by Cynthia Cheng, Santa Clara Weekly
At the Jan. 15 opening reception of “Fab Fiber,” works of textile art fashioned from recycled materials occupied Mission College’s Vargas Gallery. Artists featured were Eszter Bornemisza of Budapest, Hungary; Anitta Toivio of Sahalahti, Finland; and Dotti Cichon from Mountain View.
One of Cichon’s pieces is “Loss,” a bare tree that points to the nearly extinct orchards once abundant in Silicon Valley. About 10 feet tall and seven to eight feet wide, the tree was constructed from Tyvek, which Cichon described as a strong, lightweight and durable material used in construction for wrapping houses to protect them from moisture.
“It’s an apricot tree which I modeled from a photograph I took of an apricot tree in the Heritage Orchard in Sunnyvale,” Cichon said. “When I first moved to Sunnyvale in 1971, it was all orchards, acres and acres of orchards. This was the first place I lived in when I moved from Berkeley to the Peninsula. There was a rooster that woke me up in the morning. There was a store called White Front. It was the only department store around. Now it’s all streets and stores and houses in Silicon Valley with only one square block of apricot orchards preserved as a Heritage Orchard in Sunnyvale.”
According to Cichon, the blossoms on the ground at the base of the bare apricot tree is meant to convey a sense of loss for the old culture of orchards in Silicon Valley. Not only does Cichon mourn the loss of orchards, she also suggested that Silicon Valley’s modern developments show a disconnection with nature.
“In many places, you have the sidewalk and a strip of land with trees in it before you get to the street,” she said. “Now there’s not a value put on having trees, having nature, near the sidewalk. Silicon Valley looks very industrial now. People are putting up buildings right next to the sidewalk with no green space.”
Cichon talked about another work of hers on display called “Kanji Kimono.” According to Cichon, Kanji refers to a Japanese style of writing. Cichon explained that she supports the Japanese “wabi-sabi” aesthetic, which she described as “based on the beauty inherent in nature that is imperfect, asymmetrical, and impermanent or incomplete.”
“If you look at the kimono, it’s not perfectly balanced but it has a pleasing composition,” Cichon said. “The kimono was made from repurposed materials from FabMo in Mountain View. It’s a non-profit that gets fabric remnants [from designer and decorator showrooms in San Francisco]. FabMo holds an event once a month in Mountain View and makes materials available to artists and people who sew for a donation. This kimono was made from FabMo materials, such as canvas, silver leaf, Kanji text from a Japanese practice workbook, wallpapers and an old window blind and fabric samples.”
On Feb. 21, during “Fab Fiber’s” closing reception, FabMo (www.fabmo.org) will be present to give out materials to artists. Email Lynne Todaro, Gallery Director, at email@example.com for more information.
The Vargas Gallery is located inside the Gillmor Center at Mission College. Mission College is located at 3000 Mission College Blvd.