Philadelphia Art Alliance Blog

Heidi Bleacher, the Felt Fairy

Fiber artist Heidi Bleacher creates a magical world of her own with her incredible felting skills. Fuzzy topiaries, appetizing donuts, eerie eyeballs, fanciful cartoon characters…her creation is beyond your imagination. Certain pieces may seem slightly creepy to some, but it is this nature that makes them so intriguing. Bleacher’s works, all in bright colors, evoke nostalgic childhood fantasies and bring back the warmest memories.


Photography: Christopher String

The felt sculptures are built from inside out. For most of her works, Bleacher first builds a sturdy frame for the piece, usually with pipe cleaners. She then builds on this structure with felt. The artist prefers dry felting, a method that employs a needle to blend wool fibers, but she is also knowledgeable of wet felting and uses both techniques to create the whimsical pieces. The armature under the felt makes the sculpture resilient and malleable at the same time, bringing a breath of life to the characters. Her mushroom ornaments and Christmas trees bounce back and forth, just like living plants in your backyard caressed by the wind. These sculptural pieces are sure to be a lively addition to your holiday decorations!

A Philly based florist and artist, Heidi Bleacher started making felt works in 2006. Since 2013, her felt pieces have been exhibited and sold at Stadler-Kahn. Selections of Bleacher’s felt sculptures will be sold at the Art Alliance’s holiday pop-up shop–Geppetto. Geppetto will be open December 10, 2015 – January 3, 2016 from Noon – 7PM Tuesday – Sunday, closed on Mondays.

Text by Qianni Zhu, Intern.

Alyse C. Bernstein: Stitches and Fishes


As a part of its holiday pop-up market, Geppetto, the Art Alliance is pleased to present the work of Alyse C. Bernstein, a local printmaker and textile artist. In addition to lithography, Bernstein has undertaken ambitious and challenging textile projects, including large-scale embroidered quilts and a series of murder rugs, in which the artist introduces the characteristic white chalk outlines of crime scenes into the unlikely context of domestic rugs. At Geppetto, Bernstein will be offering smaller scale pillows, adorned with meticulously embroidered koi accompanied by a single golden coin.


Bernstein began creating these pillows during a visit to Japan, where she traveled on an Independence Foundation Grant in 2003. She studied the techniques of traditional craftspeople, and spent long hours sketching the koi at the Sensō-ji Temple in Tokyo. Bernstein manages to capture the fleeting movement and glowing colors of the fish, which seem to swim across the surface of the fabric. The decorative koi of Japanese temple gardens make an appropriate subject matter for textile art, for the Japanese name of carp with orange and white markings (nishikigoi) literally translates to “brocaded carp.” These iconic fish are strongly linked to the concepts of love and friendship, making these pillows ideal gifts for loved ones and friends.

A graduate of PAFA, Bernstein has been working and teaching in the Philadelphia area since the mid-1990s. Most recently, she has worked at Fleisher Art Memorial, where she taught lithography and gyotaku, a traditional Japanese technique of printing fish.

Geppetto will be open Tuesday through Sunday, 12 to 7 pm from December 10, 2015, to January 3, 2016. Closed on Mondays.

Text by Flora Ward, Intern

Tim Eads’ Funhouse

Who says the sense of wonder is dead in this modern society? Artist Tim Eads rekindles our desire and capacity to wonder, long buried under everyday life, through his works. Using intricate designs, unusual sounds and eccentric constructions, Eads creates a funhouse of playful creativity to inspire moments of beauty and meaning. The shared memories of play help the artist connect with his viewers.

The funhouse Eads creates is layered with deeper meanings. The line drawings engage with viewers intellectually with their three-dimensionality. Their unexpected forms block obvious paths and draw attention to the unused space and hidden architectural elements in our environment, encouraging a reimagination of the space we live in and the ways we interact with it.

Eads works across diverse media. His exhibit Species of Spaces at Rebekah Templeton Contemporary Art in 2012 offers visitors a visual, aural, and gastral experience that overwhelms all senses. Environmental Otological Research Device.beta.v01 (2012), part of the Switched-On Garden 002 event at the Bartram’s Garden and a collaborative creation between Eads and Austen Brown, blurs the line between natural and digital worlds.


Photography: Alison Conklin. Courtesy of artist’s website.

Besides such wide array of interactive artworks, one other passion of the artist is designing expressive, stylish, usable and comfortable apparel and accessories. He has collaborated with Lobo Mau, a contemporary sportswear line, to produce T-shirts with vibrant, bursting colors. Capturing attention with their bold, graphic designs, all his apparel and accessories are hand printed and created locally in small batches. The nature of the printing technique gives each piece its unique variations in color and style. Since the artist changes the design and color palette of the prints very often, all works are of limited editions.

Hailing from Denver City, TX, Tim Eads received his BFA from Texas Tech University and his MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art. Currently residing in Philadelphia, the artist is represented by Pentimenti Gallery in Old City. Exhibited internationally, his works are in the renowned collections of Kirkland Museum of Decorative Art in Denver and Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia. 


Courtesy of artist’s website.

Selections of Eads’ apparel and bags will be sold at the Art Alliance’s holiday pop-up shop–Geppetto. Geppetto will be open December 10, 2015 – January 3, 2016 from Noon – 7PM Tuesday – Sunday, closed on Mondays.

Text by Qianni Zhu, Intern

Asimina Chremos: Not Your Grandmother’s Doilies


Boise Doily. 100% cotton (commercially dyed), blocked and starched. 2014. Courtesy of artist’s website.

HomeWork, guest curated by Alex Stadler, explores the themes of femininity, domesticity, and textile-based craft through the idiosyncratic work of two contemporary Philadelphia-based artists, Erin Endicott and Asimina Chremos. Chremos is an unconventional combination of dancer and crochet artist. She uses both these art forms to experiment with improvisation and free-flowing movement, be it of bodies or of thread. Chremos uses a traditional craft in non-traditional ways, eschewing patterns and predictability to create doilies unlike any you have ever seen.

Chremos learned to crochet from her two grandmothers, one Greek and the other American. Her use of this traditional technique evokes the generations of women whose textile crafts have long been excluded from the rarefied world of Art. Originally a private dwelling and now a public institution dedicated to the display of contemporary craft and design, the Art Alliance is both a domestic interior and an exhibition space, making it a particularly evocative venue for Chremos’ work.

Chremos plays with asymmetry and color, the forms of her work arising from the process of making rather than from a predetermined pattern. Her crocheted doilies call to mind the slowly shifting forms of clouds or the changing colors of the evening sky. These organic forms are the result of the improvisational nature of Chremos’ creative process. They are material traces of the movement of Chremos’ hands, as well as impermanent traces of the movements of the artist’s mind.


Images, from top: Prismatic, crochet doily photographed by AC; Asimina Chremos in solo performace at the Museum of Contemparary Art, Chicago, photographed by Ruth Lopez.

This sense of transience and flowing movement that we find in Chremos’ crochet work is also evident in her work as a dancer, which is likewise grounded in a spirit of improvisation. Chremos has collaborated with musicians who improvise as she dances, creating a synthesis of music and movement that is transient, impermanent and ever-shifting. A spirit of play–what she has referred to as the mischievous “imp” in impermanence–infuses her work, seeking to inspire those most fleeting of feelings, joy and delight. Color, movement, and craft all come together in the work of Asimina Chremos, her doilies creating a joyful dance of thread that is sure to delight viewers.

HomeWork will be on view at the Art Alliance from December 10, 2015, until January 3, 2016. Gallery hours are 12PM – 7PM Tuesday through Sunday, closed to the public on Mondays.

Text by Flora Ward, Intern.

Erin Endicott: Healing through Stitches

Contemporary textile artist Erin Endicott considers her works a type of drawing, one through which she can best express herself. Walnut ink stains vintage fabric as red, white and brown threads are woven into the cloth. She engages with her works on a psychological level as well. For Endicott, the process-oriented medium she works in is indeed a healing process.


J.L.L. 1885-1920. Drawing, hand stitching, walnut ink on antique fabric. Courtesy of Artist’s website.

Through her works, Endicott heals her wounds by bringing them to light in visceral forms. She uses vintage fabric passed down by women in her family. Symbolically, her personal history is woven in the fabric that serves as the basis for the following work she performs. She stains the fabric with walnut ink. The ink’s natural flow shapes and tones the “wounds” that the stains represent. Working with this method, Endicott relinquishes control over the outcome of this staining process and trusts the ink’s organic flow completely. She then stitches over the stained fabric, often in red, white and brown threads. Healing comes through this meditative stitching process for the artist, stitch after stitch, hour after hour.

Besides the healing magic in the creation process, Endicott’s works are packed with symbolism of the marks she leaves on the fabric. Growing up in the scenic city Port Republic, New Jersey, the artist often draws her inspiration from the nature. Patterns of veins and roots, as well as shapes of cells and seeds are common themes throughout her works. The various clothing pieces she chooses to work on also serve as a metaphor for one’s skin, conveying a strong sense of intimacy.


Healing Sutra #11 (Detail). Hand embroidery on antique baby bib stained with walnut ink, beads. Courtesy of Artist’s website


Born in a family of textile artists, Endicott developed her penchant for this medium quite naturally. She studied textile design in Scotland and received her BFA in textile design at Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia. A long-time art teacher, Endicott recently decided to pursue her art career full-time. Her works have been exhibited at museums, galleries and other art organizations worldwide.

From December 10 to January 3, Endicott’s newest works will be exhibited at the Philadelphia Art Alliance along with Asimina Chremos’ crochet works in the HomeWork exhibition, guest curated by Alex Stadler. Weaving improvisation into their creation process, these two artists deviate from fiber art’s historical association with domesticity and femininity as suggested by the exhibition title.


Text by Qianni Zhu, Intern

Sleepers in the Borderlands

The fruit of an unusual collaboration between visual artist Marta Sánchez and poet Norma Cantú, Transcendental Train Yard is a series of serigraph prints that create a verbal and visual landscape of dreams and memories. Their work occupies borderlands both literal and figurative, between the nations and languages, between the past and the present, between sleeping and waking experience. Sánchez was born in San Antonio, Texas, and is now based in Philadelphia, while Cantú, now based in Kansas City, Missouri, was born in Mexico and raised just across the border in Laredo, Texas. In the process of their long-distance collaboration, these two artists discovered the many resonances in their shared background that come through in the dream-like words and images of these prints.

Marta Sánchez, Loneliness/Soledad, 2004

Marta Sánchez, Loneliness/Soledad, 2004

Sánchez has long been fascinated by the train yards near her childhood home in Texas, which were so integral to the local landscape and to her own family history. It was the trains that brought her grandfather, a lion tamer from a circus in Mexico City, to San Antonio, where he met Sánchez’s grandmother. Cantú’s grandfather worked for the railway in San Antonio before the family moved to Mexico. These two artists have moved on parallel tracks, their lives and the lives of their family members crossing borders back and forth to forge a mestizo identity, a rich mixture of cultures and languages.

Eight of the ten prints published in the book Transcendental Train Yard are on view on the third floor in the Shanis Programming Space at the Art Alliance from October 25 until November 4. The suite begins with Soledad/Loneliness, which depicts the distinctive landscape of the train yard as seen through a shifting veil of memory and loss, and framed by the body of a woman whose grieving face hovers above the scene like a sorrowful moon as she embraces the figure of an elderly man. Sánchez’s print responds to the loss of her father, and Cantú’s poem was completed soon after her own father’s passing. The print evokes a shared grief that plays out across the landscape of the train yard, uniting the two women’s experiences and emotions across the distance that separates them.

Marta Sánchez, Prelude/Preludio, 2003

Marta Sánchez, Prelude/Preludio, 2003

In the pages of the book, these themes are laid out for the viewer in the first print, entitled Prelude/Preludio. A recumbent figure stretches across the composition, with train cars visible in the background as if through a window. It is not clear if he is dead or merely sleeping. The poem speaks of the “fiery gold crown sunset” and the moonlit arrival of trains, but also evokes a struggle between life and death. As Constance Cortez points out, Sánchez’s print recalls Frida Kahlo’s 1937 work, The Deceased Little Dimas, an uncanny painting depicting the body of a deceased child, dressed in a long robe and crown, surrounded by flowers. Rather than looking directly down on the figure with a detached, almost scientific perspective, as we do in Kahlo’s painting, Sánchez shifts the position of the body so that the viewer feels as though she is alongside the boy. Prayer cards with what appears to be the abstracted form of the Virgin Mary surround his bed, watching over him. Strong horizontal lines run along the length of his body, converging on the figure’s head, like the rail tracks of a dream landscape. In this borderland between sleep and wakefulness, between life and death, the train tracks and the rail yard evoke distant places and domestic intimacy, the journey and the arrival. The work of Sánchez and Cantú transforms the heroic landscape of the West, criss-crossed by train tracks and populated by men and machines that are constantly on the move, into a vast and mysterious interior landscape of shared memory and experience.

PORTADA ESTA Train-ebook-front-sm

A limited number of signed copies of the book, Transcendental Train Yard: A Collaborative Suite of Serigraphs, art by Marta Sánchez and poetry by Norma E. Cantú (San Antonio: Wings Press, 2015) are available for purchase at the Art Alliance.

Text by Flora Ward, Intern

Paula Winokur: Quiet Immensity

At the heart of Material Legacy, in the central gallery on the ground floor, is the work of Paula Winokur. Her quietly monumental porcelain forms ground the exhibition as a whole, rooting it in the clay of the earth and conveying a sense of the immensity and antiquity of the frozen landscapes that form the subject of her recent work. Like Lewis Knauss and Adela Akers, Winokur makes us aware of the slow passage of time. Rather than the human scale of minutes, days, and years, however, Winokur evokes the passage of time on a geological scale, emphasizing the almost inhuman monumentality of the landscape. Despite this, she also makes us aware of the power of human intervention–and invention. Winokur’s work draws attention to the difficult dichotomy of destruction and creation, the permanence and transience of human engagement with the earth.

Paula Winokur, Shattered Ice (2008)

Paula Winokur, Shattered Ice (2008)

Clustered together in the center of the room like ancient standing stones are the porcelain forms of Shattered Ice (2008). The apparent solidity of these forty-two individual pieces is deceptive, for they are hollow inside, composed of individual porcelain slabs. On the inside of the circle, the porcelain slabs are smooth, while their external faces have a rougher texture, as though exposed to the elements. This sharp contrast in texture between rough and smooth is highlighted by Winokur’s monochromatic palette of black and white, the pristine austerity of the white porcelain appearing both solid and fragile at the same time.

Paula Winokur, Aerial View: Glacier (Detail) (2015)

Paula Winokur, Aerial View: Glacier (Detail) (2015)

Winokur also experiments with perspective, putting viewers in the position of looking down over an expansive landscape. We see this especially in Aerial View: Glacier (Detail) (2015), placed on the floor to give viewers a bird’s eye view of the work. While this perspective removes the viewer from the intimate details of the landscape, Winokur also wants to draw us closer, make us aware of how our collective actions have a very real, tangible effect on the glaciers of the far north and south. While this piece emphasizes the dark side of the environmental destruction that humans have wrought, it also recalls ancient earthworks found across Europe and North America, such as the man-made but deeply mysterious earthwork known as the cursus, near Stonehenge in southern England. Human beings need not always be a destructive force; even a glance at our own shared past reveals a complex story of coexistence, written on the landscape itself.

Like all of the other artists whose work is on view in Material Legacy, Paula Winokur has an important legacy as a teacher for generations of artists in the Philadelphia region. She taught for thirty years at Arcadia University in Glenside, PA, while her husband, who also works with clay, taught at Philadelphia’s Tyler School of Art. The legacy of all of these artists is thus both material and intangible, and will continue to endure.

Text by Flora Ward, intern


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