Friends collaborate for 'Human Textures'


BRATTLEBORO — Deidra Scherer's inner voice said, "Call Jackie," as she observed how flexible the woven digital prints of her fabric art were between her fingers. She didn't listen the first time, but when she heard that little voice get louder the next night as she again manipulated the woven print within her hands, she gave her fellow artist and friend Jackie Abrams who specializes in three-dimensional vessels a call. It was the beginning of a collaboration between Scherer and Abrams that is now on exhibit at Mitchell Giddings Fine Arts titled "Human Textures."

For her thread-on-layered-fabric art, Scherer pulls from an enormous palette of fabric ranging from cool to hot colors, small to large prints, drawing with her scissors, using stitching to intensify the drawing. She chooses subjects who mean something to her, often friends, and often elderly women, because, she said, their faces are a reflection on life and have a lot to say.

Scherer attributes her penchant for art from the strong influence her father, Fred Scherer had on her life. He painted the backgrounds for the dioramas at the Museum of Natural History in New York City. As she grew up she would often be found sitting inside a diorama talking to her dad while he painted. As an artist herself, her work in many different mediums included paints of all kinds. She approaches her fabric art from that painter's viewpoint, influenced by her fascination of bits and pieces that make a whole such as mosaics or Tiffany lamps. Although fabric art is an ancient art, creating scenes woven in tapestries or stitched in embroidery, Scherer is considered a pioneer in using fabric to create scenes. Her images of the elderly that captures every crevice were described by one as "brutally honest," and another called it "integrity." Scherer said there is a remarkable resonance of life that left a map on faces. "What is not to love?" She said. It makes her feel like she is giving voice to something beyond language.

With the aid of Hospice, two of her torn paper weavings show the end of life. In "Unfolding Weave" the strips of the weave complement the flow of the folds in the blanket. "I love the fact that you can see the matrix of energy, and where it is going," Scherer said. On a lighter side is her self-portrait. A background of sepia-toned images of herself in different periods of her life taken from old photos is layered with a full-color current portrait. She said she had a ball doing it once she came to terms with it being "all about me."

For her work in paper media, Scherer scans her fabric art, reconfigures it in Photoshop then prints two copies of the images on paper. She cuts or tears the paper into strips to create warp and weft for weaving, responding to the piece with wide and narrow strips, undulating with the shape while creating depth and texture.

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This is where Abrams comes in. It was one of those woven pieces that spoke to Scherer to work with her adding the third dimension to her work. Abrams process also involves scanning the stitched images in Photoshop then manipulating them before printing on heavy watercolor cotton paper, paper that doesn't rip, to be cut into strips. A conversation with Deidra determines how it should be woven. Abrams weaves wire through the spokes of the digital image strips, usually copper because it is flexible and may be coated to come in a variety of colors. Abrams shapes the paper and wire with her hands creating a vessel with either straight sides such as in "Double Profiles," or undulated sides as in "Heads," in which the terrain of the image is reflected in its shape drawing from her work in her "Women Forms" series that may be viewed on her website

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Together, they talk about a piece, try it in different colors and work in different shapes, and pursue their ideas until finished with all the variations.

In one variation, "Couples," the use of plastic woven between the strips of the digital image allows light to enter inside the vessel to give great shadows and add dimension as glimpses of the inside are caught. There are also other vessels by Abrams at the gallery created before and after her collaboration with Scherer.

Scherer and Abrams were uplifted to feel people's responses to their work at the opening a few weeks earlier. "It's wonderful to hear people's response seeing what I meant to say and things I didn't realize I said," said Scherer.

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Scherer's "Connecting To" was unanimously deemed everyone's favorite. It was also agreed that Abrahms couldn't make these vessels without Scherer, and Scherer couldn't do it without Abrams' three-dimensional work.

It is a dance they do well together.

To see more of Scherer's art, visit On Oct. 27, 5 p.m. there will be an artists' talk at the gallery. 183 Main St. Come, hear how they do it.

Cicely M. Eastman may be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 261


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