meme-broidery (above) that stressed the underappreciation of embroidery as a legitimate medium. Do you think embroidery will ever be considered seriously despite it largely being regarded as "women's work"?
After seeing that piece go viral we fell in love with it and commissioned Hannah to make a second version for our permanent collection! It is currently being shipped to us from England, and we are very excited to receive it and start displaying it. In order for work to be taken seriously as an art form, it must be celebrated in established galleries and museums, which seems to be occurring with fiber art. There is definitely a trend in contemporary art of embracing fiber art, which makes me really happy to see. I think we are taking steps in the right direction to eliminate sexism in the art world, but we still have a long way to go, considering that white men are still being celebrated the most in galleries and museums.

What can others do to help legitimize embroidery as an art form?
The more people out there embroidering, the more I think people will embrace it, so pick up a hoop, some floss, and needles! It's also very important for curators to continue to exhibit fiber art. I also love how there are a lot of men around the world making fiber art, which helps to cleanse the medium of its sexist past. Anyone can make fiber art!

by Sally Hewett
Are you working on any other projects?
Not at the moment. Feminist Fiber Art takes up all of my free time. FFA is a pretty fluid project, so I can fold in other concepts that I am interested in into events. For example, I am pretty interested in the world of witchcraft, so I am curating a small exhibit focusing on the occult and including some work in other media while still primarily focusing on fiber art.

What advice would you give to an artist trying to incorporate activism into their work?
All activist goals are connected, so when focusing on one specific topic, try and keep in mind how we are a community and everything is related. For example, feminism is connected to activism for POC since women of color are treated differently than white women. I also think artists and musicians should walk the walk in terms of activism, and certainly make artwork with activist content, but also devote their time to the causes by volunteering, protesting, and organizing events if possible.

by Kjersti Faret

Follow Iris and Feminist Fiber Art!
twitter: @irisnectar
Facebook: Iris Nectar
twitter: @feministfibrart
instagram: @feministfiberart
Facebook: Feminist Fiber Art

text: kailey boucher
visuals: feminist fiber art, credited artists
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