“Stitches that Heal” does not refer to sutures or surgery.
The installation, which runs through Nov. 7 at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts in Shadyside, celebrates the doily, in all its homey, ephemeral glory.
In this age of Tivo and point-and-click, the doily would seem to be as relevant as scrimshaw. But fiber artist Akiko Kotani has rescued the lace coaster from its dainty domain of spinster aunts and Victorian sitting rooms.
For Kotani, an emeritus of art at Slippery Rock University, the doily represents sanctuary, renewal and empowerment.
She associates doilies with her girlhood in Hawaii, where her mother would sit in her chair and craft the lacy spheres. Far from being domestic drudgework, the act of working with her hands allowed Kotani’s mother to lose herself and unclench her mind.
“She said stitching doilies soothed her nerves and helped her to make sense of a sometimes complicated life. It helped her to get through the day, to think of a time when she could sit down and stitch her doilies.”
“Stitches that Heal” became an investigation of doilies as a sort of emotional touchstone, a Rorschach blot reflecting the personality of its creator.
“I really wanted to find out if it’s a universal thing among women,” she says.
Kotani put out a call for doilies over the Internet. She received more than 360 of them — from Japan, Sweden, Denmark, Cypress and Romania, as well as Alabama and Oregon.
Her harvest covers the four walls of the upstairs gallery. On three of the walls is a blizzard of doilies in white and off-white and beige, large and small, austere and whimsical, diamond and oval-shaped.
On one wall are colored doilies, including one that looks like a holograph.
In the middle is a chair she calls “the limenal chair.” The term refers to the cusp between conscious and unconscious, a reference to the mind’s fugue state that occurs when hands are involved in busy work.
‘Stitches that Heal’ runs through Nov. 7. The Pittsburgh Center for the Arts is at Fifth and Shady avenues in Shadyside.
Gallery and shop hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays.
The exhibit is free, but donations are encouraged. Details: (412) 361-0873 or pittsburgharts.org .