Studio Visits: Brussels, Amsterdam, Utrecht

Marian Bijlenga’s studio
Carter on the stairs in Marian Bijlenga’s studio in Amsterdam.

In November, Tom, Carter and Rhonda traveled too Brussels, Amsterdam and Utrecht to catch up Stéphanie Jacques, Marian Bijlenga and Marianne Kemp in their respective studios. Each studio was housed in an unusual re-envisioned space, one a former hospital another a primary school, their studios contained glimpses of past work and future projects. As in the UK, all three artists were extremely generous with their time and thoughts. We came away with more material for the series of books we hope to do one day. In the meantime, enjoy a quick view of this leg of our extraordinary trip.

Stephanie Jacques Brussels.
Stephanie Jacques is a good sport while Tom and Carter prep the shot in her Brussels.
Amsterdam photo by tom Grotta
Every vantage point in Amsterdam is a photo opp.
Marian Bijlenga
Another shot in Marian Biljenga’s studio.
Marianne Kemp’s
Tom tests the light on Marianne Kemp’s loom in Utrecht.

Books make great gifts

We received many good suggestions for this year’s book round up and have added two of our own.


Rereading works of particular power was a theme for several of the artists who replied. Jo Barker tells us that she returns again and again to The Thinking Hand: Existential & Embodied Wisdom in Architecture by Juhani Pallasmaa (Wiley, 2009). “As a maker who works in an instinctive way,” she writes, “this book was a revelation. It is often so difficult to talk about and explain embodied knowledge. The book’s subheading may seem misleading, as this is a book of interest to artists, musicians, and writers as well as architects. In fact, anyone interested in the process of creativity, and making. It consists of a series of illustrated essays moving from the physical to the abstract, from the hand itself to emotional theory. The author – ‘one of Finland’s most distinguished architects and architectural thinkers’ – writes concisely. Every paragraph has meaningful content and for this reason is a book that can be picked up and read in short bites, as well as an engrossing long read. At its heart is the importance of the hand as a tool, movements of the hand and development of the mind and imagination. All of this rings true for me as a tapestry designer and weaver.” Barker also recommends Findings by Kathleen Jamie (Sort of Books, 2015). “For anyone interested in Scotland, nature writing, travel, the human condition, this small book is so thoughtful and beautiful. I have given it to several friends.” Kathleen Jamie writes essays and poetry. Findings is a book of 11 short essays. “She writes with clarity and precision,” writes Barker. “Every word counts. Neolithic buildings, birds, the streets of Edinburgh, remote Scottish Islands her family: she really makes you notice tiny details and her thoughts stay with you long after the book is finished.” 

Barker notes that her prior book, Sightlines: A Conversation With the Natural World (The Experiment, 2013) includes observations on the restoration of whalebones, the aurora borealis, cave paintings, bird colonies, an archaeological dig and “is equally absorbing, broad ranging and magical.” 

A favorite book that Jennifer Falck Linssen finds herself rereading is Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants by Douglas Tallamy (Timber Press, 2009). “Returning to Wisconsin six years ago after being away for close to 17 years, it was clear just how the woods and meadows had changed – and not for the better,” she observes. “My husband and I have spent the past six summers battling invasive plants on our land. Just when I think we’ve beat the invasive non-native plants back, they creep forward again. The good news is that in this case it’s been two steps forward and only one step back. And it’s worth the effort to see the beautiful native woodland plants reappear. Doug Tallamy’s book reinforces those efforts by sharing with his readers how important our native plants are and the wonderful creatures they support.”

She recently finished reading The Death and Life of the Great Lakes by Dan Egan (W.W. Norton, 2018) after a fellow artist-friend, equally interested in water health, recommended it. “Growing up along the shores of Lake Michigan I knew a great deal of the history and some of the challenges the Great Lakes have dealt with in the past and at the present,” she says. “Dan Egan writes about how each change and challenge to the Great Lakes has led to a new one. It’s a chain of events both fascinating and frightening – one that I hope will help more people realize just how important both land and water health are to our overall ecosystem.” 

Gyöngy Laky returned to The Box Project: Uncommon Threads (Cotsen Occasional Press, 2016)In October, The Textile Museum at George Washington University announced that it is the recipient of an $18.4 million gift of more than 4,000 textiles (including The Box Project), an endowment and equipment to support the textile collections. Lloyd Cotsen, the donor, was former CEO and chairman of the of Neutrogena Corporation and a prodigious collector of textiles, baskets, books and more. “Lyssa C. Stapleton, the curator of the Cotsen collection and editor or the catalog, described what captivated Cotsen about the textile works he collected,” writes Laky: ‘the flexibility of the medium, it’s dexterity and ability to fill space, to be rigid or pliant, to cover walls or floors, to be sculptural or flat, are what made him a passionate patron.’ Among Cotsen’s collecting projects was The Box Project. “Over several years 36 artists were commissioned to create artworks that would be housed, but not necessarily contained, in two sizes of archival boxes,” writes Laky. “The catalog is a hefty 5 pounds. It is just smaller than the smaller of the two archival boxes that the selected artists could choose to house the artworks that Cotsen commissioned. It is bound in subtly textured indigo fabric and, most strikingly, and metaphorically, it has a window in its cover. It is not only a beautiful object and fascinating read, it is also a window on the field. I read the catalog in 2016, but it stayed vivid in my mind. With the announcement of the gift to GWU, I re-read the thoughtful and thought-provoking essays this fall.” 

“For me,” writes Heidrun Schimmel, “one of the most inspiring books was 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Harari Yuval Noah (Spiegel & Grau 2018).”It’s not an art book, “but one nevertheless very important for my work.” In it, the author conducts an important conversation about how to take on the problems of the 21st century.

Chris Drury also recommends a non-art book, a novel by Elizabeth Gilbert, A Signature of All Things (Riverhead Books, 2014).

Nancy Moore Bess, Polly Sutton and Scott Rothstein chose art books. Bess writes that her go-to books for inspiration and calming are all versions of How to Wrap Five Eggs by Hideyuki Oka (Weatherhill, 2008). “In total I probably have two dozen books on wrapping and gift traditions in Japan. One I own is a real treasure. It’s multiple layers of packaging let you know immediately how significant the contents are. The outer sleeve is beautifully stenciled to hint at what is inside. Plain cardboard and tissue protect the red folder that covers the book itself. This particular edition is filled with photos and illustrations not included in most editions. Gift giving in Japan is very complicated!”

Sutton recommends, Braiding Sweetgrass Robin Kimmerer: “It’s so very good!” Rothstein found interesting Jangarh Singh Shyam: The Enchanted ForestAurogeeta Das (Roli Books, 2017) that accompanied an exhibition of the same name http://artfoundout.blogspot.com
/2017/10/jangarh-singh-shyam-enchanted-forest.html.Singh was a member of an indigenous tribe from Madhya Pradesh in India who created murals, acrylics on paper, clay reliefs and and screen prints of tribal deities that had not been previously visualized and flora and fauna remembered from his childhood.


Kay Sekimachi Master Weaver


We have two picks this year. First, The Shape of Craft by Ezra Shales (Reaktion Books, 2018), a book we predict will join the list of those that readers return to again and againIt explores some of the key questions about craft: who makes it, what we mean when we think about a craft object and how that shapes our understanding of what craft is. Shales’s discussion ranges widely across people and objects: from potter Karen Karnes to weaver Jack Lenor Larsen, glass sculptor Dale Chihuly to Native American basket-maker Julia Parker, as well as younger makers such as Sopheap Pich and Maarten Baas, and to the porcelain and cast-iron sanitary ware produced by the Kohler Company, the pottery made in Stoke on Trent and the people in Asia today who weave beautiful things for IKEA.”This book is of particular value to the fine arts, where today’s practitioners are reaching out more and more into traditional craft without understanding its context,” writes Garth Clark in CFile. “The Shape of Craft lets them know that while rooted in labor, material and haptic experience (I only acknowledge craft as a verb) it can also be intellectually profound and conceptually textured.” The second, and latest, catalog of Kay Sekimachi’s work, Kay Sekimachi: Master Weaver (Fresno Art Museum, 2018prepared to accompany this year’s one-person exhibition at the Fresno Museum of Art. Kay Sekimachi: Master Weaver is lushly illustrated with never-before-seen works from the 1940s to works through the 60s, 70s, 80s, up to 2017. The curators, Kristina Hornback and Michele Ellis Pracy, aimed “to select and ultimately present artwork that encapsulates the breadth, variety, and intrinsic voice of an artist,” in order to illuminate her 77 years “of experimental and remarkable art making.” They have succeeded, masterfully. 


Happy Holiday reading!


Art Assembled: New This Week November

Markings and Blues, Adela Akers, linen, horsehair, metal and paint, 28” X 30”, 2018. Photo by Tom Grotta.

Markings and Blues, Adela Akers, linen, horsehair, metal and paint, 28” X 30”, 2018. Photo by Tom Grotta.

Fall is coming to a close and the winter months are approaching here at browngrotta arts. During the end of October and throughout the beginning of November, Tom and Carter and sometimes Rhonda, traveled around the UK and Europe capturing artists at work in their studios. Though these ventures were grand they didn’t deter us from sharing our New This Week posts. Stay tuned for more blog posts on Tom’s, Rhonda’s and Carter’s photo adventure in the coming months, but for now take a minute and read more about the art we shared this month on our social media.

We commenced November with Adela Akers’ eye-catching Markings and Blues. As in her other pieces, Akers has incorporated horsehair into Markings and Blues. Employing stiff horsehair in her work helps Akers add both texture and dimensionality, two characteristics which create a richer surface and draw focus to her work. In recent years, Akers has drawn inspiration from her life journeys. These journeys have had a transformative effect, increasing her self-confidence, expanding her artistic vision and helping her to create pieces such as Markings and Blues.

Kaze, Yasuhisa Kohyama, ceramic, 14.75” x 11.5” x 4.75”, 2017. Photo by Tom Grotta.

Kaze, Yasuhisa Kohyama, ceramic, 14.75” x 11.5” x 4.75”, 2017. Photo by Tom Grotta.

Next up, Kaze by Japanese ceramic artist Yasuhisa Kohyama. Like Kohyama’s other ceramic pieces, Kaze was made with using an anagama kiln, a traditional Japanese wood-firing kiln. Kohyama revitalized the use of the anagama kiln and has become a Sueki master. Though the ceramic is left unglazed with the Sueki method, the resulting surface appears glossy. The piece’s form is perfectly reflected in its name—Kaze; a word that represents things that enjoy the freedom of movement.

Green Blue Screen One, Tamiko Kawata, cardboard, safety pins, acrylic on canvas, 20” x 20”, 2018. Photo by Tom Grotta.

Green Blue Screen One, Tamiko Kawata, cardboard, safety pins, acrylic on canvas, 20” x 20”, 2018. Photo by Tom Grotta.

The stark contrast between the bright background and glistening safety pins of Tamiko Kawata’s Green Blue Screen One also caught our eye in November. Safety pins hold a multifunctional purpose for Kawata. Upon her move to New York in the 1960s, Kawata utilized safety pins for their unassuming, everyday purpose: to pin up clothing that was too large for her small frame. However, over time Kawata developed a fascination for the medium. The pins have facilitated Kawata in her exploration and construction of drawing-like works, self-standing, three-dimensional forms and jewelry. The physical practice of creating complex pieces with simple utilitarian objects provides a meditative and reflective process for Kawata.

Hunting (Jagtmark), Ane Henriksen, Scottish wool, weft: worn out clothes , 65” x 92”, 2017. Photo by Tom Grotta.

Hunting (Jagtmark), Ane Henriksen, Scottish wool, weft: worn out clothes, 65” x 92”, 2017. Photo by Tom Grotta.

We concluded the month of November with Hunting (Jagtmark) by Ane Henriksen. The piece, which spans over 7.5 feet, was woven using Scottish wool and weft: old worn-out hunting clothes. Henriksen’s inspiration for Hunting derived from a painting by the Danish artist Jens Soendergaard. “I saw so much lust and longing in his green landscape,” explains Henriksen. As mentioned, Hunting is made of worn-out hunting clothes, some of which are undergarments, illustrating the different ways and fields in which hunting takes place.


Art in situ – Helena Hernmarck at the Aldrich Museum through January 13, 2019

Helena Hernmarck describes the yarn she sources from Sweden at the opening of Helena Hernmarck: Weaving in Progress. Photo by Tom Grotta, courtesy browngrotta arts

A unique view into Helena Hernmarck’s artistic practice is on exhibit at the Aldrich Museum up the road from us in Ridgefield, Connecticut for four more weeks. In addition to showing 20 tapestries created over 40 years by Hernmarck, the Museum has replicated a wall of her studio with a large photograph, installed one of the artist’s smaller looms and invited her and her assistant, Mae Coburn, to complete a weaving onsite. We were at the well-attended opening of the exhibition and particularly appreciated the portion of the exhibit that illustrates her process – from inspiration to drawing to yarn selection to final work. As the Museum describes it: “An inventory of the wool used in the process will be on view, along with a display of materials from the artist’s archive, including photographs, watercolors, drawings, prototype samples, and other ephemera that illustrate and inform Hernmarck’s process and the evolution of her career.”

Process documents–inspiration, drawings, color swatches — preparation for a Hernmarck tapestry. Photo by Tom Grotta, courtesy browngrotta arts

In creating a work, Hernmarck plots the amount of weaving she needs to complete each day on graph paper. She told CT Post in October that when first learning to weave, she knew she wanted to create large-scale works. “I decided that if I could weave one square meter a week, I could live on it. And it’s almost true. I made it coarser [using multiple strands] so I could go faster,” she told the newspaper. That bundling has set Hernmarck’s work apart. “Depending on how she twists the strands and what colors and thicknesses she chooses, she is said to be able to give her tapestries unprecedented depth and complexity. One critical essay described them as almost pointillist,” wrote Joel Lang, “Ridgefield weaver Helena Hernmarck and her loom preside over Aldrich exhibit,” CT Post, October 18, 2018.

Exhibition view from Helena Hernmarck: Weaving in Progress, at the Aldrich Museum, Ridgefield, CT. Photo by Tom Grotta, courtesy browngrotta arts.

Working at the Museum three to four days in a row has required a slight change in approach, Hernmarck says. “It is fun that so many are coming,” including textile enthusiasts and art classes, but hard to get the weaving done as planned while answering all the questions.

Don’t miss the opportunity to see Hernmarck’s art creation in action. The Aldrich is at 258 Main Street, Ridgefield, CT 06877, Tel 203.438.4519; general@aldrichart.org.

The in-residence days are:
November: 23, 24, 28, 29, 30
December: 6, 7, 8, 12, 13, 14, 20, 21, 22, 27, 28, 29
January: 2, 3, 4, 10, 11, 12

Dispatches: Studio Visits UK

During the end of October and beginning of November, Tom and Carter traveled throughout the UK on a photo adventure, capturing eight artists at work From London to Derbyshire to Chesterfield, Bristol and New Hebden Bridge. They experienced the countryside, the railway system, local cuisine and the graciousness of the artists they visited. Each studio space was unique — from Laura Ellen Bacon’s wee “treehouse” to Susie Gillespie’s compound in a converted cider mill to Chris Drury’s charming cottage. The artists were extremely generous with their time and thoughts. We are hoping to compile the photos in a series of books one day. In the meantime, enjoy a quick view of our extraordinary trip.

Susie Gillespie’s Barn

New Hebden Bridge

Cemetery in New Hebden Bridge by Sue Lawty’s Studio

Photographing the art at dinner in London after photographing Caroline Bartletts studio

Kings Cross London on the way to photographing Rachel Maxs studio

Photographing an outdoor land sculpture by Chris Drury

Carter carrying into the barn a Laura Ellen Bacon Basket for a photographing

Manor Farm Dethick after photographing Laura Ellen Bacon on the way to Gizella Warburtons studio

Leaving Gizella Warburtons studio after a full day photo session

On our way to Dail Behennah studio in Bristol

After dinner in Bristol

Susie Gillespie’s weaving studio for her students


Art Assembled: New This Week October

Liminal, Tim Johnson, esparto grass, recycled braided fishing line , 44” x 36.5” x 3”, 2018. Photo by Tom Grotta

Liminal, Tim Johnson, esparto grass, recycled braided fishing line , 44” x 36.5” x 3”, 2018. Photo by Tom Grotta.

October flew by in the blink of an eye at browngrotta arts. On queue this month were remarkable pieces by Tim Johnson, Ferne Jacobs, Carole Fréve and Lawrence LaBianca.

We kicked off October with Tim Johnson’s Liminal. Woven from esparto grass and recycled fishing line, Johnson’s piece explores liminality, the state of being between two places or phases. Johnson, who is based on the Mediterranean coast of Catalonia, is constantly experimenting with new materials and techniques. Johnson’s incessant experimentation and deep appreciation for traditional weaving helps him to to create innovative work paying homage to historical weaving methods.

Open Globe, Ferne Jacobs, coiled and twined wax linen thread, 13” x 13”, 2001. Photo by Tom Grotta.

Open Globe, Ferne Jacobs, coiled and twined wax linen thread, 13” x 13”, 2001. Photo by Tom Grotta.

Ferne Jacobs’ detailed linen sculpture Open Globe was next up on the queue. In Open Globe Jacobs’ mixes greens and browns along with other colors to reproduce the assortment of colors that make up the earth’s surface. The title, “Open Globe,” “came from experiencing the piece as I was making it, in my mind, it was the earth. The colors — green, brown, bluish-grey — are the elements on our planet,” explains Jacobs. “Open is because the work has no bottom or top. So can we see the earth as a globe/ball, open/unending.”

Knitted incalmo II (Double Green), Carole Frève, blown and kiln cast glass, knitted and electroformed copper, 26.5” x 9” x 21”, 2010. Photo by Tom Grotta.

Knitted incalmo II (Double Green), Carole Frève, blown and kiln cast glass, knitted and electroformed copper, 26.5” x 9” x 21”, 2010. Photo by Tom Grotta.

Next up, Carole Fréve’s blown glass and electroformed copper duo Knitted incalmo II. Combining glass and copper, two materials that are not traditionally united, allows Fréve to create vessels that both contrast and complement each other. The symbolically paired duos will have a glass piece with “a copper ‘twin’, knitted just like a wool sweater, with knitting needles and copper wire,” notes Jean Frenette of SofaDeco.

Window Tree, Lawrence LaBianca California Redwood, glass with image of an  actual tree that was ground up and is now  between the panes, steel 75.5” x 21.25” x 18.75”, 2010. Photo by Tom Grotta

Window Tree, Lawrence LaBianca
California Redwood, glass with image of an
actual tree that was ground up and is now
between the panes, steel
75.5” x 21.25” x 18.75”, 2010. Photo by Tom Grotta.

To conclude October we shared Lawrence LaBianca’s Window Tree. Like much of LaBianca’s work, Window Tree explores humankind’s relationship with nature. LaBianca’s childhood was split between rural Maine and bustling New York City, the stark contrast between these two places left him with “a profound interest in the dichotomy between communities in which people work close to nature, and the alienation of an urban, technological society.” Window Tree’s glass panels, which hold the remnants of an old California Redwood, display an image of of the exact tree that lies between the panels.


Marian Bijlenga Takes Grand Prize at the 5th Triennial of Textile Art

Marian Bijlenga being interviewed in front of her work, Large Sampler Dots, Photo by Simon Oud.

Marian Bijlenga being interviewed in front of her work, Large Sampler Dots, Photo by Simon Oud.

Marian Bijlenga‘s significantly sized work, Large Sampler Dots, was awarded the Grand Prix of Božena Augustínová at the 5th Triennial Textile Art of Today exhibition at the Danubiana Meulensteen Art Museum in Bratislava, Slovakia. Four hundred artists from 49 countries across 5 continents participated in the competition. Irina Kolesnikova, now of Germany and Joanna Zemanek of Poland were among the artists selected to participate. Zemanek was awarded the Visegrad Award. You can learn more about the work and Bijlenga’s process on the Textile Art of Today site HERE.

This year’s exhibition, continues through November 11, 2018 before touring to other venues in Europe throughout 2019, including:Danubiana Meulensteen Art Museum (Slovak republic)
8.9.2018 – 11.11.2018
Tatra Gallery in Poprad (Slovak republic)
25.1.2019 – 16.3.2019The Moravian Museum in Uherské Hradiště (Czech republic)
18.4.2019 – 23.6.2019


On the Flip Side: What the Back of an Art Work May Reveal

More of a mystery — the back of Lenore Tawney’s Untitled Collage, 9.125” x 9”,10/23/64. Photo: Tom Grotta

More of a mystery — the back of Lenore Tawney’s Untitled Collage, 9.125” x 9”,10/23/64. Photo: Tom Grotta

Though artists generally create artwork with the intent for just the front to be viewed, the backs of canvases and tapestries can provide collectors, curators, historians and viewers with an interesting narrative. Since the late 18th century, conservators have been paying attention to the backs of artworks. “Why?” you may ask. The answer is this: the face of a painting communicates its art, but it’s back carries the history of the artwork itself.

The front of Lenore Tawney’s Untitled Collage (1964). Photo: Tom Grotta

The front of Lenore Tawney’s Untitled Collage (1964). Photo: Tom Grotta

“On the backs of canvases, stretcher bars (the wooden framework holding the canvas in place), and the undersides of frames, careful examiners can often find inscriptions left by artists, last-ditch attempts to advocate for works once they’ve left the studio,” explains  Karen Chernick of Artsy in a lengthy piece,“The Secrets Hidden on the Backs of Famous Artworks, (https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-secrets-hidden-backs-famous-artworks?utm_medium=email&utm_source=13995943-newsletter-editorial-daily-07-27-18&utm_campaign=editorial&utm_content=st-S Artists’ inscriptions serve as an important means of ensuring that the important details of a piece, such as its title, date and authorship, are preserved as the piece changes hands through time. In fact, “Versos are also frequently marked by dealers, collectors, and museums, with notations ranging from greased pencil notes to wax seals, exhibition labels, and inventory numbers,” writes Chernick. “Taken together, these markings are akin to a painting’s passport, representing its identity, travels, and even changes of address.”

However, it’s important to note that this practice is individual. There are artists who choose to provide meticulous details—notes, sewn labels, stitched informatio—and artists who leave the back of canvases or tapestries blank. For some artists, discovering provenance requires determined detective work, others offer an open book.

Details from Mariette Rousseau-Vermette’s notes on Joie 2. Photo: Kaitlyn Capps

Details from Mariette Rousseau-Vermette’s notes on Joie 2. Photo: Kaitlyn Capps

Mariette Rousseau-Vermette, for example, used a numbering system on that back of tapestries, which matched the meticulous files that she kept for the 640 signed works she created in her lifetime. Her files offer very detailed information about the nature of her working methods and the means by which she created and executed such commissions. Her commission for the curtain for the main hall of the National Arts Centre in Ottawa include the negotiations leading up to the contract awarded to her for the commission; original sketches documenting her various conceptions for the curtain, blueprints and plans, fabric and textile samples, diagrams relating to the means by which the design would be implemented, correspondence with craftsmen, manufacturers, and other individuals with whom she collaborated to complete the commission, and installation instructions. 

The label for Mariette Rousseau-Vermette’s Joie 2 — the number links to her meticulously maintained files. Photo: Tom Grotta.

The label for Mariette Rousseau-Vermette’s Joie 2 — the number links to her meticulously maintained files.
Photo: Tom Grotta.

In some instances, the backs of art works can give you a peek into an artist’s artistic process. While creating their work, artists who have continually reworked canvases “may cross out bygone titles previously inscribed on stretchers, leaving hints about images cloaked beneath layers of superimposed brushstrokes.”  For 20th-century artists, such as as Josef Albers, writes Chernick, the backs of canvases were the perfect place to leave explanatory appendices. Albers used the back of canvases to record detailed notes on the themes of his series. Chernick quotes Jeanette Redensek, a scholar who has reviewed hundreds of pieces of Albers’ work, used his extensive appendices to differentiate between the varying pigments used in each piece. In his series Homage to the Square, Albers methodically experimented with pigments, creating more than 2,000 variations over the course of 26 years. “When I see the backs of those paintings, I can see that he’s changed out pigments to get a yellow ochre that’s a little darker, a yellow ochre that’s a little lighter, a cadmium yellow, a cadmium yellow light. He’s playing with very fine distinctions in the colors, and so those color notes are essential,” explains Redensek. The backs of Norma Minkowitz’s works provide another example. Replete with thoughts, images, references, they provide an eye into her process.

The label for Mariette Rousseau-Vermette’s Joie 2 — the number links to her meticulously maintained files. Photo: Tom Grotta.

The back for Norma Minkowitz’s Goodbye My Friend
Photo: Tom Grotta.

The information on the back of a canvas can also impact the value of a piece of art. After a piece is consigned to auction, house specialist scan the piece for indicators of authenticity and condition. In some cases, conservators use ultra-light and raking light to unveil hidden details. The extra information uncovered through this research aids collectors and conservators in proving the authenticity of a piece, therefore increasing the value.

The elements — lining, framing, notations — that restorers consider and what auction houses review once a work is consigned is described in detail in, “What the Back of a Painting Reveals About Its History,” from In Good Taste, https://www.invaluable.com/blog/painting-back/?utm_source=brand&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=weeklyblog&utm_content=blog082318. 

The backs of canvases, drawings and tapestries not only provide collectors and conservators with the information needed to prove the authenticity of a work, but presents them with an opportunity to explore an uncharted area of art history.

 

 

 

 

 


Art Assembled: New This Week September

When Green is Gold: Cube connection 14, Noriko Takamiya, paper, 8.5” x 8.5” x 4.5”, 2018. Photo by Tom Grotta

When Green is Gold: Cube connection 14, Noriko Takamiya, paper, 8.5” x 8.5” x 4.5”, 2018. Photo by Tom Grotta

The summer months are coming to an end and the leaves are beginning to fall around us here at browngrotta arts. From Noriko Takamiya ’s When Green is Gold: Cube connection 14 to Nancy Koenigsberg’s Solitary Path, the pieces we shared throughout the summer months presented a deeper look at the diversity of fiber art.

We kicked off September with Noriko Takamiya’s When Green is Gold: Cube connection 14. Takamiya puts a modern twist on traditional Japanese basketmaking methods through her experimentation with weaving techniques. When working on a basket, Takamiya winds hundreds of layers of thin strips of paper around and in between one another until she reaches her desired form. The end result, a three-dimensional puzzle-like basket.

Stitch by Stitch, Heidrun Schimmel, cotton, silk, 83” x 33.5”, 2014. Photo by Tom Grotta.

Stitch by Stitch, Heidrun Schimmel, cotton, silk, 83” x 33.5”, 2014. Photo by Tom Grotta.

Second in September’s queue was Heidrun Schimmel’s Stitch by Stitch. Schimmel, who has been working with textiles since 1958, hand stitches all her work. Through this process she is able to explore the connection between thread and human: “Mythologically, thread is connected to human existence,” says Schimmel. “Its length and quality are metaphors for the duration and character of our lives.” Schimmel’s creative process is quite simple, she begins her pieces by stitching white cotton thread onto transparent black silk. As she continues to stitch, the tensions between the varying layers of thread create deformations, so “the work itself finds its final form through the combination of control and chance.”

Primary Windows at 22 with Blue Spill on the Sill, Sylvia Seventy, molded recycled paper, wax, button drawings, buttons, beads, feathers, cotton thread, staples, 4.5” x 13.5” x 13.5,”. Photo by Tom Grotta

Primary Windows at 22 with Blue Spill on the Sill, Sylvia Seventy, molded recycled paper, wax, button drawings, buttons, beads, feathers, cotton thread, staples, 4.5” x 13.5” x 13.5,”. Photo by Tom Grotta

Next up we featured Californi-based artist Sylvia Seventy’s Primary Windows at 22 with Blue Spill on the Sill. In making her bowls, Seventy carefully molds fibrous recycled paper pulp into her desired form. Through her work, Seventy transforms ordinary materials gathered from her surroundings into extraordinary “mysterious allusions of antiquity.”  The walls of Seventy’s vessels contain a record number of processes, that not only mark change, but tracings of times. For Seventy, “Each work documents a layer of my life. Like a patch in a quilt, a photograph in an album, an object in a box of treasures.”

Solitary Path, Nancy Koenigsberg, coated copper wire, 28” x 28” x 5”, 2018

Solitary Path, Nancy Koenigsberg, coated copper wire, 28” x 28” x 5”, 2018

Last, but certainly not least, we shared Nancy Koenigsberg’s Solitary Path. Koenigsberg, who has lived the majority of her life in an urban environment, finds inspiration in the grid-like pattern of New York City’s streets. Made using lace-like layers of coated copper wire, Koenigsberg’s Solitary Path explores the relationship between shadows and space. The contrast between light and shadow transforms her works into a paradoxical study of “delicacy and fragility juxtaposed with the strength of steel and copper employed in their making.”


Fiber Art Up and Comers

Paniers-liens III, Séphanie Jacques
carved wood (ash), white willow, hemp rope, red, wool, 21.25” to 43.25” x 15.5” x 17.75”,2011.
Paniers-liens II, Stéphanie Jacques
carved wood (ash), white willow, hemp, rope, red wool, 22” x 17.25” x 17.25”, 2011

Earlier this year, we compared Artsy‘s list of fiber art pioneers and ours (see also Craft in America’s Pioneering Women in Craft). In the years since contemporary fiber first gained international attention, a group of younger artists have continued to experiment. Numerous artists from a decade or two or three later are identified as continuing innovations in this field, including Rosemary Troeckel, Lesley Dill, and Ernesto Neto and more recently, Sophie Narrett and Orly Cogan.

Of the artists that work with browngrotta arts, we’d point to five who continue to redefine the practice. Stéphanie Jacques of Belgium, combines clay, wood, photography, knitting and basketmaking to create works that reveal what is unseen.

Macramé Black Shell n.1, Federica Luzzi, cotton cord, wax, graphite, 13” x 12” x 6.5”, 2008

Federica Luzzi of Italy, uses fiber to illustrate natural phenomena. Her current series of elegant macramés were born of conversations with researchers at the National Institute of Nuclear Physics in Frascati, Italy about concepts of dark matter, antimatter, nuclear, subnuclear physics and the particle accelerator.

Transición, Eduardo Portillo & Mariá Eugenia Dávila, alpaca; metallic yarns and silver leaf; moriche palm fiber, silk, 56" x 24.25”, 2018

Transición, Eduardo Portillo & Mariá Eugenia Dávila, alpaca; metallic yarns and silver leaf; moriche palm fiber, silk, 56″ x 24.25”, 2018

Eduardo Portillo and Maria Dávila from Venezuela take an experimental approach to all aspects of their work — sourcing, technique and materials. The artists spent several years in China and India studying sericulture, or silk farming, and since then their research has taken them worldwide. In Venezuela they established the entire process of silk manufacture: growing mulberry trees on the slopes of the Andes, rearing silkworms, obtaining threads from other locally sourced fibers, coloring them all with natural dyes and designing and weaving innovative textiles. This works include woven “mosaics” from their Indigo series. More recently, the couple has been incorporating copper and bronze into their work, using textiles as inspiration for works that are cast in bronze. The couple was awarded with a Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship in 2017. Sue Lawty from the UK, has used her prodigious weaving skills to weave lead, and for the last few years, has created assemblages comprised of literally thousands of tiny stones, a pixilated ‘cloth’ of sorts.