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Raw Hope

June 1 @ 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM


Fiber Exhibit Raw Hope at Evanston’s Noyes Upstairs Gallery
Buddhist Artist Janet Jaffke’s Talk + Book Signing, 6/1, 7 p.m.
– New Burlap Wall Hanging Show Runs 6/2 to 8/9 –

Artist Janet Jaffke presents her new fiber exhibition Raw Hope at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center, Upstairs Gallery, 927 Noyes Street, in Evanston, Illinois (CTA Purple Noyes stop, some lot and street parking). The free show will run from June 2-August 9, 2023, and a free artist talk and book signing of her collaboration Catch will be held on Thursday, June 1, at 7 p.m. The Noyes Center is open Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m.; Saturdays from 9 a.m.-6:30 p.m.; and Sundays from 10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

The new works of Raw Hope are crafted from burlap or hessian (fabric made from jute plant skin or sisal fibers), thread, gauze, plant material and other natural fibers, as well as reclaimed coffee bags. The materials are torn, shredded, patched, stitched and pieced together to create highly textured, often monochromatic, pieces that invite the viewer to imagine natural landscapes as well as the spiritual world.

The exhibition includes several large wall hangings as well as collections of smaller fragments. Those capture the fear and uncertainty of the pandemic, and what hope existed during that time. Other large scale patchwork hangings are inspired by Jaffke’s love of quilts and the comfort they provide. Also featured are several six-foot “Treasure Towers,” which illustrate the Buddhist concept that the ordinary person has the ability to be in a state of enlightenment even while enduring life’s obstacles and challenges.

Raw Hope is a departure from Jaffke’s earlier painting and mixed media work. Previous work combined layers of fiber and burlap with paint as a method of manufacturing texture. “During COVID lockdown, I was struck by the beauty of burlap in its natural form,” she said. “This pivot allowed me to find my voice and explore my deep interest in the resilience and tenacity of the human spirit. This work speaks to the universal experience of facing life’s challenges and finding hope.”

At the June 1st book event, Jaffke will talk about her international art journey, and how it affects her fiber and textile art. She will discuss how her Buddhist practice, as well as living as an expat in Alsace, France (near Basel, Switzerland), influences her work too. Jaffke and Laurie ShoulterKarall, a Chicago-based writer who works for gun violence-prevention organization Chicago Cred, co-authored the book Catch while living on different continents. Book copies will be available at the event for $45 each via cash or Venmo.

Catch started as a challenge for Jaffke to put something in her sketchbook every day for 30 days. She posted the results on her social media, where they caught the attention of writer/editor ShoulterKarall, who saw narratives in those images. She wrote short stories to accompany the pieces, like playing a game of catch with something thrown into the world. “The game of catch is simple,” Jaffke said. “Anyone can play. Making art is the same, but too many people feel intimidated by the thought of being creative. Creativity is the doodle on a paper napkin, random beads strung on a piece of elastic, or a haiku written on a Post-it note.”

Born and raised in Chicago, Jaffke received her BFA from the School of the Art Institute, then stared producing hand-painted fabrics for clothing and home use, which were shared in boutiques, galleries and department stores across the US. She also created theatrical costumes, site-specific art installations, and worked with commercial print and film photographers. In 1999, she received a grant to merge her art with emerging internet technology, creating a digital studio. She moved to a French farm town in 2013, has exhibited her work in Paris, Florence and Basel, and has had artist residencies in the US and Italy.

“My work is inspired by memory, experiences, my understanding of the human condition and my Buddhist practice,” Jaffke said. “I work primarily in burlap, a natural material that speaks to my love of nature and texture. It’s strong, durable and I associate it with growing up in a hard-working blue collar family. It’s a material rich with manipulative properties.”

“I use reclaimed coffee bags that originate from all over the world,” she added. “Each has distinctive physical characteristics. Their diverse colors and weaves are unique to their origin and represent the beauty of diversity in the world. I use the inherent qualities and associations of burlap to explore the resilience of the human spirit. No matter how torn or unraveled life becomes, there are ways to patch the pieces back together.”

The City of Evanston funds the Noyes Galleries and the Noyes Cultural Arts Center, a historically significant, self-sustaining community organization. Programs are supported in part by the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency. The galleries and programs are all free and open to the public. The Noyes first floor gallery is dedicated to tenant artists, and the upstairs gallery features art and artists who spark community conversations.


Noyes Cultural Arts Center
927 Noyes Street, Second Floor
Evanston, IL 60201
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