S haren Eninger’s Fiver Works in Waynesville
By Jud Yalkut
Sharen Eninger has been a powerful cultural force since she navigated the Fish House Art Gallery in Waynesville, Ohio from 2000 to 2007. She continues her active career as a part-time instructor at the We Care Heal-ing Arts Center inDayton since 2003, as the Head of Art Ministry for Resur-rection Lutheran Church in Lebanon, and as a master seamstress and in-structor at what is now the Fish House Art Studio.
“Dancing With God,” Eninger’s current show at the Studio, running up to the Christmas holidays, is the result of over two years of the “traveling through millions of stitches” in exploring unconventional fiber materials and “how far they can be pushed in relationship to the artist and her audience.” Ninety percent of the work in this collection was done with simple hand needles, with very little on the sewing machine and only to keep some edges from fraying.
An Ohio native who received her assoc-iate’s degree in fine arts from Sinclair Community College in 1996, Eninger has been engaged since the age of 5 in what was called functional sewing or pieces of art. “I thought of something that pleased me and enjoyed the process of doing it,” she says, “even sewing my own wedding dress and I can pretty much sew most anything without a pattern. What I learned in fiber fused with my training in fine arts leading deeply into my fiber arts.”
For her solo graduation show, Eninger used soft sculpturing and patchwork quilting done in three-dimensional fashion to create her life-size “Uncle Ralph.” “I still do 3-D work and some soft sculpture,” she adds, “and pieces using Navaho weaving techniques to make fabric vessels as personal forms which I call my ‘Pot People,’ each with their own distinct personality. All aboriginal art of any kind interests me, and how they make something functional beautifully, whether Native American, African, Asian, Appalachian, or Latin American molas where you have one layer and another layer is seen through it.”
Her “Dancing with God” theme is meant in an all-inclusive way. “We are all spiritual creatures and when we come together can create an energy that’s larger than any one of us. We have to be tolerant and listen to one another. Doing anything hateful makes our energy level small. In my art with figural elements, I don’t want people to think of ethnic pieces, but as something that anyone in the world could create, not just a white woman living in Waynesville, Ohio.”
Using elements of recycling in her “Dancing with God” pieces involves using throwaway things, magically transmuted by her needlecraft alchemy. The double profile “The Memory of My Soul” is mainly recycled material built on a padded wooden frame plus a gold silk/wool yarn obtained from the Oriental Trade Co. in New York, a yarn also used for wrapping heavy rope in the piece. Eninger discovered the thread during a knitters’ convention at the Bergamo Center in Dayton and the wrapped roping is used “to build up textures and create movement.”
“Life Path,” also built on a wooden frame with a slimmer double profile, has yarn-wrapped rope mixed with Navaho weaving techniques. “Welcoming God” has couched stitching with a blue universe and humanity expressed in red-orange French knots. The seven figures moving uphill in “Don’t Look Back” are composed of many small pieces of varied colors, all hand sewn, except for machined satin stitches around the figures. “Couching is the technique of layering your thread or yarn,” she explains, “and coming up from the bottom and tacking it down on top” as in the figurative work in “Praying” sewn on throwaway old African cloth made of raffia, “a cloth which needs to be honored” and is also displayed with the two figures
of “Lead Me.”
In addition, “God’s Shield” uses needle-weaving techniques with three joyful figures appliquéd over circular sentences needle-written in the Cherokee language. Eninger used two panels from a dress worn by an African woman with used woolen raffia sections appliquéd together. The round “View From the Sky” was hand sewn on a metal hoop to envision “what the ground looks like when flying over it,” portrayed in variegated fabrics and needle play techniques.
“Meditation” uses needle work and fabric paint to portray figures in several modes of meditation. The French knots within “Buried Gifts” show the cemetery “where we bury our gifts to maybe resurrect and use later in life.” The elongated diamond shape of “Continuum” with its hanging tails of colored yarn “depicts the meanderings of many generations of a family through the use of needle weaving and other needle work used in traditional pieces by our ancestors.”
“View from the Crack in the Rock” features the interplay of layered small pieces of fabric and needlework using discarded items and yields a rich purple field embroidered with the magic golden yarn and a glimpse of clouds in a blue sky. “It creates an image of life through the solid foundation of the knowledge of God,” reflects Eninger. “It’s a journey of a million stitches.”’
The Fish House Art Studio is located at 188 N. Main St., Waynesville. The exhibition is viewable until Christmas by appointment. Call (513) 897-1280 or e-mail Sharen Eninger at email@example.com
Reach DCP visual arts critic Jud Yalkut at firstname.lastname@example.org