At T.W. Wood, Sabrina Fadial’s Sculptures Reference Women’s Bodies and ‘the Bloody Stuff’ | Art Review | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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At T.W. Wood, Sabrina Fadial’s Sculptures Reference Women’s Bodies and ‘the Bloody Stuff’

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Published February 16, 2022 at 10:00 a.m.


"Organic" - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • "Organic"

Barre artist Sabrina Fadial is known locally for her large-scale, forged metalwork flowers, milkweed pods and other nature-inspired forms. In a solo exhibition at T.W. Wood Gallery in Montpelier, "Corporeal Discretion," a different side of her work emerges: Fadial's inventiveness with found materials.

Hundreds of wire hangers form a tiered, chandelier-like sculpture. At one end of the gallery, large tubes crocheted from wire hang draped from the ceiling. Variously hued pantyhose stuffed with plastic pellets are grouped in pendulous arrangements. Large, gestural paintings in ink on five-foot-square sheets of paper hang from binder clips.

The works in "Corporeal Discretion" reference women's bodies — a topic much in the news lately, given the proposed or actual legislation in several states to severely restrict abortion rights and Vermont's proposed constitutional amendment to guarantee reproductive freedom. Those debates often involve clinical, removed discussions of female bodies. Fadial wants to bring their messiness back into the conversation.

"In society, we don't talk about miscarriages, abortions, birth — any of the bloody stuff," the artist said during a phone call. "These are taboo subjects, yet women are the majority of people on the planet."

"Surrogate Praxis," the sculpture made from wire hangers, viscerally evokes that bloodiness with its reference to the abortion tool of desperation. Paradoxically, the work is also inherently elegant, with each of its tiers exploring a different orientation of the humble object. The hanging sculpture casts intricate butterfly and starburst shadows on the light-gray wall and on a scroll of white paper that Fadial has laid beneath it.

The stuffed-pantyhose protuberances of "Bulbous" and "Organic" invite squeezing, and Fadial recommends doing so. ("Because you know you want to," she said with a chuckle.) In "Organic," the bulging forms are piled unceremoniously, like a surfeit of unwanted breasts, on a vintage medical cart; some dangle precariously over the edge.

The wall-hung "Bulbous" is an assemblage of rounded forms bound in netting and unbound forms that seem to elongate as they droop. According to Fadial's gallery label, the work "evokes feelings of constriction and overflowing."

"Constricted Breath" - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • "Constricted Breath"

"Constricted Breath," one of four works in ink on paper, continues the former theme. Fadial executed its sweeping arcs with a brush in each hand on paper approximating the size of a human body. The brush marks' trajectories overlap to form a large X in the center of the paper.

This viewer experienced a similar sensation of constriction while standing in front of "11/9," Fadial's response to the day in 2016 when Donald Trump was declared president. Over a backdrop of thick horizontal brushstrokes interleaved with peaceful planes of exposed white paper, a scrim of heavy drips creates a vertical curtain, as if to shut down all possibility.

"It expresses my immediate fear and sadness for all women and the challenges we still face," the label reads.

To make "Ectopic," Fadial unbraided an industrial steel cable and then rewove it around a tapered, hand-blown glass vessel. The sculpture evokes an ectopic pregnancy — one that has formed in a fallopian tube instead of the uterus. The pain of that condition contrasts with the beauty of the gleaming sculpture, which is enhanced by its placement on the gallery's mini-grand piano.

It's not surprising that an artist who majored in textile design at the Rhode Island School of Design has the ability to weave steel strands. That major "ticked a lot of boxes: draw, paint, weave, sculpture," Fadial said. She soon added blacksmithing to her skills, building a forge in her backyard.

"Surrogate Praxis" - COURTESY OF T.W. WOOD GALLERY
  • Courtesy Of T.W. Wood Gallery
  • "Surrogate Praxis"

Fadial came to Vermont in 1999 to earn an MFA in visual art at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She currently teaches classes at Norwich University on visual art and foundations of architecture — yet another interest that predates her days at RISD.

More metal-weaving techniques appear in Fadial's installation "Salpinges" — another name for the fallopian tubes. Using a discarded basketball hoop as a crochet loom, she wove what appear to be miles of greasy bailing wire into seven giant tubular forms with flowerlike openings. A rupture in the middle of one may be another ectopic reference. Rather than imitating the body's symmetrical arrangement of fallopian tubes, these tubes have the structure of a disjointed roller coaster. Fadial encourages visitors to walk around and among them.

T.W. Wood's executive director, Margaret Coleman, originally planned to pair Fadial's work with that of another artist. But when she visited Fadial's 2,000-square-foot studio — the artist bought her house for the insulated mechanic's shop that came with it — the director saw the extent and scale of her work. Coleman offered Fadial a solo show, which the artist curated herself.

"She's really unique in her choice of materials," Coleman enthused. "Her studio has so many textures."

Fadial acknowledged that she has her own "story around fertility" and derived the theme of "Corporeal Discretion" from the current zeitgeist. Ultimately, though, the materials themselves drive her.

"I just collect random junk all the time," she said. "My process is really about play and screwing around with materials."

The original print version of this article was headlined "Material Witness | Sabrina Fadial's sculptures reference women's bodies and "the bloody stuff""

Related Locations


  • T.W. Wood Gallery

    Montpelier