Category: artist

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.

 


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!