Waves & Twills: Meagan Smith at KINK
Meagan Smith’s Waves & Twills illuminates KINK Contemporary’s space, beckoning us to dive in. From afar, the woven compositions are a rainbowed pool; up close, a symphony of stitches. The artist surrounds us with undulating color and movement. A competitive swimmer, Smith thrives on the physically demanding process of weaving. Her solo exhibition explores the representation of fluid systems, blending the digital realm with fine art.
Smith’s mesmerizing shapes optically mix in a way that is similar to Pointillism. The use of geometric abstraction heightens the senses. “A lot of my work has to do with visual perception and movement. I’m learning how to navigate through these digital and physical spaces daily,” Smith said of her artistic practice.
It is all too tempting to tap the surface of Smith’s liquid-like tapestries in anticipation of a ripple effect. Glimmering Waters incorporates a silver thread, igniting the textile with glints of light reminiscent of the sun shining down on Lake Erie in mid-July. With immaculate attention to detail, the artist’s technical expertise bubbles to the surface.
Each composition brings a pulse of nostalgia, providing a new perspective on (what are, to her) all-too-familiar sightlines. Echoes recedes into a vanishing point, evocative of gazing out onto the water and watching the sun dip below the horizon. Liquid Vibrations is a distant memory of handstands in the pool, watching behind goggles as the sun prickles through the water’s surface. Smith’s art reached deep into my subconscious and rekindled childhood memories of growing up near Lake Erie. Each piece captures those transient moments that tend to blur into the back of our minds over time.
The exhibition succeeds because Smith’s work is believable—the textiles’ soft lines convey water’s fickle nature. This delicate quality is achieved by fiber, whereas other artistic media may fall short. These weavings show how water moves and flickers in light. I did not look at these textiles and see a lake; I felt it. Pulled in by Smith’s daring use of color, I developed a greater appreciation of the way water takes on different forms and hues depending on the environment around it.
Smith earned her M.F.A. in textiles with a focus on digital weaving from Kent State University, studying under the direction of Professor Janice Lessman-Moss (head of Kent’s Textile Art program). Smith wove almost every piece in Waves & Twills by hand on a Thread Controller 1 (TC1) digital jacquard loom at Kent as an alumna. One large piece, entitled Glitch, was made using Praxis Fiber Workshop’s Thread Controller 2 (TC2) loom, which is a component of Praxis’ Digital Weaving Lab—a space dedicated for artists to further their craft. These digital looms are difficult to find in Ohio, making both Kent and Praxis valuable resources for textile artists like Smith.
Smith’s process begins with Photoshop, using graphic elements and filters to capture a wavy appearance. She then inlays woven patterns that have rhythm and repetition, enhancing movement and vibration. Sometimes, when there isn’t a main graphic wavy element, she uses rotations of patterns and overlays of twills (a type of weaving pattern that moves diagonally) to create progressions of echoes. Smith uses straight and undulating twills to generate a dynamic, animated appearance.
The artist explains that building these Photoshop files to weave on a digital loom is a lot like coding. When she designs weave files, she thinks about color and pattern happening simultaneously. She also paints the warp with dyes to create more depth.
Smith was reading a book called Glitch Feminism by Legacy Russell while producing many of the works for Waves & Twills. Glitch Feminism is about redefining cyberfeminism and reprogramming systems of race, gender, and sexuality by using the concept of “glitch.” Smith has been thinking about this concept as a digital weaver, and how it could apply to patterns that shapeshift, warp, glitch, and distort.
This exhibition is quintessentially Meagan Smith, blending her background as a swimmer with her savviness as a textile artist. “Abstraction combined with digitalization and weaving is a place where I can physically bend and distort space with more control. It completely opens up a new world for transformative possibilities of forms and patterns,” noted Smith.
I look forward to watching Smith’s interdisciplinary practice evolve. (You read that right—she also works in ceramics!) Currently, she works as a digital weaving intern at Praxis Fiber Workshop and is an instructor at the Cleveland Institute of Art.
1305 West 80th Street
Cleveland, OH 44102
Waves & Twills is on view at KINK Contemporary through Friday, March 18, and closes with a reception from 5-9 p.m. The gallery is open during 78th Street Studios’ Third Fridays and by appointment.
Grace Carter is an arts professional living and working in Akron, Ohio. She earned her B.A. in art history from Kent State University and is a graduate student at the University of Akron studying arts administration.