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McCauley Gallery's ‘Falling in Between’ is a fiber arts exploration of what gets passed down

Peach fabric quilts hang on white walls inside a narrow room. The camera is outside the gallery looking in, separated by clear glass windows and an open glass door.
Lauren Warnecke
Textile art by Peoria-based artist Peytin Fitzgerald collectively titled "Falling in Between" hangs in the Joe McCauley Gallery at Heartland Community College through Aug. 5.

Through Aug. 5 at Joe McCauley Gallery, “Falling in Between” showcases a series of textile pieces by Peoria artist Peytin Fitzgerald. A mix of homey, calico patchwork, embroidery and relief work echoing viscera, scars and bandages, “Falling in Between” lays bare the Wyoming native’s interrogation of nature vs. nurture.

Fitzgerald studied printmaking at Illinois State University during the pandemic. They worked for the Normal Editions print shop for a year following school and settled into the arts scene in Peoria.

“Honestly, Peoria has a really great art community,” they said. “That’s kind of why we moved here.”

Fitzgerald’s husband plays in a band that’s gaining traction, so as much as they miss the mountain West, they’re likely to stick around, for now.

“I grew up in Wyoming, so the closest big city was seven hours away,” they said. “I guess I’ve always existed in small, underground communities—especially growing up in a conservative town where the arts is something that is more controversial. I don’t feel the need to branch out from that.”

 A close up view irregularly shaped swatches of mismatched fabric are sewn onto white muslin. In the right hand corner, there is a raised, pinkish red bump blurred by the camera.
Joe McCauley Gallery
A detailed view of work from Peytin Fitzgerald's "Falling in Between" collection

“Falling in Between” deviates from Fitzgerald’s formal training in printmaking. They dove into textiles while in graduate school at Illinois State, where there was not as much access to campus facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’ve always wanted to dive into textile work, and COVID was the thing that pushed me into doing that,” they said. “I still enjoy printing, but I did find myself when I was working at Normal Editions — it was difficult for me to want to print my own work. I had access to a studio, but I was constantly printing other people’s work. It kind of didn’t leave room for me to print my own.”

Fitzgerald experimented with hybrids of the two mediums, printing on muslin, for example. But “Falling in Between” is fully grounded in textile land, with a combination of embroidery, yarn art and patchwork in a warm and cozy, peachy color pallet that provokes images of a homespun basket of fabric scraps. These ephemera are organized to subtly resemble open wounds, pussy scars and bandages.

Sewing is not something that was passed down through Fitzgerald’s family.

“I never had that experience of having a parent or a grandparent that was into different crafts, so for me, it doesn’t fall into that traditional, feminine craft role,” they said. “It’s something I really dove in on my own and taught myself how to do.”

But Fitzgerald feels a pull to what they call “feminine creation,” and the ability to make something and develop skills that could be passed through generations.

“I have bipolar disorder, and I recently, in the last three years, was diagnosed with it,” they said. “I had an intense depressive episode and no one could really tell me what was wrong.”

Fitzgerald learned their maternal grandmother also had bipolar disorder. And on a trip to Wyoming to recover with family, they found an unfinished quilt in their grandmother’s belongings.

“There’s a huge connection of generational things that are passed down in my work,” they said. “I like that push and pull of textiles being something that was not passed down to me—and me starting that and creating some kind of tradition in the family—and the things that are genetically passed down that are inevitable.”

“Falling in Between” runs through Aug. 5 at the Joe McCauley Gallery at Heartland Community College. The gallery is open from 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday through Thursday. Peytin Fitzgerald’s textiles also will be incorporated into Illinois Art Station’s open artmaking session on Saturday, July 22. Details are available at heartland.edu/artgallery.

Lauren Warnecke is a reporter at WGLT. She joined the station as a correspondent in 2020 with a focus on arts and culture and became a full-time staff member in 2023. She has reviewed dance for the Chicago Tribune since 2017. Lauren lives in Normal and enjoys cooking, cycling and attempting to grow things in her backyard.
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