Last week I attended the opening of a show of fabric-based mixed media works by Herb Rieth at the Tennessee Valley Art Museum. A friend and I had it on our calendars at least a couple of weeks beforehand to meet there. The press release and a few photographs had given hints that this would not be your grandmother’s quilt show.
The artist was engaging and funny, just like portions of his works and some of the stories behind them. They combine slices of his life story with historical references, presented in colorful arrangements of a variety of fabrics, clothing infused with personal memories, painting and drawing, Zen-like and meticulous stitching, and embellished with such mundane objects as safety pins, beer tabs, house keys, and spikes, together elevated to become parts of rich tapestries of life experiences. Rieth compares his process to painting, as he works with the components, rearranging them until the composition feels right, sewing the parts together, then painting and embellishing to build a satisfying and cohesive statement.
Seeing this show and listening to the artist bring the pieces to life, I was reminded again how deeply the tradition of story is interwoven in the Southern experience. Herb Rieth is carrying on this fine tradition in a delicious mix of personal stories universal truths.
This slideshow provides a sampling of the works in the show.
Reith earned his B.A. degree from Indiana University and M.F.A. from the University of Cincinnati. He taught painting, drawing and design at the University of Alabama, Mississippi State University and Ohio Northern University and is currently Assistant Professor of Art at Pellissippi State Community College, Knoxville.
Rieth’s work has been shown at Cincinnati’s Contemporary Art Center’s UnMuseum, the Mississippi Museum of Art and solo and group shows in 23 states.
The show is open through March 10, 2017.