Art Lives Well-Lived: Mary Giles

Mary Giles 1995

Mary Giles Portrait 1995. Photo by Tom Grotta

We were heartbroken to learn of artist Mary Giles’s passing last month. Giles was a light – casting warmth and humor wherever she went. We have been fortunate to represent her work at browngrotta arts for many years and were delighted she could join us in Wilton for our 30th anniversary exhibition last year.

30th Anniversary Portrait

30th Anniversary exhibit artist portrait.
Photo by Tom Grotta

Giles received the James Renwick Alliance Master of the Medium Award in Fiber in 2013. In receiving the award, Giles spoke of her process and her sources of inspiration: “I have always been influenced by place and especially the natural world in those places. In the early 80’s, having taken up scuba diving, I did a series based on sea life called “walking tentacles.” Later, during many trips to New Mexico, I discovered mesa forms as well as Native American kivas and petroglyphs. Those sources dominated my work for over 10 years. Most recently the changing light, colors, and patterns seen from our retirement home on the banks of the St. Croix River in Minnesota have informed by work. My ideas are an accumulation, my sources most often from nature and my pallet is drawn from the colors of earth, water, wood and stone.” You can read the full text of her remarks on arttextstyle: http://arttextstyle.com/2013/05/18/master-remarks-mary-giles/
vessels and wall works

Mary Giles Vessels and wallworks
Photos by Tom Grotta

Giles reveled in the tactile, reflective and and malleable materials. She is represented in the Erie Art Museum’s permanent collection by a meticulously made basket of porcupine quills. The materials she used on the surface of the coiled forms were individually hammered pieces of 12- to 18-gauge wire made of copper, tinned copper, iron, lead or brass. By torching the metals she was able to alter the colors in varying degrees enabling me to blend them from darks to brights, a blending she used to interpret the colors, textures and light that she saw in the natural settings.
Some years ago Giles began creating wall panels that dealt with her concerns about population and explored ideas of density and boundaries. They were not baskets but the figures incorporated were like those that had been featured on her vessels. The first expression of this theme was composed of hundreds of torched copper wire men arranged outwardly from dense to sparse, directly on a gallery wall.
Mary Giles Boulders

3 Mary Giles Boulders
Photo by Tom Grotta

Giles’ work has been displayed in numerous galleries and museums in the United States including the Barbican Centre in London, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Yale Art Gallery and the Detroit Institute of Arts. She represented the U.S. at the International Triennial of Tapestry in Lodz, Poland.
She is one of 20 artists featured in a current article in 1st dibs online magazine Introspective: “20 Women Designers Young and Resurgent Stand Side by Side,” which you can read here: https://www.1stdibs.com/introspective-magazine/tag/mary-giles/. Her work is also featured in eight catalogs published by browngrotta arts available on our website: http://store.browngrotta.com/sara-brennan-tapestry-and-mary-giles-fiber-sculpture/.

Recap: Whirlwind Art Week in Wilton at browngrotta arts

VIP Preview

VIP-opening, photo by Carter Grotta

We had record crowds in attendance and a record number of sales at browngrotta arts in Wilton last week for Blue/Green: color/code/context. At our VIP preview event on Friday, we hosted our clients, collectors and art appreciators and our event sponsors from Litchfield Distilleryvenü Magazine and Country Club Homes.

Karl Dolnier parking cars at Blue/Green opening. Photo by Carter Grotta

Artist Dinner record crowds

Artist Dinner after Artist Reception. Photo by Carter Grotta

Saturday we hosted 10 artists from the exhibition (Keiji Nio and family all the way from Japan, Kiyomi Iwata from Virginia, Pat Campbell from Maine, Lewis Knauss, Nancy Koenigsberg, Polly Barton and Tamiko Kawata from New York, Wendy Wahl from Rhode Island and Dawn MacNutt from Nova Scotia) and loads of visitors, too. Sunday and Monday we were busy all day.

SDA Walkthrough record crowds

Surface Design Association Talk. Photo by Carter Grotta

Tuesday we hosted a good crowd of appreciative and knowledgable members of the Surface Design Association.

Designer Talk

Mae Colburn presentation of Helena Hernmarck work at the Architecture and Designer Talk. Photo by Carter Grotta

Wednesday was educational — we presented Material Matter: Integrating Art Textiles and Fiber Sculpture into Interiors and Architecture with the help of Mae Colburn from Helena Hernmarck’s studio and some interior shots from Walter Cromwell at Country Club Homes. Those in attendance were eligible to get Continuing Education Credit from the Interior Design Continuning Education Council.

westport arts center

westport arts center

Thursday brought the Westport Arts Council Board and patrons another educated and interested audience.

Ports of cause

Ports of cause fundraiser. photo by Harrison James O’Brien

Friday was Art•Ocean•Energy, an immersive art experience for supporters of Ports of Cause, a 501(c)3 driven to promote, inspire and accelerate innovative and sustainable solutions and practices that reduce the impact luxury living and everyday lifestyles have on our oceans. Those who joined us on Friday, heard Tom speak about our artists’ dedication to sustainable art and art practices and

Arthur Bavelas

Arthur Bavelas talking at Ports of Cause fundraiser. photo by Harrison James O’Brien

Arthur Bavelas, Founder of the Bavelas Group Family Office & Family Office Insights of New York City, speak about How sustainable innovation is driving the blue economy while benefiting our oceans and natural resources. A lively discussion followed. Saturday was a full day as was Sunday. Sunday evening we concluded our 10-day annual opening with a informed and engaged group from the Aldrich Museum in Ridgefield, Connecticut. Hope we’ll see you at browngrotta arts in 2019 at one or more of our annual events. In the meantime, you can find us online at browngrotta.com; talking about events and acquisitions and other art stuff at arttextstyle.com and on Facebook, posting items and images on Twitter and Instagram and videos on the browngrotta arts YouTube Channel.


Countdown: Art-Ocean-Energy Fundraiser for Ports of Cause in Two Days at browngrotta arts

Karyl Sisson, Reaching Out, vintage zipper tape and thread, 8 x 56 x 45 in,
2013. Photo by Tom Grotta

Excitement is building for our fundraiser, Art•Ocean•Energy, 6-9 p.m. on May 4th where we will raise funds for Ports of Cause, a 501(C)(3) not-for-profit driven to promote, inspire and accelerate sustainable solutions and practices that reduce the impact luxury living and everyday lifestyles have on our oceans. At the event, you can enjoy curated cocktails, canapés, conversation and a viewing of our current exhibition, Blue/Green” color/code/context, in our contemporized barn in Wilton, Connecticut. (Tickets $50.) The exhibition will immerse you in the varied and exciting works of 50 international artists who use recycled, sustainable materials and innovative techniques, including weavings with LED fibers. The event will also feature Arthur Bavelas, Founder, Bavelas Group Family Office & Family Office Insights NYC, discussing Sustainable Luxury® and the Blue Economy –“How sustainable innovation is driving the blue economy while benefiting our oceans & natural resources.” The event’s proceeds, including ticket prices and 10% of the sales price of any artwork or catalog, will benefit Ports of Cause.

 

Can’t come, but want to contribute? Make a donation at portsofcause.com or send a check to Ports of Cause, 43 Ravenwood Drive, Weston, CT 06883.

 

Dress Code:
Blue or green cocktail casual
Ladies: Stilettos not advisable due to barn floor
FAQs:
What are my transportation/parking options for getting to and from the event?
If you are coming from NYC by train via Grand Central Station, you can disembark at South Norwalk and take an Uber to the Gallery. It is about a 15-20 minute drive.
Parking is available at the Gallery.
How can I contact the organizer with any questions?
Tom Grotta +1 203.834.0623 • art@browngrotta.com
Joyce Clear +1 203.858.3432 • joyce@portsofcause.net

Artists in the House: Who’s attending the Opening of Blue/Green: color/code/context on Saturday

Keiji Nio, Rough Sea of Sado,polyester, aramid fiber, 48.25” x 47.5”, 2016. Photo by Tom Grotta

The Artists Reception and Opening for Blue/Green: color/code/context occurs this Saturday at browngrotta arts, 276 Ridgefield Road, Wilton, Connecticut 06897. Eleven of the participating artists will be in attendance, enhancing what is always an energizing opportunity to experience our annual Art in the Barn event. Keiji Nio and his family are coming from Japan, Pat Campbell from Maine, Wendy Wahl from Rhode Island, Kiyomi Iwata from Virginia, Norma Minkowitz and Helena Hernmarck from Connecticut and Polly Barton, John McQueen, Nancy Koenigsberg, Lewis Knauss and Tamiko Kawata from New York. Wendy Wahl’s work is made of blue Encyclopedia Britannica pages; John McQueen used plastic bottles — a departure for him. Norma Minkowitz has created a detailed and magical stitched drawing and Lewis Knauss a work of pale, pale green and natural reed and twigs. Join us from 1-5 pm to see their work and that of 50 more artists. The artists will be available throughout the Barn, to answer questions about their work, their favorites or about the work of others. They’ll be wearing name tags — feel free to say hello. For more info: http://www.browngrotta.com/Pages/calendar.php; 203-834-0623. Or visit us during the week — Sunday April 29th – Sunday May 6th, 10-5 pm.


Make a Day of It: Area Events to Visit on Your Way to Blue/Green at browngrotta arts

In planning your trip to browngrotta arts in Wilton, Connecticut for Blue/Green: color, code, context between April 28th and May 6th take some time out of your schedule to visit a few other exhibitions going on in the area.

A short 15-minute drive from browngrotta arts, the Westport Arts Center’s current exhibition HandMade: Women Reshaping Contemporary Art features a diverse array of work from 15 leading female fiber and textile artists, including Ghada Amer, Anna Betbeze, Ligia Bouton, Orly Cogan, Lesley Dill, Terri Friedman, Sermin Kardestuncer, Sophia Narrett, Faith Ringgold, Miriam Schapiro, Judith Scott, Beverly Semmes,  Rosemarie Trockel and Margo Wolowiec. The exhibition also features work by three browngrotta arts artists, Chiyoko Tanaka, Carolina Yrarrázaval and Norma Minkowitz. Curated by Elizabeth Gorayeb, the Executive Director of the Wildenstein Plattner Institute, Inc—a New York-based non-profit committed to art historical research—the exhibition examines the role of women in reshaping what has historically been considered “fine art.” Additionally, the exhibition demonstrates how fiber and textile materials allow artists such as Faith Ringgold and Sophia Narre to examine topics such as race, gender and sexuality. HandMade: Women Reshaping Contemporary Art will be on view at the Westport Arts Center through June 2nd. For more information visit the Westport Arts Center website HERE.
Ala Ebtekar, Zenith V, 2014, acrylic over cyanotype on canvas, four panels 60 1/4 x 30 1/4 in. each. © Ala Ebtekar. Courtesy of the artist and The Third Line, Dubai.

Ala Ebtekar’s Zenith V at Long, Winding Journeys: Contemporary Art and the Islamic Tradition. Photo: Katonah Museum of Art

Next stop, the Katonah Museum of Art’s exhibition Long, Winding Journeys: Contemporary Art and Islamic Tradition. The exhibition looks at a group of artists of Middle Eastern and South Asian descent whose work engages the diverse forms of Islamic visual tradition to explore religion, culture and socio-political issues today. The title of the exhibition “Long, Winding Journeys: Contemporary Art and the Islamic Tradition” was inspired by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Ayad Akhtar’s essay The Breath of Miraj. Akhtar’s The Breath of Miraj conveys the manner in which Islam and its history can inspire creative life to become a “long, winding journey.” While making the pieces included in the exhibition, artists utilized some of the century-old forms that define Islamic art, such as calligraphy, miniature painting, geometric patterning, textiles and architecture. Long, Winding Journeys: Contemporary Art and Islamic Tradition will be available for viewing until June 17th, for more information on the exhibition visit the Katonah Museum of Art’s website HERE.
Boris Mikhailov (Ukrainian, b. 1938), Untitled from the series Sots Art, 1975-1990, Gelatin silver print hand-colored with aniline dyes on paper at Hot Art in a Cold War: Intersections of Art and Science in the Soviet Era

Boris Mikhailov (Ukrainian, b. 1938), Untitled from the series Sots Art, 1975-1990, Gelatin silver print hand-colored with aniline dyes on paper at Hot Art in a Cold War: Intersections of Art and Science in the Soviet Era

Hot Art in a Cold War: Intersections of Art and Science in the Soviet Era will be on view until May 20th at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Connecticut. The provocative exhibition probes into the consequences of innovation in science, technology, mathematics, communications and design during the Cold War. The exhibition juxtaposes the art made during the Cold War in opposition to state-sanctioned Socialist Realism with artifacts from the nuclear and space programs to explore the triumphs and tragedies unleashed by humankind as it gained the power to both leave the Earth and to destroy it. Produced from the 1960s to the 1980s, the items on view in Hot Art in a Cold War address themes of international supremacy and hegemonic power during a turbulent period marked by the ever-escalating competition for nuclear supremacy and the space race. “The Bruce Museum prides itself in being a museum of both art and science and in finding the interconnections between the two,” states Dr. Daniel Ksepka,  Bruce Museum Curator of Science and co-curator of Hot Art in a Cold War. The exhibition allows visitors to  “see how the triumphs of the space program and anxieties about nuclear arms were captured by period artists. Likewise, many of the scientific objects are works of art in their own right. The elegance of Sputnik, for example, is as striking and undeniable as its impact on the space race.” For more information on Hot Art in a Cold War: Intersections of Art and Science in the Soviet Era visit the Bruce Museums website HERE.
Last but not least, the Wilton Historical Society’s new permanent exhibition Connecticut History, Wilton’s Story is now available for viewing. Through artifacts and objects, the Wilton Historical Society aims to shine a light on Wilton’s roots and connections, as well as the evolution of the town since the colonial period. For more information on  Connecticut History, Wilton’s Story visit their website HERE or call the Wilton Historical Society at 203-762-7257.

 

 

 

 

 


Who is new in Blue/Green: code/color/context — Micheline Beauchemin and Polly Barton

Blue/Green: color/code/context opens at browngrotta arts, 276 Ridgefield Road, Wilton, Connecticut on April 28th (1 pm to 6 pm). Featured in the exhibition are more than 50 artists, including two new to browngrotta arts, Micheline Beauchemin of Canada and Polly Barton from the US.

 

Details of Totem aux Millefleurs Bleues by Micheline Beauchemin and Synapse by Polly Barton

Details of Totem aux Millefleurs Bleues by Micheline Beauchemin and Synapse by Polly Barton

Beauchemin began her career making stained-glass windows but early on turned to weaving and embroidering spectacular wall hangings in vibrant colors, including blues and greens. traveled and studied in Japan, China, India, North Africa, the Canadian Arctic and the Andes, adding depth and mystery to the love of light, water, wings and nets that is evident in her body of work. She created a number of important commissions throughout Canada, including an acrylic curtain for the Grande Salle of the Théâtre Maisonneuve at Place des Arts in Montréal (1963-1967) a curtain for the National Arts Centre in Ottawa (1966-1969), tapestries for Queen’s Park in Toronto (1968-1969), the Hudson’s Bay Company in Winnipeg (1970) and the Canadian pavilion at the 1970 World’s Fair in Osaka, Japan. She participated in the 10th Lausanne Biennial, was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts and was awarded the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts. A book about Beauchemin, her life and works, Micheline Beauchemin: Je rêvais de tapisseries à la grandeur des cathédrales, à la largeur de nos rivières (roughly, I dreamed of tapestries, as wide as rivers, throughout cathedrals) can be purchased through our website at http://store.browngrotta.com/books/

 

Polly Barton is a US artist known for adapting the ancient weaving technique of ikat into contemporary woven imagery. She has provided an ikat of silk, Pillar of Cloud, for Blue/Green: color/code/context. As a young artist, Barton worked as a personal assistant to Helen Frankenthaler. She cites that experience as a formative one, where she learned firsthand the inner drive, resilience, and intention necessary for an artist. The year also introduced her to the challenges and rewards of the New York art world. In 1981, she moved to Kameoka, Japan and lived in the religious heart of the Oomoto Foundation to study with master weaver, Tomohiko Inoue. In Kameoka, she practiced tea ceremony, calligraphy and Noh Drama with Oomoto’s master teachers. Barton has shown her woven ikats on both coasts. Her works are in the permanent collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and the Mint Museum among others.

 

Blue/Green: color/code/context opens on April 28th for just 10 days. The 140-page color catalog will be available on the 28th at browngrotta.com.
Details: Opening and Artists Reception, Saturday, April 28th, 1-6 pm; Sunday April 29th – Sunday May 6th, Hours: 10-5 pm. For more info: http://www.browngrotta.com/Pages/calendar.php; 203-834-0623.

 


First Look: Blue/Green: color/code/context, April 28th – May 6th at bga, Wilton, CT

Blue Green exhibition Marian Bijlenga

30mb Dutch Blue (Oval), Marian Bijlenga
camelhair, fabric, stitched
35” x 35”, 2006, photo by Tom Grotta

For this year’s Art in the Barn exhibition, we asked artists to enter a blue or green period of their own and send us a work that conveyed one of the many meanings, connotations and moods of these colors. The result is Blue/Green: color/code/context, an exhibition of remarkably diverse works from more than 50 artists from 15 countries. Marian Bijlenga of the Netherlands, for example, has created an enigmatic wall work inspired by Dutch blue china fragments. The work is inspired, she says,  by the patterns of Chinese porcelain and the Japanese philosophy of the reuse of broken tiles and her collection of Dutch blue shards, collected in Amsterdam.

Ceramic Blue Green exhibition

Yasuhisa Kohyama
51yk Kaze
ceramic
14.75” x 11.5” x 4.75”, 2017

Yasuhisa Kohyama has created, Kaze,  a ceramic with a grey-greenish cast, hand built and wood fired in an anagama kiln. “With the properties of the shigaraki clay and its inclusions of feldspar and silica, the high heat, the atmosphere in the kiln and the falling of the wood ash on the pots all present, warm colors as well as attractive markings can be captured on the surface of the clay,” Kohyama explains. “The blue-green and red-orange colors develop in the mid-section of the kiln; In the back of the kiln, a heavily reduced atmosphere creates rich dark gray and brown colors.”

Tapestry Blue Green exhibition

4gp Thin Green Horizon
Gudrun Pagter, sisal, linen and flax
45.25” x 55”, 2017

The Green Horizon is the striking abstract tapestry created by Gudrun Pager of Denmark for the exhibition. “Perhaps it is the horizon between heaven and sea, or between heaven and earth – or the line between heaven and earth?” Pagter muses. “The thin, horizontal line is made with many shades of blue and green thin linen. The main color is blue, but the thin, green horizon is essential to the whole picture.”

Wendy Wahl Blue Green exhibition

37ww Changing Tides
Encyclopedia Britannica pages
27” x 42”, 2018

Encylopedia Britanica pages are the material Wendy Wahl uses to express our  station in  time, recognizable as they are as  a   part  of  a  particular  collective  consciousness. Wahl’s Changing Tides is made of 275  pages of the 1988 Encyclopedia Britannica Annual of World Data, the only book in Wahl’s collection of EB volumes that contained blue paper. The pages were cut into seven sections, for each of the continents, contemplatively scrolled and compressed into 1925  whorls to symbolize the reality of rising water around the globe. These four are just a sampling of the more than 70 works that will be on display in the Blue/Green: color/code/context exhibition and in the companion catalog, which will be available at www.browngrotta.com after April 28th. To visit Blue/Green: color/code/contexthere are the details:  Saturday, April 28th, 1-6 pm: Opening and Artists Reception

Sunday April 29th – Sunday May 6th, Viewing Hours 10-5 pm.
For more info: http://www.browngrotta.com/Pages/calendar.php; 203-834-0623.
This year’s exhibition is co-sponsored by Litchfield Distillery.

HandMade: Women Reshaping Contemporary Art

Norma Minkowitz’s Excavation in the foreground, Carolina Yrarrázaval’s tapestries in the background.

Norma Minkowitz’s Excavation in the foreground, Carolina Yrarrázaval’s tapestries in the background.

Last Friday, the Westport Arts Center opened up its new exhibition, Handmade: Women Reshaping Contemporary Art, which includes three artists, Chiyoko TanakaCarolina Yrarrázaval and Norma Minkowitz, represented by browngrotta arts. The exhibition was curated by Elizabeth Gorayeb, the Executive Director of the Wildenstein Plattner Institute, Inc., a New York based non-profit committed to art historical research. Handmade also features work by Ghada Amer, Anna Betbeze, Ligia Bouton, Orly Cogan, Lesley Dill, Terri Friedman, Sermin Kardestuncer, Sophia Narrett, Faith Ringgold, Miriam Schapiro, Judith Scott, Beverly Semmes,  Rosemarie Trockel and Margo Wolowiec, all of whom utilize fiber and textile in their art.

Chiyoko Tanaka’s Sienna A and B at the Westport Art Center.

Chiyoko Tanaka’s Sienna A and B at the Westport Art Center.

Textile and fiber objects have traditionally not been incorporated into the male-dominated pantheon of “Fine Art.” As a medium, fiber is “weighted with gendered, socio-political signifiers that are imparted onto the final work of art. To put it plainly, fiber is feminine,” explains Gorayeb. “Weaving, embroidery, knitting and sewing are thought to be the domain of women, whose productions in these areas have long been relegated to the status of ‘decoration.’” However, since fiber art enjoyed a period of avant-garde popularity in the 1970s, the value of what was typically known as “women’s art” has gained currency. This shift in values in contemporary art culture has driven the art world to redefine and reassess the inclusivity of “Fine Art.”
Lesley Dill’s Exhilaration. Dill’s work addresses the power of language as it relates to the psyche.

Lesley Dill’s Exhilaration. Dill’s work addresses the power of language as it relates to the psyche.

In addition to the artists featured in the exhibit, artists such as Magdalena Abakanowicz, Anni Albers, Françoise Grossen and Sheila Hicks have continuously pushed “Fine Art” to be more dynamic. Faith Ringgold, a renowned activist and artist whose work is included in Handmade, was recently honored by Yale University as a Chubb Fellow. In making her story quilts, which are inspired by traditional Tibetan thankgas, Ringgold combines painted canvas, fabric piecework and handwritten texts. Throughout her work, Ringgold’s explores topics revolving around race and gender. In Wedding on the Seine, featured in Handmade, Ringgold tells the story of a fictional woman fleeing her wedding ceremony in fear that her marriage will interfere with her dreams of becoming an artist.
Sophia Narrett, whose work showcases contemporary erotic ideas, fantasies and fears, also has work featured in Handmade. Narrett, whose intricately embroidered wall hangings look as if they were painted with thread, does not allow the traditionally domestic aspect of embroidery limit her creativity. In a recent article in The New York Times, “Some of the Most Provocative Political Art is Made With Fibers,” (Leslie Camhi, March 14, 2018) Narrett says: “Embroidery and its implicit history help specify the tone of my stories, one characterized by obsession, desire and both the freedoms and restraints of femininity.”  By using a needle and thread to explore sexuality, Narrett’s work subverts what is traditionally considered a feminine medium.
301 balls (Diptych), 2017 Cotton thread, coal from Soma, Turkey, fabric 36 × 37 in, 2017. Photo by Tom Grotta

301 balls (Diptych), 2017
Cotton thread, coal from Soma, Turkey, fabric
36 × 37 in, 2017. Photo by Tom Grotta

“As visitors to a gallery or museum, we are expected to engage with works of art though the act of looking. We consider the final product of the artist’s creation, but rarely do we think of the tactile experience of the artist’s process,” explains Gorayeb. “Fiber art — works of art created from wool, silk, cotton, flax and other forms of textiles — present us with a dynamic, multi-sensory experience.” It is because of this tactile experience and physical commitment that Narrett prefers embroidery over painting, “when an object is developed by human hands for hundreds of hours, it leaves a quality in the surface that can be sensed,” she notes.

By embracing textile and fiber art, female artists have forever reshaped contemporary art. As seen in both Faith Ringgold and Sophia Narrett’s work, fiber art allows artists to examine topics such as race, gender and sexuality while also providing the viewer with a multi-sensory experience that connects them with the artist. Handmade: Women Reshaping Contemporary Art will be on view at the Westport Arts Center until June 2, 2018. For more information on the exhibit and the Center’s hours visit https://westportartscenter.org/exhibitions/.

Art Lives Well Lived: Katherine Westphal and Ethel Stein

katherine Westphal at Home

Katherine Westphal Portrait 2015 by Tom Grotta, courtesy of browngrotta arts

We lost two fine artists and friends this month when Ethel Stein passed away at 100 and Katherine Westphal died at home in Berkeley, California at 99.

We had been promoting Katherine Westphal’s work and that of her husband, Ed Rossbach (who died in 2002), since the 1990s. We visited Ed and Katherine at their home before Carter was born. (For those of you familiar with browngrotta arts that was a quarter of a decade ago.) Their home, and Katherine’s studio in particular, was a wonder – chockfull of items they had collected from their travels that pleased and inspired them, decorated with murals by Katherine on several walls. Though her studio appeared chaotic, Katherine had an encyclopedic knowledge of what was where. “That reminds of a piece of gift wrap I picked up in Tokyo in the 1950s,” she would say, and then pull a slim typing paper box from a stack of others that looked the same, finding there the images she was referencing.
Katherine worked for decades creating printed textiles, ceramics, quilting, tapestry, jacquard woven  textiles, artwear and basketry structures. “Variously using direct drawing and painting, batik wax resist, and shibori, she also pioneered color xerography and heat transfer printing on textiles,” Jo Ann C. Stabb, former faculty member at UC, Davis wrote in 2015 (“Fiber Art Pioneers: Pushing the Pliable Plane,” Retro/Prospective: 25+ Years of Art Textiles and Sculpture, browngrotta arts, Wilton, CT 2015). “Throughout her career, beginning with the batik samples she made for the commercial printed textile industry in the 1950s, she [ ] incorporated images from her immediate world: street people in Berkeley, Japanese sculpture, Monet’s garden, Egyptian tourist groups, Chinese embroidery, images from newspaper and magazine photos, and her dogs…anything that struck her fancy wherever she happened to be at the moment – and she could put any or all of them into a repeat pattern.  Her wit and whimsy [were] legendary and her lively approach also inspired her husband to combine imagery onto the surface of his inventive baskets and containers.”
Ethel Stein Portrait

Ethel Stein Portrait 2008 by Tom Grotta courtesy of browngrotta arts

We were close to Ethel Stein as well, having begun representing her work in 2008 after a dinner at her home where her charming dog joined us at the table. When Rhonda was sick several years later, Ethel drove, at 93, from New York to Connecticut with a meal she had made us. Rhonda’s mother, a mere 83 then, was visiting and we told her that same vitality is what we expected of her in her 90s. (So far mom has complied.)
Tom was able to prepare a monograph of Ethel’s work, Ethel Stein: Weaver, with an introduction by Jack Lenor Larsen, an essay by Lucy A. Commoner and a glossary by Milton Sonday, which has become our best-selling volume. In her essay, “Ethel Stein, A Life Interlaced With Art, Lucy Commoner, then-Senior Textile Conservator at the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution, describes the evolution of Ethel’s knowledge of textile techniques and ways in which she was able to advance those techniques through her own explorations. “Ethel Stein’s work is distinguished by its rhythmic simplicity belied by its extraordinary technical complexity. The basic humility and humanity of the work and its relationship to historical techniques combine to give Stein’s work a meaning far beyond its physical presence.”
Ethel Stein Exhibition

Ethel Stein Master Weaver at the Chciago Art Instittute

Six years later, Ethel’s work received the wider recognition it deserved. We were thrilled to attend the opening of her one-person exhibition, Ethel Stein, Master Weaver, at the Art Institute of Chicago in 2014. “Ethel Stein is an artist who only now, at the age of 96, is beginning to get the recognition she deserves from the broader public,” the Institute wrote. “Stein’s great contribution to weaving is her unique combination of refined traditional weaving techniques, possible only on a drawloom and used by few contemporary weavers, with modernist sensibilities influenced by Josef Albers, who trained in the German Bauhaus with its emphasis on simplicity, order, functionality, and modesty.” There were photos of her at work, a video and a dinner after with family members and supporters of the museum and crowds of visitors to the exhibition — a well-deserved tribute.

Ed Rossbach Katherine Westphal

Katherine Westphal Ed Rossbach

These artists and their lengthy careers, raise the question, is fiber art a key to longevity? Ethel Stein continued to weave even after she was discovered and lauded at 96. When we visited Katherine Westphal in Berkeley in 2015 we found her still drawing or painting every day in a series of journals she kept, something she continued to do until just a few weeks before her death. Lenore Tawney died at 100, Ruth Asawa and Magdalena Abakanowicz each at 87. Helena Hernmarck tells us that she knows several fiber artists who are 100. So those of you who are practitioners — keep it up!


Art Out and About: Patrick Dougherty at the Ackland Art Museum

 

Step Right Up at the Ackland Art Museum. Photo by Emily Bowles Raised in North Carolina and an alumnus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, sculptor Patrick Dougherty returned to his roots to create Step Right Up for the Ackland Art Museum last October. Internationally acclaimed for his monumental environmental works, Dougherty has produced over 280 large scale stick sculptures all over the world. You’ll know one of Dougherty’s sculptures when you see one. “Some cling to pylons or walls, or roll across the tops of trees; others emerge from a lake, seeming to balance on the surface of it without making a single ripple,” explains Daniel Wallace of Garden & Gun. “His sculptures do impossible things. They could be homes for giants or trolls, the first shelters built by prehistoric men, Gaudí-esque mazes, giant vines, remnants of alien visitations, windblown towers, jokes. They are fun, joyous, friendly, inviting, and public, very public: art conceived by one, built by many, shared by all.”

Dougherty working on Step Right Up. Photo: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

What separates Step Right Up from Dougherty’s other installations is that it is in his hometown of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Dougherty earned his B.A. in English from the UNC in 1967 and later returned to study art history and sculpture. Before he began using sticks as his medium, Dougherty sculpted with clay. However, while using clay Dougherty was unable to achieve the scale he desired for his sculptures. While studying at UNC, Dougherty developed the idea of using sticks as his medium. Dougherty found that using sticks allowed him to bend and extend long lines, he could create his own monumental three-dimensional drawings. In order to effectively use sticks to create sculptures, Dougherty had to gain a better understanding of how shelter builders, such as birds and beavers, build their homes. “Sticks have an inherent method of joining…and that tangling allows you to hook them together,” Dougherty explains.

 

Unknown, Iranian, Caspian Region, ca. early 1st millennium B.C., Animal-shaped Pouring Vessel, earthenware, Overall: 8 3/4 x 12 x 6 3/16 in. (22.3 x 30.5 x 15.7 cm) Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Gift of Osborne and Gratia B. Hauge in honor of Dr. and Mrs. Sherman E. Lee, 91.21 © Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Dougherty often does not know what he is going to build until after he arrives at the installation site. Once he arrives, Dougherty has to source both volunteers and materials. For his exhibition Step Right Up at the Ackland Art Museum Dougherty was able to source his materials—maple and gum saplings—from Duke Forest and Triangle Land Conservancy, organizations Dougherty has had long relationships with throughout his career. Dougherty chooses to enlist the help of volunteers on his projects because he finds it interesting how varying types of characters can come together to create one piece. Dougherty’s creative process has three steps: 1) Structural formation—building the basic shape, 2) Appliqué—appliquéing a look onto the surface of the piece and 3) Cosmetic—fixing up and making it habitable for people to enjoy from both the inside and outside. In creating Step Right Up for the Ackland, Dougherty was inspired by the Ackland’s collection of ancient animal pouring vessels. The vessels, which usually have an animal head from which water is poured, typically have traditional tops. Dougherty liked the idea of having a mixed shape and applied it to his sculpture in Step Right Up.

“I think that part of my work’s allure is its impermanence, the life cycle that is built into the growth and decay of saplings,” explains Dougherty. “The line between trash and treasure is thin, and the sculptures, like the sticks they are made from, begin to fade after two years. Often the public imagines that a work of art should be made to last, but I believe that a sculpture, like a good flower bed, has its season.” Bounded to the installations organic material and outdoor setting, Dougherty’s Step Right Up is a temporary installation. The installation is expected to be on view through August 31, 2018 at the Ackland Art Museum in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. For more information, visit: https://ackland.org/exhibition/patrick-dougherty-stickwork-ackland/.


Privacy Preference Center

Close your account?

Your account will be closed and all data will be permanently deleted and cannot be recovered. Are you sure?