Elin Noble: Vox Stellarum

Elin Noble: Vox Stellarum

Monday, June 6, 2016 to Friday, September 16, 2016

              Vox Stellarum or Voice of the Stars is textile artist Elin Noble’s response to an early eighteenth century copperplate engraving from the 1731 book titled Physica sacra by the Swiss natural scientist Johann Jakob Scheuchzer. The book, and the particular image that inspired Noble’s installation, reflect the time before the Enlightenment period when ideas about the nature of beauty were evolving, and when conflicts between faith and scientific questioning arose.

                Using hand dyeing and clamp resist techniques, Noble creates an environment in which the interplay of light, shadow, transparency and cloth allude to the mystical and magical dimensions of a natural world that science has yet to fully explain. 

                Elin Noble is the award-winning author of Dyes & Paints: A Hands-On Guide to Coloring Fabric. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Fiber from the University of Washington, and over several decades has built an extensive portfolio of exhibitions, classes, lectures, and television appearances. She lives and works in New Bedford, Massachusetts.

                Asked in 2007 to respond to a particular image in the eighteenth century Scheuchzer text for an exhibition at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, Noble recalled that she "wanted to create an expansive and flowing space, filled with darkness and light. The space [in the drawing] created by the multitude of lines, as well as the optical flickering, reminded me of the moiré patterns created by layering silk organza, and I knew I wanted to establish a repeat pattern playing opacity against transparency." Noble added that she "began by experimenting with lengths of silk organza, a sheer fabric which is naturally transparent. A protein gum called sericin coats the outer layer of the silk organza filament and is responsible for making the cloth transparent."

                The complete installation of Vox Stellarum or selected panels from the collection have since been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions at The Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River, MA; the Fibreworks Gallery, Madeira Park, British Columbia, Canada; Scheinfurth Art Center in Auburn, NY; the New Bedford Art Museum in New Bedford, MA; the Textile Center in Minneapolis, MN; and the Ohio Craft Museum in Columbus, OH, among others. This latest installation of Noble's panels in UNL's newly renovated Robert Hillestad Textiles Gallery on east campus is complemented by a video projection that Noble created in collaboration with Textiles, Merchandising & Fashion Design faculty member Michael Burton. "We focused on the moiré patterns that were created in the overlap of the silk panels," said Burton. "The result amplifies the visual dazzle of the moiré phenomenon for the viewer, and adds another experiential dimension to the show," he added.  
               Writing in the Lincoln Journal-Star on August 14, 2016,  L. Kent Wolgamott said "A master of dyeing, Noble has a good idea of what patterns will emerge from the process. But there is still some chance, or accident left in the process. The 23 panels, each made up of at least two, hang from ceiling to floor, smartly arranged by Noble... near walls and in broken lines and creating, on the east side of the gallery, a small room-like space where the viewer is surrounded by the wavering panels -- looking forward at one and seeing multiples to each side. That makes for a captivating environment, a study in abstraction taken to a different, very fresh level by the moire effect." He went on to say that he anticipated that  Vox Stellarum would likely be on his "list of the best Lincoln art exhibitions of 2016."

                Elin Noble will be the featured speaker at the annual board meeting of the Friends of the Robert Hillestad Textiles Gallery on Sunday, June 5. Her talk begins at 3:00 p.m. and the public is welcome. It takes place in Room 11 of the Human Sciences Building on east campus, and there is no charge. A reception hosted by the Friends will follow in the Hillestad Gallery at the same location, where visitors will be able to move through and contemplate Vox Stellarum.  The exhibit runs June 6, 2016 – September 16, 2016.

                Noble will return in September 2016 to lead a dyeing workshop under the auspices of the Nebraska Fiberarts Initiative. The workshop takes place September 13 - 16 in the surface design studios of the Department of Textiles, Merchandising & Fashion Design. For more information please phone the department at 402-472-2911 or visit the Robert Hillestad Textiles Gallery website at http://cehs.unl.edu/textilegallery


Detail of first Vox Stellarum panel, 2007.

Vox Stellarum Installation View 2016
Vox Stellarum Installation View 2016. Photo credit: Larry Gawel.
Vox Stellarum Installation View 2016. Photo credit: Larry Gawel.