Category: artist

It’s a Mystery — Can You Help Us Solve It?

This arresting tapestry is from the personal collection of Mariette Rousseau-Vermette of Canada. Rousseau-Vermette participated in several of the Biennials of International Tapestry in Lausanne, Switzerland. At the Biennials, artists for all over the world had the opportunity to meet and exchange ideas and inspiration and, in some cases, traded works of art with one another. Rousseau-Vermette also headed the Fibres Department at the Banff Centre for the Arts from 1980. In 1981, the Banff Centre hosted the third Fibre Interchange, a gathering of experts from the fiber arts world. Noted guests included: Parisian fibre artist Daniel Gaffin; MoMA’s Mildred Constantine; The Whitney Museum’s curator. Patterson Sims and acclaimed American artist Sheila Hicks. The Centre also hosted visiting artists from all over, including Jolanta Owidzka and Magdalena Abakanowicz so Rousseau-Vermette had another chance for art exchange. So, Rousseau-Vermette might have come by this work in either of those ways. The work is 13.25″ by 12″, made of wool and includes an interesting symbol –maybe a signature? — in the right-hand corner. We asked Jolanta Owidzka, but she did not recognize it. Maybe you do??
If you have an idea of who it might be, we’d welcome the information. The first three people to give us a clue will receive a copy of Advocates for Art: Polish and Czech Fiber Artists from the Anne and Jacques Baruch Collection. Please contact us at art@browngrotta.com.

Additional works from Mariette Rousseau-Vermette’s collection include:

Warszawa, Jolanta Owidzka, wool, linen and metallic thread, 90″ x 68″,1967

2ws Untitled, Wojciech Sadley , mixed media, 32” x 24”, 1968


In Praise of Older Women Artists

Simone Pheulpin at The Design Museum of London. Photo: Maison Parisienne

Last year, Artsy took a look at why old women had replaced young men as the “new darlings” of the art word. Its twofold explanation: as institutions attempt to revise the art-historical canon, passionate dealers and curators have seen years of promotion come to fruition and these artists have gained attention as blue-chip galleries search for new artists to represent among those initially overlooked.

Artsy points at Carmen Herrara, Carol Rama, Irma Blank, and Geta Brătescu and others to make its point. Mary Sabbatino, vice president at Galerie Lelong, is quoted as saying,  “They’re fully formed artists, they’re mature artists, they’re serious artists. They’re not going to burn out as sometimes happens with younger artists…and normally the prices are far below the other artists of their generation, so you’re offering a value to someone.” Barbara Haskell, a curator at the Whitney Museum in New York, says museums everywhere are realizing that “there’s been a lopsided focus on the white male experience” in art history, and are working to correct that.”

Primitive Figures Bird and Insects, Luba Krejci,
knotted linen, 40.5″ x 44.5″ x 2″, circa 1970s. Photo: Tom Grotta

Among the women artists working in fiber who belong on a list of those achieving belated recognition include Ruth Asawa, Sheila Hicks (mentioned in the Artsy article) Kay Sekimachi, Lenore Tawney, Ethel Stein, Simone Pheulpin, Sonia Delauney, Luba Krejci, Ritzi Jacobi and Helena Hernmarck. The international contemporary fiber movement was initiated by women who took reinvented tapestry, took it off the wall and drew global attention to an art form that had been synonymous with tradition to that point. Luba Krecji adapted needle and bobbin lace techniques to create, “nitak,” her own technique, which enabled her to “draw” with thread. In her use of line as “sculptural form,” Ruth Asawa,” provided a crucial link between the mobile modernism of Alexander Calder and the gossamer Minimalism of Fred Sandback, whose yarn pieces similarly render distinctions between interior and exterior moot,” wrote Andrea K. Scott last year in The New Yorker.

 

Damask 5, Ethel Stein, 1980-89. Photo by Tom Grotta

These artists continue their explorations though their seventies, eighties and nineties. An example, Kay Sekimachi, who created complex, elegant monofilament weavings in the 70s and 80s, bowls and towers of paper after that, and continues, at age 90, to create elegant weavings of lines and grids that are reminiscent of the paintings of Agnes Martin. After having received the Special Mention Loewe Craft Prize and exhibited at the  Design Museum of London, this year, Simone Pheulpin continues to create innovative work in her 70s, work that is part of the 10th contemporary art season at Domaine de Chaumont sur Loire and part of the exhibition “Tissage Tressage” at the Fondation Villa Datris.

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.


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.


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!