Cloud Tree Studios & Gallery features female artists in ‘Thread Count’ exhibit

Bithia Dantoumda

Mother and artist Sara Vanderbeek said she has had several instances where insurance companies required a lot of personal information from her but still denied coverage for her and her family.

Vanderbeek has struggled in the past with bipolar disorder and is frustrated with the way mental health is addressed in the United States.

"I just got to thinking how messed up the insurance companies are in this country and how they dehumanize people,” Knight said. “I’ve never made anything that personal about mental illness, and I just felt like the conversation doesn’t come up a lot in the art world and in greater society.”

Vanderbeek approached gallery owner Brian David Johnson about opening an exhibit inspired by her experiences with mental health.

Johnson, who owns Cloud Tree Studios & Gallery, agreed to work with Vanderbeek along with four other artists to create the exhibition, “Thread Count.”

From Feb. 28 to March 14, his studio will host an all women’s art exhibit, including Dutch artist Steef Crombach, who specializes in the ancient art form called Batik. Crombach said Batik art is an Asian technique of wax-resist dye applied to fabric cloth.

Crombach, who is originally from the Netherlands, has been living in Austin for the last two years. She creates Batik art and teaches the technique through her workshops. After previously teaching Vanderbeek the Batik technique, Crombach said she was excited to be invited to be featured in the gallery.

“It’s pretty unique to come together with a group and decide to self-organize,” Crombach said. “We curated, organized (and) funded the exhibition ourselves.”

Vanderbeek said the show is meant to be a female-centric confrontation of tradition and the artwork will address certain struggles people who identify as women go through each day. 

“The show turned out to be pretty dark,” Crombach said. “It has a lot of tension in it, and I’m not a mother but (the other artists are) all mothers so it’s all about (the) struggle of being able to be an artist and a mother. There’s a lot of different themes in this show but I think us coming together and wanting to do that show ourselves is the most cool part about it.”

Besides mental health, another recurring theme of the exhibit is gender. The artists’ pieces focus on how their work is inspired by the struggles and beauty that come with being a mother while also pursuing a career. 

“It’s incredible (having an all women’s exhibition) because women historically are extremely underrepresented in galleries and museums,” artist Melissa Knight said. “The women that are in the show are all such powerful, strong artists and it was so awesome working with them and having these conversations.”