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Ali's Light: The Cloth Paintings of Alison Cann-Clift, 1976-2006

June 30 - October 21, 2007

 

Cloth has been used by artists for centuries as a surface on which to express ideas and emotions. Artist Alison Cann-Clift, however, has gone a step beyond that boundary by using cloth as a key component in her narratives. Ali's Light: The Cloth Paintings of Alison Cann-Clift, 1976-2006 includes paintings in which cloth is used to communicate the wind scattering sheets of paper, tablecloths blowing in a breeze, and water rippling against a canyon wall. On exhibit at Fuller Craft Museum June 30 - October 21, 2007 Ali's Light includes 21 seminal works that signal important transitions in the artist's techniques and stylistic uses of cloth as a dominant, primary medium for expression.

In the 30 years between 1976 and 2006, Canadian-born artist Alison Cann-Clift has produced almost 300 cloth paintings. Curated by William Thrasher, Ali's Light features paintings that illustrate the artist's effective use of movement and stillness as a means to convey ideas and emotions and, ultimately, to share with the viewer her own experiences. This exhibition is the first retrospective of the artist's cloth paintings and is intended to reflect continued unique exploration of cloth as a medium for paintings over the past three decades.

According to guest curator William Thrasher, "This exhibition focuses on several distinctive features of Ali's cloth paintings, the most dominant being the various ways in which she uses light as a means of drawing the viewer into the environment of the painting, and, simultaneously, her dramatic use of darkness and shadow as an enticement to linger in those environments. It is essential that one looks at these painting from both a distance, and at a very close range. While a tablecloth may indeed be a tablecloth, a dress an actual dress, the bright light at a far horizon is often only a single thread; the darkening sky and the shadows layered tulle, or a waterfall shredded cloth. Magician that she is, Ali never shies away from showing us both sides of her hand."

Alison Cann-Clift attended the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and launched her artistic career in the early 1970s. Since then her work has been featured in numerous group solo exhibitions and collected by museums, galleries and private collectors throughout the United States and abroad. Ali's Light is presented in collaboration with Pucker Gallery, Boston.

This exhibition is supported in part by the office of the Canadian Consulate General in Boston.


Curatorial Statement

In the thirty years between 1976 and 2006, Alison Cann-Clift has produced almost three hundred cloth paintings. This is a notable body of work, especially considering her additional production of varying original graphics -- including etchings, dry-points, silkscreen editions and monoprints, and chine-colle monoprints -- some of which were based on cloth paintings, many of which were altogether new works. While the twenty five paintings in the current exhibition cannot be considered a complete retrospective exhibition, it is framed by a retrospective approach solely to her entire body of cloth paintings. It includes one of her earliest Circus paintings from 1976 and one of her most recently completed Grand Canyon paintings from 2006. Also included are representative paintings from five major periods produced over the past three decades: the Circus paintings; the Mexican paintings; a large group of Still Life and Monochromatic White paintings; the Venetian paintings; and her newest group of paintings of the Grand Canyon.

Included also are seminal works that signal important transitions in her techniques and stylistic uses of cloth as a dominant, primary medium. Beginning with her comfortable self-consciousness about the use of cloth in the early circus paintings, to an important shift in surface texture away from the appearance of cloth, and finally to a return to her almost improvisational use of the colorations and variable woven patterns of found materials so prominent in the Grand Canyon series, these twenty five paintings illustrate an artist's exploration of cloth as a medium for painting and into a new phrasing of the painter's vocabulary for expressing ideas and emotions through visual representation.

Thematically this exhibition focuses on several distinctive features of Ali's cloth paintings, the most dominant being the various ways in which she uses light as a means of drawing the viewer into the environment of a painting, and, simultaneously, her dramatic use of darkness and shadow as an enticement to linger in those environments. Secondarily, because she so skillfully employs dynamic contrast within a single image, these paintings also illustrate her effective use of movement and stillness as a means to convey ideas and emotions and, ultimately, to share with the viewer her own experiences. Finally, through this selection of some of Ali's finest, most complex paintings we have an opportunity to more fully understand and appreciate her unique use of cloth as color, texture, line, form, and substance. Therefore, it is towards these ends that the paintings have been chronologically arranged in groups to which they belong.

It is essential that one looks at these paintings both from a distance, and at very close range. While a table cloth may, indeed, be a table cloth, and a dress an actual dress; the bright light at the far horizon is often only a single thread, the darkening sky and the shadows layered tulle, or a waterfall shredded cloth. Magician that she is, Ali never shies away from showing us both sides of her hand.

-- William Thrasher

 

(above: Alison Cann-Clift, Lightning Strikes Twice, 2005, 31 x 33 inches. Collection of Thomas R. Sommerfield. Photo: Will Chiron)

 

 

(above: Alison Cann-Clift, Grand Canyon VIII, 2006, 28 x 35 inches. Collection of Avram and Carol Goldberg. Photo: Will Chiron)

 

(above: Alison Cann-Clift, Carnevale - Harlequino, 2003, 60 x 40 inches. Courtesy of Pucker Gallery. Photo: Max Coniglio)

 

(above: Alison Cann-Clift, Grand Canyon IX, 2006, 67 x 37 inches. Collection of Chris Rifkin. Photo: Will Chiron)

 

Resource Library wishes to extend appreciation to Ms. Kristin Villiotte, Communications Director, Fuller Craft Museum, for her help in obtaining permissions for reprinting the curatorial statement by guest curator William Thrasher.

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