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Fiber art by Carol Ann Rice Rafferty at the C. G. Jung Center

To see more of Carol Ann Rice Rafferty's work, visit

Pulling a Thread

Once upon a time, while pounding the winding streets of TriBeCa during a near-last-minute hurried search for an engagement ring, I glanced absently at a store selling recycled manmade and natural materials made into (what I was soon to get used to calling) art product. Pine cones turned into candle holders, hemp-strung driftwood made into wind chimes, feathery bits accessorizing jewelry, industrial aluminum mesh formed into lamp shades. There were wall hangings of interlocking polished copper rings and glass-beaded room dividers, and on one wall seven different sizes of woven pine needle wreathes.

I noticed the shape of the wreaths was ring-like and, taking leave of my senses, decided a large pine needle wreath. about the size of a Mini Cooper tire, in lieu of the typical pre-nuptial adornment, was perfect for presenting to my fiancé. That purchase has forever altered my attitude about the aesthetics of found and recycled art, not to mention the limits of a woman’s tolerance.

Fiber has been a means of artistic expression throughout history but has been primarily left to women sewing clothing for their families and as an outgrowth of that routine task to gradually construct with creative embellishments. Women’s social-cultural history is evident in archived collections of excellent needlework, rugs, knitting, and crochet.

Carol Ann Rice Rafferty is showing art and art product at the C. G. Jung Center that falls on that gossamer strand between fine art and craft. Her background as a seamstress/fiber/mixed-media artist interfaces nicely with the Jungian aesthetic of her venue. For Jung, art was a creative process involving the unconscious communicating through consciousness in order to bring about a sense of wholeness and add meaning to experience. Artistic activity was the intention to bring out the natural, instinctual needs and urges of the unconscious through the creative act.

Rice Rafferty brings a trunk show of wearable art and filigreed exotica to grace the gallery spaces. Diaphanous swaths of “burn out” treated silk and rayon scarves hang in profusion. Her Devore Collection’s unusual designs occur in a process long used in the fashion industry consisting of applying sodium bisulfate to cloth, which is dried then heated. The heat process causes the acid to eat away the fabric, leaving the treated original design transparent.

In her exhibit, there is an overall sense of finding a nest of bright objects in a tree hollow or of opening a long locked hope chest in a mystic attic. Photos printed on handmade paper recall childhood; paper rose garlands trellis in grids; bees-waxed coffee filters create translucent tabula rasa for Rice Rafferty to pen messages. Displayed are necklaces of braided silk festooned with vintage jewelry and delicately beaded tracery that would send Stevie Nicks into paroxysms of delight.

There is, for me, however, a continuing difficulty in regard to artworks at the margins of weighted significance which in themselves are of little actual weight. It is as if something like a flower, a butterfly wing, a feather, cannot hold a moment’s inspiration out of its natural context before it is grafted onto some form of sculptural decoration served to season memories or enhance personal expressions of ethereal healing. I find Rice Rafferty’s fashion art in a realm of constant discovery, where the reuse of ordinary objects must be a challenging creative pursuit. I’m sure she will continue to find a greater examination in her recycled subject matter of spiritual and aesthetic possibilities as they relate to her life experience.

Rice Rafferty will be speaking to a Women’s Art Appreciation Group from UB on November 30, noon-3pm. She will give an artist’s talk at the C. G. Jung Center Gallery on December 7, 7pm. The exhibition continues through December 1.

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