Category: Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art

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

Behind the Scenes: Drop Off at Helena Hernmarck’s

We recently took a trip up to Helena Hernmarck’s studio to loan back a few pieces for her upcoming solo exhibition Helena Hernmarck: Weaving In Progress at the Aldrich Museum. Located in Ridgefield, Connecticut, Helena’s studio is only a few miles from browngrotta arts.

A perfectly organized wall of color expands the entire length of the south side of Hernmarck’s studio. The wall acts as a storage for skeins of wool Hernmarck uses in her tapestries. The different skeins are precisely organized by their unique colors and tones, making it easier for Hernmarck to find a specific color when needed. Hernmarck is very particular about the quality of the materials she uses in her work. All the wool she uses is
rya wool, sourced from a specific breed of heirloom sheep in Sweden. The wool is also custom-dyed and spun to her specifications at a family-run spinning mill in Sweden, the place Hernmarck called home before emigrating to Canada, the UK and then settling in the US. Hernmarck has worked with browngrotta arts for more than 20 years, her work is included in 11 of browngrotta arts’ catalogs, including Helena Hernmarck and Markku Kosonen from 1994. Her commissions are found in dozens of corporations, museums and private collections.

Watching Hernmarck work leaves one in awe. Using a technique of her own invention, she is able to conjure details from our visual world, such as sunlight on waters and sails swelling in the wind. Every one of Hernmarck’s tapestries begin with an image, which is then blown up into her desired weaving size. From there, Hermarck plots her working plan on graph paper and produces a certain number of linear inches or feet per day so her commissions are completed on time. This technique allows Hermarck to capture even the smallest details in her weavings. Hernmarck’s attention to detail and her ability to portray subtle color variations, reflections and shadows are extraordinary. From a distance, Hermarck’s weavings look as if they are a single printed blown up photograph. On closer inspection, however, the thousands of strings of wool dissolve into interlaced pieces of warp and weft.


While visiting her studio, we also discussed her upcoming solo exhibition at the Aldrich Museum. Hernmarck never expected the Aldrich Museum’s invitation. “I did not expect to hear from them, after 38 years in town,” explains Hernmarck. “It was so positive that they were interested to show a textile artist in action. Things are changing…”Textiles have gained tremendous notoriety in the art world in recent years. Collectors, museums and art-lovers are becoming more aware of their allure.

Weaving In Progress will be the first solo exhibition of Hernmarck’s work in the United States since 2012. Given that the Aldrich is in Hernmarck’s hometown makes the exhibition all the more special. To be recognized for her accomplishments there is significant for Hernmarck. “It has been said that you can never be a prophet in your own land,” she explains.

In addition to presenting a variety of her work, Hernmarck herself will also be a part of the exhibition. During the exhibition, Hernmarck and her assistant Mae Colburn will create a work in situ, weaving three days a week in the exhibition space. The final work will be 55 inches wide and 40 inches tall, created on a five-foot-wide loom.“My assistant will be weaving with me as she is still in the learning curve,” Hernmarck says. Hernmarck’s aim for the exhibition is simple and direct. She hopes that “visitors will be inspired to do things with their hands and to get away from their computers” in this increasingly technology-focused world.