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Stitching Vincent
Turlock artist first to debut work in Carnegie pop-up installation
“Cypresses” an embroidery on linen, was created by Turlock artist Hope Werness and is part of the installation opening at the Carnegie Arts Center on Tuesday. - photo by Photo Contributed

Turlock artist Hope Werness has drawn inspiration from one of the world’s most famous and prolific artists – Vincent van Gogh – for her own latest artistic expression.

Stitching Vincent is an installation of handmade works by Werness, who re-worked details of van Gogh compositions using embroidery on fabric.

It was a process that took more than a year and a small selection of her creations will be presented in an intimate and experimental format, developed in collaboration with the Carnegie Arts Center Director and Curator Lisa McDermott.

 “With the amazing popularity of van Gogh ‘experiences’ these days, Hope is presenting us with a whole new perspective on this iconic artist,” McDermott said.

Using materials and techniques that are traditionally relegated to craft or “women’s work” Werness reinterprets intimate fragments of paintings that are now valued in the millions of dollars and held in the most prestigious museum collections. The contrast between what is familiar and what is famous is made clear. The result is that the viewer is brought into van Gogh’s world on a small scale.

The pop-up installation will open Tuesday and run through Feb. 4.

Werness earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Art/Art History at UC Santa Barbara in 1965, and her Master of Arts in Art History at Tulane University in 1968. She went on to receive her PhD in Art History at UC Santa Barbara in 1972. As an art historian she has studied van Gogh’s works over the decades and completed her dissertation on the artist.

Werness said van Gogh’s symbolism has been of particular interest for her and she created booklets looking at seven reoccurring themes in van Gogh’s art to accompany her embroidery works.

The presentation of these delicate works was a collaboration between artist and curator.

“It was important to have a small, intimate space to view this material,” McDermott explains, “but our gallery does not have a space that readily provides that kind of atmosphere.”

The Arts Center’s Gallery Committee was open to the idea of a pop-up show, using only a small area within the larger gallery to try this out. The works will be shown in an area in the gallery that has been recreated to look like a cozy living room, with chairs to sit on and a television that will be playing rotating images of the van Gogh works that Werness used as inspiration.

“Lisa is very smart at what she does, and she knew that these works had to be presented in as intimate a space as possible,” Werness said.

With this show, the CAC is shifting the usual exhibition schedule to create a short time slot in the winter to explore experimental ideas and unique concepts with small-scale, temporary exhibitions.

“We’ve set aside the month of January now as our project space, and we are excited to debut the first of these experimental shows with Hope’s installation,” McDermott said.

Prior to Werness’ arrival at CSU Stanislaus in 1976 she taught at Santa Barbara City College and San Jose State. Over the course of her long tenure at Stan State, she at times served as Department Chair and as Gallery Director, and was named Outstanding CSU Stanislaus Research, Creativity and Scholarship Professor.

Werness has written numerous gallery catalogs and periodical articles, in addition to several books on symbolism in art, including “The Symbolism of Mirrors in Art from Ancient Times to the Present” (1999), “The Continuum Encyclopedia of Native Art: Worldview, Symbolism, and Culture in Africa, Oceania, and Native North America” (2000), and “The Continuum Encyclopedia of Animal Symbolism in World Art” (2007). Her artwork has been regularly exhibited at CSU Stanislaus, the Carnegie Arts Center, and the Chartreuse Muse gallery, and has been accepted for the annual Yosemite Renaissance juried exhibition three times.

A reception and conversation with Werness will be held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday at the Carnegie Arts Center.

Admission is free to see the installation. The Carnegie Arts Center is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.