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2020 McKnight Fellowships for Fiber Artists

Inaugural McKnight Fiber Artist Fellows: Liz Miller & Eun-Kyung Suh.

Fellowship Period: January 1, 2020 – December 31, 2020

Artwork by Eun-Kyung Suh
Installation Detail by Liz Miller

Liz Miller

Liz Miller’s work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions throughout the United States and abroad. Past awards include a Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters and Sculptors Grant, a McKnight Foundation Fellowship for Visual Artists, a Jerome Foundation Fellowship, and several Artist Initiative Grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board. Miller has participated in artist residencies at the Joan Mitchell Center in New Orleans, LA, and the McColl Center for Art and Innovation in Charlotte, NC. She lives and works in Good Thunder, MN, and is Professor of Installation Art and Drawing at Minnesota State University – Mankato.


Eun-Kyung Suh

Korean-born, Twin Cities-based textile installation artist Eun-Kyung Suh received a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Iowa in Iowa City, IA, USA. Since 2008 she has focused on a series of sculptural vessels and textile installations as metaphors for personal, family, and cultural memories. Her works are often created out of diaphanous textiles, originally inspired by Bojagi, a traditional Korean art form. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, and was published in Textiles: The Art of Mankind (Thames & Hudson), Surface Design Journal (SDA), Metalsmith (SNAG), and others. Currently, Eun-Kyung Suh is a professor in the Department of Art and Design at the University of Minnesota, Duluth.

eun-kyung suh

Elissa Auther

Elissa Auther is Deputy Director of Curatorial Affairs and Mildred Lasdon Chief Curator at the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) in New York. She has published widely on a diverse set of topics, including her book String, Felt, Thread: The Hierarchy of Art and Craft in American Art, which focuses on the broad utilization of fiber in art of the 1960s and 1970s and the changing hierarchical relationship between art and craft expressed by the medium’s new visibility.Her most recent exhibitions for MAD include Surface/Depth: The Decorative After Miriam Schapiro and Vera Paints a Scarf: The Art and Design of Vera Neumann.  elissaauther.com

Karen Hampton

Karen Hampton is an internationally recognized conceptual artist, addressing issues of colorism and kinship within the African American community. Hampton’s art practice is the synthesis of memory, history, time, and cloth. Hampton serves on the Board of Directors of the Textile Society of America, and is an Assistant Professor at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. kdhampton.com

Mark Newport

Mark Newport, artist and educator, is currently the Artist in Residence and Head of Fiber at the Cranbrook Academy of Art. His work has been shown nationally and internationally, including solo exhibitions at The Arizona State University Art Museum, The Cranbrook Art Museum, The Chicago Cultural Center, and Laumeier Sculpture Park in St. Louis, MO. It is currently on view at the Third Hangzhou Triennial of Fiber Art in Hangzhou, China. The Whitney Museum of American Art, the Detroit Institute of Arts, and The Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum are a few of the many public collections that include his work.  marknewportartist.com

Glenn Adamson

Glenn Adamson is a curator, writer, and historian who works at the intersection of craft, design, and contemporary art. He has previously been Director of the Museum of Arts and Design in NYC; Head of Research at the V&A in London; and Curator at the Chipstone Foundation in Milwaukee. Adamson’s publications include Thinking Through Craft (2007); The Craft Reader (2010); Postmodernism: Style and Subversion (2011, co-edited with Jane Pavitt); The Invention of Craft (2013); and Art in the Making (2016, co-authored with Julia Bryan-Wilson); and Fewer Better Things: The Hidden Wisdom of Objects (2018). He has served on the editorial board of the Journal of Modern Craft and his new book, Craft: An American History, was published by Bloomsbury in January 2021. glennadamson.com

Jessica Hemmings

Jessica Hemmings writes about textiles and is Professor of Craft & Vice-Prefekt of Research at HDK-Valand, University of Gothenburg, Sweden and the 2020-2021 Rita Bolland Fellow at the Research Centre for Material Culture, the Netherlands. Her PhD (University of Edinburgh, 2006) is published under the title Yvonne Vera: the Voice of Cloth (Kalliope, 2008). She was editor of In the Loop: Knitting Now (2010), and The Textile Reader (2012), and author of Warp & Weft: Woven Textiles in Fashion, Art, and Interiors (2012)Cultural Threads (2015), an editorial/curatorial project about postcolonial thinking and contemporary textile practice accompanied a travelling exhibition, Migrations (2015-2017). Hemmings is a member of the editorial board of Textile: Cloth and Culture (Taylor & Francis) and Craft Research (Intellect). jessicahemmings.com

Karen Patterson

Karen Patterson is the first-ever curator at the Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia, appointed in 2019. Prior to this, she served as senior curator at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. During her seven years at JMKAC, she curated and organized more than 40 exhibitions and installations, bridging a multifaceted program featuring unique collections, an ambitious contemporary art program, and a celebrated residency program. Notable exhibitions were Makeshift, a 2018 collaboration with artist Michelle Grabner, and The Road Less Traveled, which received praise from Hyperallergic as the top exhibition of 2017. Her curatorial approach combines a desire to elevate the public’s understanding of the creative process with a belief that art can be anchored in a variety of societal discourses. Karen Patterson- Fabric Workshop

Fiber art is thriving in Minnesota, and the field’s growth as an artistic discipline has been validated by the McKnight Foundation’s expansion of its McKnight Artist Fellowships Program to include two $25,000 fellowships to be awarded each year to individual midcareer fiber artists living and working in Minnesota.

In addition to the $25,000 unrestricted award in support of their studio work and practice, McKnight Fiber Artist Fellows will receive:

  • Critiques/studio visits with three critics from the field.
  • Exhibition at the end of the fellowship period in the Joan Mondale Gallery at Textile Center.
  • Participation in two public discussions that feature fellows and invited critics and curators.
  • Professional development support, such as attending conferences, workshops, and marketing advice for their work.
  • Access to Textile Center’s resources, including library of more than 30,500 books and periodicals, state-of-the-art dye lab, and artisan shop opportunities.

The intent of the McKnight Fellowships for Fiber Artists is to recognize and support talented Minnesota fiber and textile artists whose work is of exceptional artistic merit. These fellowships are in support of individual artists who are at a career stage beyond emerging. Fiber Artists, as defined for the purposes of this fellowship, are artists who use textile and fiber arts materials, processes and/or sensibilities in their artistic practice throughout the conception, execution, and resolution of their work.



The McKnight Foundation, a family foundation based in Minnesota, advances a more just, creative, and abundant future where people and planet thrive.

Founded on the belief that Minnesota thrives when its artists thrive, the McKnight Foundation’s arts program is one of the oldest and largest of its kind in the country. Support for individual working Minnesota artists has been a cornerstone of the program since it began in 1981. The McKnight Artist Fellowships Program provides annual, unrestricted cash awards to outstanding mid-career Minnesota artists in 14 different creative disciplines. Program partner organizations administer the fellowships and structure them to respond to the unique challenges of different disciplines. Currently the foundation contributes about $1.7 million per year to its statewide fellowships.

A focus on racial equity is at the heart of the McKnight approach to funding. Along with Textile Center, our organizations value diversity and equity, seeking to be inclusive and accessible to all applicants. We welcome and encourage applications from artists representing diverse cultural perspectives.

To learn more about McKnight Artist Fellowships, visit: mcknight.org/artistfellowships

McKnight Fiber Artist Discussion Series

Liz Miller and Eun-Kyung Suh in conversation with Glenn Adamson

February 26, 2021

This is a recording of the first in a series of Zoom conversations with McKnight Fiber Artist Fellows. For this session, we welcomed 2020 fellows Liz Miller and Eun-Kyung Suh for a conversation with Glenn Adamson.

Adamson is a renowned curator, critic, former director of MAD in NYC and head of research at the V&A, and author of numerous books on craft and critical thinking, including Thinking Through Craft (2007); and Fewer Better Things: The Hidden Wisdom of Objects (2018). In January 2021, his new book, Craft: An American History, was published by Bloomsbury. Recent curatorial projects include Objects: USA 2020 at R & Company, NYC, and Crafting America, which opened in February 2021 at Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, AR. In 2020, he met with our fellows and this follow up conversation presents their work in fiber and textiles within the context of contemporary art.

Liz Miller and Eun-Kyung Suh in conversation with Karen Patterson

March 8, 2021

This is a recording of the second in a series of Zoom conversations with McKnight Fiber Artist Fellows. For this session, we welcomed 2020 fellows Liz Miller and Eun-Kyung Suh for a conversation with Karen Patterson.

Patterson is the first-ever curator at the Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia, appointed in 2019. Prior to this, she served for seven years as senior curator at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, curating and organizing more than 40 exhibitions and installations, bridging a multifaceted program featuring unique collections, an ambitious contemporary art program, and a celebrated residency program. Patterson’s curatorial approach combines a strong desire to elevate the public’s understanding of the creative process with a belief that art can be anchored in a variety of societal discourses. She recently met for studio visits with our fellows and this follow up conversation presents their work in fiber and textiles within the context of contemporary art.

Liz Miller, 2020 McKnight Fiber Artist Fellow


In the pre COVID-19 world, Liz Miller was an artist used to making a quick trip to a store to browse for items that could be utilized in her newest artistic creations. “Since we should not be out and about these days, I am pulling out everything I have collected in my studio to see what can be put to use,” Liz says. “Lately I have been fascinated by pieces of sheet metal that have a pattern embedded in them. I am weaving paracord through them, kind of like a cross stitch. I am using them as armatures or bases to create new structures.”

“I’m using things that I have collected for a while,” Liz adds. “In the series I am doing now, I am integrating the items I am discovering in my studio into my new work.  Before we had to shelter in place, I was just too busy to pay attention to what I had. I view this as a new form of artist residency, and I’m enjoying creating in different ways.”

Liz Miller serves as professor of installation & drawing at Minnesota State University Mankato, and she and Eun-Kyung Suh (a Korean-born, Duluth-based textile installation artists) have the distinction of being the first two recipients of the new 2020 McKnight Fellowships for Fiber Artists, administered through Textile Center on behalf of the McKnight Foundation.

Will some of her works created during the COVID-19 home residency be part of her McKnight exhibition at Textile Center early in 2021?

“They could possibly make it into the McKnight exhibition,” Liz says. “I am so grateful for the recognition and for the McKnight award. But I also feel pressure to have the exhibition feature my very best work. Works I am making now could need more time to resolve. We’ll see. I tend to do my best creative work when I am not pressuring myself.”

Just before the shelter in place orders were issued in Denver, Liz Miller installed her show Structural Paradigms at the David R. Smith Gallery. “Denver shut down at 5 pm the day I installed the show,” Liz says. With Minnesota soon to have its own shelter in place order, Liz drove to Denver and back in the span of 24 hours. The show was to open March 27 and run through May 2. (The show is currently available online: davidbsmithgallery.com/exhibit/show/liz-miller-2020.)

“Laborious construction and an adept compositional sense are the hallmarks of Liz Miller’s quasi-architectural works, effortlessly giving rise to awe and curiosity,” according to a press release issued by the David R. Smith Gallery. “In her sculptural wall works, Miller’s coiled and bound loops of patterned cords and ropes tumble in, out, and over each other in harmonious disarray. As is indicative of Miller’s overall practice, fastidious attention to detail and an artist’s level of obsession bring authority and transformative power to otherwise mundane materials.

“Miller aligns her work in the historical context of rope and knotting across cultures throughout history, a practice often born of both necessity and aesthetics,” the gallery press release adds. “Through the metaphor of knotted rope, works actively explore the fallibility of infrastructure and the precariousness of perception. As zip ties wind their way through loopholes and around winding corkscrews of speckled cord, bundled masses dangle nearby. Miller’s meticulously crafted fiber networks allude to tangled cityscapes, revealing the humor and chaos of underlying systems.”

“These past few weeks I have been working on larger works that I started making in 2020,” says Liz. “Structural Malaise is a series I am working on. I like to explore Imperfect structures that deviate from the plan I originally had in place. I approach my work with a sense of humor.”

“I’m working on a larger work – eight by seven feet,” Liz adds, “and I am enjoying making components for that. It’s been helpful to have more time in the studio, and to be able to work slowly so that I can see where I want a piece to go.”

Eun-Kyung Suh, McKnight Fiber Artist Fellow 2020

Finding inspiration through solitude and solidarity


“Solitude and solidarity, they co-exist inside of me,” says Eun-Kyung Suh, a Duluth based, Korean-born textile installation artist. “I realize that while I work, my ideas and inspiration come from outside. In order for me to be most creative, I need my link to community.”

Less than two months before the COVID-19 pandemic hit Minnesota, Eun-Kyung and Liz Miller were awarded the first two McKnight Fellowships for Fiber Artists administered through Textile Center. “I was very honored to receive this fellowship,” Eun-Kyung says, “but I started to realize that the forced isolation of the state’s stay-at-home order blocked my creative energy.

“At first, I thought I would be totally okay with the stay-at-home policy, especially since I am introverted,” she adds. “I told myself: ‘I can work at home … no problem,’ Then I started to realize how much my creative production relies on inspiration from community.”

While her muse may have been blocked, she had pressing demands in her role as a professor in the Art and Design Department at the University of Minnesota Duluth in March, when she had just three days to resolve how to digitally deliver three courses to more than 40 design students.

“I had to catch up on technology, and figure out how to teach online,” Eun-Kyung says, “and as my courses progressed, I discovered that I also needed to provide emotional support and hope to my students. This actually became the most difficult part of my job as an instructor. When I finished teaching and worked on issuing their grades, I found myself wondering how these emerging artists will respond in their creative work to these difficult times. Will they use this unique experience to empower themselves? Will they find themselves empowered to embrace a new creative vision?”

And Eun-Kyung said the question that she worried about most: “Will I have prepared them to develop their art and their careers? I feel a very big responsibility for this.”

In this spring’s 3D design course at UMD, Eun-Kyung assigned her students to create a 12”x12”x12” design from materials they had consumed during the Stay at Home order – everything from egg cartons to Amazon boxes. She wanted her students to create work that could be submitted to Mia’s Foot in the Door 5 exhibition. (Currently Mia has delayed its call for entries due to the coronavirus crisis). “I asked my students to create works that give meaning to ‘home’ … as a place … as a secure haven. I was pleased that the 28 students in that class were very honest to the theme.”

Outside of her role as professor, Eun-Kyung is directing her current creative work toward what the words the late British economist Ernst F. Schumacher wrote in his classic work Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered: “The all-pervading disease of the modern world is the total imbalance between city and countryside – an imbalance in terms of wealth, power, culture, attraction, and hope.”

“Art is an epitome to reveal this critical phenomenon today,” Eun-Kyung says. “National and state art organizations and agencies have attempted to bring arts to underserved communities through various initiatives and programs designed to revitalize the arts in these communities. However, indigenously created art activities from amateur and professional artists hardly appear beyond the regional level. Furthermore, touring exhibitions and other external influences on local areas are still limited.

“As an artist, I would like to borrow ideas and inspiration from the culture and tradition in underrepresented communities and incorporate them into a new body of work,” she adds. “For this project, I selected 20 small and rural towns in Minnesota based on a variety of characteristics – from population size and population density to distance from the Twin Cities metro area.”

While visiting these towns, Eun-Kyung will search for garage, estate, or moving sales, and collect discarded textile articles which are highly personal, familial, or cultural.

“My work will be a large-scale installation that repurposes these discarded items, recreates the geographical places, and projects photographs of local architecture,” she says. “It is my ultimate hope that the work will reflect lives and culture of average Minnesota residents in small and rural towns. Once completed, I plan to exhibit my work not only in large exhibition venues but also in the 20 communities.”

“McKnight Artist Fellowships increase the exploratory opportunity, economic stability, and productive capacity of artists by providing unrestricted cash awards and artistic and professional development opportunities for midcareer artists in Minnesota.”

— Arleta Little, Arts Program Officer and Director of Artist Fellowships