Subversive, Skilled, Sublime: Fiber Art by Women

Neda Al-Hilali

When Neda Al-Hilali studied art at the University of California, Los Angeles, she was immediately drawn to the sumptuous and symbolic qualities of fiber. She developed a systematic process of knotting, twisting, and plaiting threads into sculptures that subtly insinuate myths and rituals. Among her subjects were female Greek figures Cassiopeia and Medusa, and the allegorical city of Atlantis. In the 1980s, she expanded her storytelling toolkit with flattened shards of aluminum. She explained, "Even the most beautiful and glorious fiber basically hangs. This is alright for the hero's shirt and for the royal mantle for your mythological man, but to complete the adornment of your hero lover, you need the crown." Metal allowed Al-Hilali to defy gravity and enhance the personality of her elaborate structures.