Category: artist

We’ve been hard at work — come see the results. Japandí opens this week!

Our Japandí exhibition features 39 artists from Japan, Finland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden and over 150 individual works. Here are details about just a few of the artworks that the exhibition includes.

Ane Henrsen portrait
Ane Henriksen preparing the material for Reserve. Photo by Ole Gravesen

A striking wall work, Reserve, by Ane Henriksen of Denmark is featured in Japandí. Henriksen originally found the material covered with oil spots, washed up along the sea by the west coast of Denmark – fishermen use it, on the table in the galley, so the plates don’t slide of when they are on the high seas. The piece also incorporates webbed, rubber matting, colored with acrylic paint. The warp is silk glued together with viscose (from Japan). “Nature is threatened,” says Henriksen. “I hope this is expressed in my image, which at first glance can be seen as a peaceful, recognizable view of nature, but when you move closer and see the material, it might make you uneasy, and and spur thoughts of how human activity is a threat against nature. By framing the nature motif museum-like in a solid oak frame, I try to make you aware how we store small natural remains in reserves – in the same way we store exquisite objects from our past history in our museums.”

Birgit Birkkjaer portrait
Birgit Birkkjaer at work. Photo by Kræn Ole Birkkjær

Also included in the exhibition are baskets by Danish artist Birgit Birkkjaer. They are made of black linen and Japanese tatami paper yarn (black and hand dyed with rust). “The technique I used for the structure is rya,” she reports, “which was known in Scandinavia already in the Viking Age — and from the 1950s until the 1970s as a trend started by Danish/Finnish artist collectives. So, the baskets have roots in both Japan and Scandinavia.”

Norie Hatakeyama portrait
Norie Hatakeyama creating paper-plaited work. Photo by Ray Tanaka

Among the works on display from Japan are intricately plaited objects created by Norie Hatakeyama. The artist works with factory-made paper-packing tape to realize her geometric concerns. It is an experimental material that enables her to break free from traditional limitations.

“My work stems from an impulse to redefine both material and method,” says Hatakeyama. Her intricately plaited, three-dimensional works possess the energy of growing organisms. “The works ‘defy the viewer to imagine how they were accomplished,’”art critic and author Janet Koplos has observed.

Jiro Yonezawa at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Deer Isle, Maine. Photo by Tom Grotta

Jiro Yonezawa is also represented in Japandí with several works. Yonezawa is known for innovative bamboo basketry based on traditional techniques. He says that his recent baskets “represent a search for the beauty and precision in nature and a way to balance the chaos evident in these times.” The search for balance and harmony is one of the elements attributed to Japandi style.

Please join us!

The hours of the exhibtion are: 

Opening and Artist Reception: Saturday, September 25th: 11 to 6

Sunday, September 26th: 11 to 6

Monday, September 27th through Saturday October 2nd: 10 to 5

Sunday, October 3rd: 11 to 6

Advanced time reservations are mandatory; Appropriate Covid protocols will be followed. Masks will be required. There is a full-color catalog, Japandi: shared aesthetics and influences, prepared for the exhibition available at for pre-order at:  https://store.browngrotta.com/japandi-shared-aesthetics-and-influences/


Elements of Japandi: Minimalism and Simplicity

The term Japandi combines Japan and Scandinavia to reference aesthetic approaches shared by artisans in the two areas. browngrotta arts will be explore these affinities in our upcoming exhibition, Japandi: shared aesthetics and influences (September 25 – October 3, 2021)Among the approaches that these cultures share is an appreciation for minimalism and simplicity. “Minimalist and mid-century designers have always been inspired by the design culture of Japan, so the cross between Scandinavian and Japanese design is rooted in a storied tradition. Today, in the Japandi style, we see more of a fusion of these two aesthetics, which makes them feel like equal partners in the space,” observes Alessandra Wood, Vice President of Style, Modsy (Jessica Bennett, “Japandi Style Is the Laidback Home Trend We’ve Been Waiting For,” Better Homes and Gardens, January 05, 2021).

Grethe Wittrock Detail
The Second Cousin, Grethe Wittrock (Denmark) white paperyarn knotted on steelplate, 67” x 78.75”, 2006. Photo by Tom Grotta

Danish artist Grethe Wittrock’s work includes expanses of twisted paper strands in single colors — minimal and simple yet powerful expressions of what Finnish Designer Alvar Aalto called “the language of materials.” Wittrock observed the similar appreciation for minimalism firsthand when she traveled to Japan and studied with Japanese paper makers and renowned indigo dyer, Shihoko Fukomoto. “I started to uncover what Nordic sensibilities are by living abroad,” Wittrock says. “I lived in Kyoto, and saw an aesthetic in Japanese design similar to the Nordic tradition. You could say that there is an agreement that less is more. As they say in the Nordic countries ‘even less is even more.’”

Tamika Kawata
Tamika Kawata, Permutation 7, Japanese safety pins, canvas on a wood board, 32” x 29.5”, 2017. Photo by Tom Grotta

Japanese artists have made similar observations. Tamiko Kawata, born in Japan, but living in New York for many years, reports working as an artist/designer position with a prominent glass company in Tokyo after four years of sculpture composition, architectural drawing and photography courses at University. “In those years, I often discussed the affinities of Scandinavian craft works with my colleagues. ‘Why do we appreciate skilful craft works? How can we produce them with a similar approach to understanding the skills in handicrafts and understanding the natural materials and the appreciation for simplicity that we share ?’” Kawata’s very first design, a set of crystal glass bowls, were exhibited with Scandinavian works in the SEIBU department store in Tokyo in 1959. They were purchased by Swedish artist/designer Stig Lindbergh who pronounced them the “most original glass designs in Japan.” It was so thrilling to me,” she says. “I was just 23 years old.” 

Gudrun Pagter detail
Detail of Gudrun Pagter’s http://www.browngrotta.com/Pages/pagter.php Thin Green Horizon, sisal, linen and flax, 45.5” x 55.5”, 2017. Photo by Tom Grotta

Gudrun Pagter is another Danish artist whose abstract works in primary colors reflect the modernism for which Scandinavia is known. “From the exotic and foreign land we find an aesthetically common understanding of a minimalist idiom,” Pagter says, “an understanding of the core of a composition — that is, cutting off everything ‘unnecessary.'” Pagter expresses this minimalist idiom in her work. In Thin, Green Horizon, her composition expresses a form of landscape. It might be the horizon between heaven and sea, or between heaven and earth, she says. In any case, the framed field shifts the horizontal line. There is a shade of difference between the two blue colors, the blue is slightly lighter in the framed field. 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. Pagter notes, “My old weaving teacher at the School of Design, said 40 years ago, ‘you have to be brave to express oneself simply, as a minimalist’ … I’m brave enough now, maybe!!”  

Kay Sekimachi weavings
Lines 2017, 10 Lines, 11 Lines, 17 Lines, 25 Squares, Kay Sekimachi linen, polyester warp, permanent marker, 13.5” x 13.5”, 2017. Photo by Tom Grotta

A series of simple weavings by Kay Sekimachi, a Japanese-American artist who lives in California, is a testament to restraint. Her spare markings on handwoven fabrics reference the paintings of Paul Klee and Agnes Martin .”Order is fundamental,” to the Japanese approach, observes Hema Interiors in its style blog, “but it’s an order based on balance, fleeing from symmetry and overly controlled spaces. The decorative elements are important to give personal brushstrokes to the spaces, always resorting to simple and organic elements”  (“Wabi Sabi Interiors,” Comparar Estilios de Decoración, Hema Interiors).

Join us at Japandi: shared aesthetics and influences to see more examples of ways these elements are exchanged and expressed. The exhibition features 39 artists from Japan, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark. The hours of exhibtion are: Opening and Artist Reception: Saturday, September 25th: 11 to 6; Sunday, September 26th: 11 to 6; Monday, September 27th through Saturday October 2nd: 10 to 5; Sunday, October 3rd: 11 to 6; Advanced time reservations are mandatory; Appropriate Covid protocols will be followed. There will be a full-color catalog prepared for the exhibition available at browngrotta.com on September 24th.


Lives well lived: Sandra Grotta

Sandra Grotta at her 80th birthday party. Jewelry by David Watkins, Gerd Rothmann and Eva Eisler. Photo by Tom Grotta

browngrotta arts is devasted by the loss of Sandra Grotta, our extraordinary collector and patron and mother and grandmother. Sandy and her husband Lou have been pivotal in the growth of browngrotta arts through their advice and unerring support. Sandy graduated from the University of Michigan and the New York School of Interior Design. For four decades, she provided interior design assistance to dozens of clients — many through more than one home and office. She encouraged them to live with craft art, as she and Lou had done, placing works by Toshiko Takezu, Mariette Rousseau-Vermette, Helena Hernmarck, Gyöngy Laky, Markku Kosonen, Mary Merkel-Hess and many other artists in her clients’ homes. Among her greatest design talents was persuading people to de-accession pieces they had inherited, but never loved, to make way for art and furnishings that provided them joy. Sandy was a uniquely confident collector and she shared that conviction with her clients.  

Her own collecting journey began in the late 1950s, when she and Lou first stepped into the Museum of Contemporary Crafts in New York City after a visit to the Museum of Modern Art. “The Museum’s exhibitions, many of whose objects were for sale in its store, caused a case of love at first sight. It quickly became a founding source of many craft purchases to follow,” Sandy told Patricia Malarcher in 1982 (“Crafts,” The New York Times, Patricia Malarcher, October 24, 1982). It was a walnut table ”with heart” on view at MoCC that would irrevocably alter the collectors’ approach. The table was by Joyce and Edgar Anderson, also from New Jersey. The Grottas sought the artists out and commissioned the first of many works commissioned and acquired throughout the artists’ lifetimes, including a roll-top desk, maple server and a sofa-and-table unit that now live in browngrotta arts’ gallery space. She followed the advice she would give to others:  “When we saw the Andersons’ woodwork,” Sandy remembered, “we knew everything else had to go,” Sandy told Glenn Adamson. From the success of that first commission, the Grottas’ art exploration path was set. The Andersons introduced the Grottas to their friends, ceramists Toshiko Takaezu and William Wyman. “The Andersons were our bridge to other major makers in what we believe to have been the golden age of contemporary craft,” Sandy said, “and the impetus to my becoming our decorator.”  

Sandra Grotta in her Maplewood, NJ living room
Sandra Grotta in her Maplewood, NJ living room surrounded by works by Mariette Rousseau-Vermette, Peter Vouklos, William Wyman, Toshiko Takaezu, Rudy Autio, Joyce and Edgar Anderson and Charle Loloma. Photo by Tom Grotta

When Objects USA: the Johnson Wax Collection, opened in New York in 1972 at MoCC, by then renamed the American Craft Museum, the Grottas began discovering work further afield. ”Objects USA was my Bible,” Sandy told Malarcher describing how she would search out artists, ceramists, woodworkers and jewelers. A trip to Ariel, Washington, led the Grottas to commission an eight-foot-tall Kwakiutl totem pole for the front hall by Chief Don Lelooska. Sandy ordered a bracelet by Charles Loloma from a picture in a magazine. ”I always got a little nervous when the packages came, but I’ve never been disappointed,” Sandy told Malarcher. ”Craftsmen are a special breed.” Toshiko Takaezu, as an example, would require interested collectors like the Grottas to come by her studio in Princeton, NJ, a few times first to “interview” before she’d permit them to acquire special works. It took 15 years and several studio visits each year for the Grottas to convince the artist to part with the “moon pot” that anchors their formidable Takaezu collection. Jewelers Wendy Ramshaw and David Watkins in the UK also became dear friends as Sandy developed a world-class jewelry collection. At one point, in a relationship that included weekly transatlantic calls, Sandy told Wendy she needed “everyday earrings.” Wendy responded with earrings for every day – seven pairs in fact. “For me, the surprise was that they found me,” says John McQueen. “I lived in Western New York state far from the hubbub of the art world.” McQueen says that he discovered they the Grotta’s were completely open to any new aesthetic experience. “from that moment, we established a strong connection, that has led to a rapport that has continued through the years – a close personal and professional relationship.”

Sandy Grotta's bust by Norma Minkowitz
Norma Minkowitz’s portrait of Sandy Grotta sourounded by artwork’s by Alexander Lichtveld, Bodil Manz, Lenore Tawney, Ann Hollandale, Kay Sekimachi, Ed Rossbach, Toshiko Takaezu, Laurie Hall. Photo by Tom Grotta

Their accumulation of objects has grown to include more that 300 works of art and pieces of jewelry by dozens of artists, and with their Richard Meier home, has been the subject of two books. The most recent, The Grotta Home by Richard Meier: A Marriage of Architecture and Craft, was photographed and designed by Tom Grotta of bga. They don’t consider themselves collectors in the traditional sense, content to exhibit art on just walls and surfaces. Sandy and Lou’s efforts were aimed at creating a home. They filled every aspect of their lives with handcrafted objects from silver- and tableware to teapots to clothing to studio jewelry and commissioned pillows, throws and canes, a direction she also recommended for her interior design clients. The result, writes Glenn Adamson in The Grotta Home,”is a home that is at once totally livable and deeply aesthetic.” Among the additional artists whose work the Grottas acquired for their home were wood worker Thomas Hucker, textile and fiber artists Sheila Hicks, Lenore Tawney and Norma Minkowitz, ceramists Peter Voulkos, Ken Ferguson and William Wyman and jewelers Gijs Bakker, Giampaolo Babetto, Axel Russmeyer and Eva Eisler. They have traveled to Japan, the UK, Czechoslovakia, Germany and across the US to view art and architecture and meet with artists.

Perhaps their most ambitious commission was the Grotta House, by Richard Meier. Designed to house and highlight craft and completed in 1989, it is a source of constant delight for the couple, with its shifting light, showcased views of woodlands and wildlife and engaging spaces for object installation. The Grottas were far more collaborative clients than is typical for Meier. “From our very first discussions,” Meier has written,”it was clear that their vast collection of craft objects and Sandy’s extensive experience as an interior designer would be an important in the design of the house.“ The sensitivity with which the collection was integrated into Meier’s design produced “an enduring harmony between an ever-changing set of objects and they space they occupy.” The unique synergy between objects and architecture is evident decades later, even as the collection has evolved.  Despite his “distinct — and ornament-free — visual language, Meier created a building that lets decorative objects take a leading role on the architectural stage,” notes Osman Can Yerebakan in Introspective magazine (“Tour a Richard Meier–Designed House That Celebrates American Craft,” Osman Can Yerebakan, Introspective, February 23, 2020). The house project had an unexpected benefit — a professional partnership between Sandy and Grotta House project manager, David Ling, that would result in memorable art exhibition and living spaces designed for the homes and offices of many of Sandy’s design clients.

Sandy and Lou became patrons of the American Craft Museum in 1970s. As a member of the Associates committee she organized several annual fundraisers for the Museum, including Art for the Table, E.A.T. at McDonald’s and Art to Wear, sometimes with her close friend, Jack Lenor Larsen, another assured acquirer, as co-chair. At the openings, she would sport an artist-made piece of jewelry or clothing, sometimes both, and often it was an item that arrived or was finished literally hours before the event. “I wear all my jewelry,” she told Metalsmith Magazine in 1991 (Donald Freundlich and Judith Miller, “The State of Metalsmithing and Jewelry,” Metalsmith Magazine, Fall 1991) “I love to go to a party where everyone is wearing pearls and show up in a wild necklace …. I have a house brooch by Künzli – a big red house that you wear on your shoulder. I can go to a party in a wild paper necklace and feel as good about it as someone else does in diamonds.” Sandy served on the Board of the by-then-renamed Museum of Arts and Design, stepping down in 2019. 

Portrait of Sandy Grotta
Sandra Grotta Portrait in Florida Apartment in front of sculptures by Dawn MacNutt and a tapestry by Jun Tomita

From its inception, Sandy served as a trusted advisor, cheerleader and cherished client to browngrotta arts. She introduced us to artists, to her design clients and Museum colleagues. Questions of aesthetic judgment — are there too many works in this display? too much color? does this work feel unfinished? imitative? decorative? — were presented to her for review. (She was unerring on etiquette disputes, too.) The debt we owe her is enormous; the void she leaves is large indeed. We can only say thank you, we love you and your gifts will live on.

You can learn more about Sandy’s life and legacy on The Grotta House website: https://grottahouse.com and in the book, The Grotta Home by Richard Meier: A Marriage of Architecture and Craft available from browngrotta at: https://store.browngrotta.com/the-grotta-home-by-richard-meier-a-marriage-of-architecture-and-craft/.

The family appreciates memorial contributions to the Sandra and Louis Grotta Foundation, Inc., online at https://joingenerous.com/louis-and-sandra-grotta-foundation-inc-r5yelcd or by mail to The Louis and Sandra Grotta Foundation, Inc., P.O. Box 766, New Vernon, NJ 07976-0000.


Acquisition News – Part II, Abroad

More on museum acquisitions of works by artists from browngrotta arts in the last two years. We have 18 works to report on that have been acquired by institutions outside the US — from Norway to Lithuania to Italy to Japan and places in between.

Heidrun Schimmel
One of two works that comprise Hanging by a thread IV, handstitched by Heidrun Schimmel, 1986-1987, acquired in 2021 by the Diocesan Museum in Bamberg, Germany. Photo by: Monika Meinhart.

Heidrun Schimmel

Seven works by Heidrun Schimmel have been acquired since 2020. Two by the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen in Dresden, two by Museum of Applied Art, Frankfurt and three by the Diocesan Musuem in Bamberg.

Kyoko Kumai
Furious Anger by Kyoko Kumai acquired by the Janina Monkute-Marks Art Museum in Kedainai, Lithuania. Photo by Takashi Hatakeyama

Kyoko Kumai

One work by Kyoko Kumai was acquired by the Angers Museums in Angers, France (Jean-Lurçat and the Museum of Contemporary Tapestry) and another by the Janina Monkute-Marks Art Museum in Kedainai, Lithuania.

Carolina Yrarrázaval
Medioevo, jute and linen, Carolina Yrarrázaval. One of two tapestries acquired by the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Kyoto. Photo by Patricia Novoa.

Carolina Yrarrázaval

Two tapestries were selected on May of this year at Yrarrázaval’s exhibition in Kyoto by the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Kyoto.

Åse Ljones

Åse Ljones

Åse Ljones‘ work, Atterskin, was purchased by Nordenfjeldske Art and Craft Museum in Trondheim , Norway in 2020 and Mylder was purchased The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design in Oslo, March 2021. 

Federica Luzzi
Federica Luzzi’s work acquired by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Salerno, Italy. Photo by Federica Luzzi.

Federica Luzzi

An encased textile, Shell-Omaggio a Costanino Dardi, by Federica Luzzi was acquired by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Salerno, Italy for a collection curated by Fondazione Filiberto e Bianca Menna – Centro Studi D’Arte Contemporanea.

The textile object is suspended and anchored with nylon thread in a plexiglass box. Like a seed, with an aerodynamic shape that is structured for long movements and transport, it is closed in a box that prevents its natural and complete movement, it is trapped in it. “This work was done just before the outbreak of the pandemic,” Luzzi says. “So without knowing what would happen, but continuing my research on envelopes, I visualized even better the containment condition of a body.”

Simone Pheulpin
Eclosion Epingles by Simone Pheulpin, photo courtesy of Galerie Maison Parisienne.

Simone Pheulpin

Two artworks by Simone Pheulpin have been acquired by the Musée des Arts Décoratifs i(MAD) inn Paris in December 2019: Jéromine, Série Eclipse (2019); Eclosion Epingles (2019). Another, Détail VII (2021), will be acquired by the same museum in 2021. The acquisitions were organized by the Galerie Maison Parisienne in Paris.

Wlodzimierz Cygan
Organic by Wlodzimierz Cygan, acquired by TAMAT in Brussels, Belgium. Photo by This Way Design.

Wlodzimierz Cygan

In 2021, Organic (2018) by Wlodzimierz Cygan was acquired by the Musée de la Tapisserie et des Arts Textiles de la Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles (TAMAT) in Tournai, Belgium.


Acquisition News – Part I, US

We last reported on museum acquisitions of works by artists from browngrotta arts in 2019. There has been continued interest in acquiring work by these artists in the two years since by museums and art programs in the US and abroad. browngrotta arts has placed several works and acquisitions have occurred through the efforts of other galleries, artists and donors. As a result, we have a long list of aquisitions to report. In this, Part I, acquisitions in the Untied States:

Polly Adams Sutton
Polly Adams Sutton, Facing the Unexpected, 2013. Photo by Tom Grotta

Polly Adams Sutton

Polly Adams Sutton’s work Facing the Unexpected has been acquired by the Smithsonian American Art Musuem. It’s going to be part of the Renwick’s 50th anniversary exhibition in 2022.

Norma Minkowitz
Norma Minkowitz’s, Goodbye My Friend, 2017. Photo by Tom Grotta

Norma Minkowitz

Goodbye My Friend by Norma Minkowitz was gifted to the Renwick, Smithsonian American Art Museum, in memory of noted fiber art collector, Camille Cook.

Kiyomi Iwata
Kiyomi Iwata’s Red Aperture, 2009 and Fungus Three, 2018. Photos By Tom Grotta

Kiyomi Iwata 

Two works, Red Aperture and Fungus Three by Kiyomi Iwata were acquired by The Warehouse, MKE in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Two works by Iwata, Grey Orchid Fold V made in 1988, and Auric Grid Fold made in 1995 were donated to the Philadelphia Art Museum.

Adela Akers
Adela Akers, Traced Memories, 2007. Photo by Tom Grotta

Adela Akers

Adela Akers‘ work, Traced Memories from 2007 was acquired by the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco, California in 2020.

Dawn MacNutt
Dawn MacNutt’s, Larger Than Life, 2021.

Dawn MacNutt  

Dawn MacNutt’s 9 foot-high willow sculpture, Larger Than Life, was acquired by Longhouse Reserve in East Hampton, New York in 2021.

Naoko Serino
Naoko Serino’s Existing-2-D, 2017 and Generating Mutsuki, 2021. Photos by Tom Grotta

Naoko Serino

Two works by Naoko SerinoGenerating Mutsuki and Existing 2-D, were acquired by The Warehouse, MKE in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Ferne Jacobs

A work by Ferne JacobsSlipper, made in 1994, was donated to the Philadelphia Art Museum. Another, Centric Spaces, from 2000, was donated to Houston Museum of Fine Art.

Presence Absence Tunnel Four, 1990, by Lia Cook

Lia Cook

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) purchased Presence Absence Tunnel Four, 1990, by Lia Cook, in 2019.

Gyöngy Laky
Gyöngy Laky’s, Noise at Noon, 1996. Photo by Gyöngy Laky

Gyöngy Laky   

The Oakland Museum of California in California acquired Noise at Noon by Gyöngy Laky this year. In 2019, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California Historical Society, added That Word to its collection and the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, California, added Ex Claim!  The Art in Embassies program of the US Department of State, acquired Seek, for the US embassy in Pristina, Kosovo.

Congratulations to the artists and acquiring organizations!


An Artist Evolves: Lia Cook’s Five Bodies of Work

Lia Cook is a relentless innovator who has been involved in textile experimentation since her graduate and undergraduate work in Arts and Design at the University of California, Berkeley in the 1970s. 

While Cook has created varied bodies of work in her storied career, her explorations have a consistent theme. They all involve the experience of touch, the sensation of the body and the physicality of cloth. “Cook’s work defies the ‘ocular-centricity’ of Western art by overturning the hierarchy of the senses and repositioning the sense of touch in the foreground. While the work is never handled in the gallery or museum, the sense of touch is so fully activated that the experience of the work is startlingly touch-sensory,” writes Deborah Valoma, in Lia Cook: In the Folds — Works from 1973 – 1997

Space Dyed Weaving
48lc Space-Dyed Weaving II, Lia Cook, rayon, cotton; woven, 72″ x 33″, 1975

Cook’s early work aimed to envelop the viewer in monumental cloth. “The work was imposing, strident and typically employed magnified imagery of weave patterns as the subject,” writes Valoma, “depicting both in realization and representation the structural realities of weaving.” Space-Dyed Weaving-2, created in 1975, is an example of work from this period. So is Spatial Ikat III-2, the prize for the winner of our Art for a Cause 2021 sweepstakes with UncommonGood (uncommongood.io.), which continues through July 31st.

Through the Curtain in 5 Scenes Transposed
13lc Through the Curtain in 5 Scenes Transposed, Lia Cook dyes on rayon; woven, 5’ x 18.5’, 1986

In the 1980s, cook turned her attention to textile structures — curtains, pockets and crazy quilts. Through the Curtain in 5 Scenes Transposed, which hints at curtains on a stage, is from this period. In the 1990s, Cook created works that took inspiration from images of fabric painted during the Renaissance, when images of drapery were an essential part of a painter’s training.  

Material Pleasures: Leonard I
8lc Material Pleasures: Leonard I, Lia Cook acrylic on linen, dyes on rayon; woven, 53” x 77”, 1993

As Valoma describes, in works like Material Pleasures, created in 1993, Cook painted the imagery of draped fabrics on linen or abaca with acrylics or oil paints. The canvases were finely stripped and inserted as weft into hand-painted warps and woven on a 32-harness loom, purposefully defying conventional definitions.

Big Susan
43lc Big Susan, Lia Cook, woven cotton, 168” x 48”, 2005

In the mid-90s, after two artists-in-residencies, one in Italy and one in Germany, Cook’s work took yet another turn — focusing on the Jacquard loom and incorporating photography, to create works that were narrative and personal. This body of works was featured in The Embedded Portrait, her solo exhibition at the University of Wyoming Art Gallery in 2009.

In 2010, Cook’s shifts again. As an artist-in-residence at the University’of Pittsburgh’s TREND program (Transdisciplinary Research in Emotion, Neuroscience and Development, Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine), Cook was able to compare the emotional responses of viewers to actual photographs and to her weavings of photo images “I wanted to explore the nature of people’s emotional connection to woven faces,” she explains. “I thought that the material and structural aspects of the textile, the physical evidence of the hand and the memories associated with these tactile experiences might intensify the reactions. Something about the textile engenders embodied emotional response beyond that of the two–dimensional photo.”

Neural Networks
23lc Neural Networks, Lia Cook woven cotton and rayon, 83″ x 51″ x 1.5″, 2011

To test her hypothesis, Cook, in collaboration with scientists at TREND tried several approaches. Cook and the scientists could see noticeable differences in individual images from MRI data and in records of electrical brain activity from EEGs when volunteers compared flat and woven images. She underwent this MRI imaging on herself and then, using software from MGH/Harvard, Biomedical Imaging Lab, she manipulated the images for a series of weavings that combine faces and images of brain fibers, as you can see in Neural Networks, 2011.

Cook’s experiments in neuroaesthetics continue — and as always, she makes adjustments and changes her gaze to produce something new. Recently, she has merged three fibers into her imagery — neural fibers, plant fibers and the parallel lines that she used in the 1970s. “Art and science are more similar in their process than many people think,” says Cook. “Each requires starting with a question, being curious, discovering something new, being willing to take the answers or lack of answers — good or bad — and building on that for the future.” 

Keep watching, as this remarkable artist continues to experiment, innovate and create remarkable work.


Craft is Now an Art Market Force: Just 3 Weeks to Win a Lia Cook of Your Own

Lia Cook Spatial details
Details of Spatial Ikat III_1976; Spatial Ikat III-2, 1976; Space-Dyed-Weaving-2, 1975

Craft is now an “art market force,” according to the art platform Artsy, “How Craft Became an Art Market Force,” Benjamin Sutton, February 10, 2021. “The boundaries separating painting, ceramics, weaving, drawing, glassblowing, printmaking, and other processes and practices are now porous if not completely antiquated. This is plainly clear from visiting most major art museums where, increasingly, textiles share wall space with abstract paintings and glass, and clay sculptures sit on plinths alongside bronzes.”

The Ceramic Presence in Modern Art: Selections from the Linda Leonard Schlenger Collection at the Yale Art Gallery in 2016 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CuNAdtbxRPw) provided an early exhibition example of impactful intermixing of media. The exhibition featured over 80 objects from the Schlenger collection by leading 20th-century ceramicists—including Toshiko Takezu, Ruth Duckworth, Kenneth Price, Lucie Rie, and Peter Voulkos—alongside works in other media from the Yale University Art Gallery’s permanent collection by artists such as Hans Hofmann, Willem de Kooning, Isamu Noguchi, Mark Rothko, and Edward Ruscha. The Gallery recognized that, allthough critically lauded within the studio-craft movement, works by these ceramicists were only then coming to be recognized as integral to the wider field of contemporary art. This ecumenical approach is further illustrated in Making Knowing; Craft in Art 1950-2019  at the Whitney in New York (November 2019 until February of next year; https://whitney.org/exhibitions/making-knowing). The exhibition “foregrounds how visual artists have explored the materials, methods, and strategies of craft over the past seven decades. Some expand techniques with long histories, such as weaving, sewing, or pottery, while others experiment with textiles, thread, clay, beads, and glass, among other mediums.” It includes artists like Robert Raushenberg, Kiki Smith and Agnes Martin beside Robert Arneson, Sheila Hicks and Ron Nagle. Also exhibiting currently, Women in Abstraction, at the Pompidou Center through August 23rd (https://www.centrepompidou.fr/en/program/calendar/event/OmzSxFv) .Transcending the traditional reductionist hierarchies between high and low art, the exhibition presents a history that includes dance, the decorative arts, photography and cinema and artists that include Ruth Asawa, Barbara Hepworth and Lenore Tawney. 

Fiber art has played a major part in this surge of interest and now through July 31st, you can be a part of this emerging trend. Enter the UncommonGood sweepstakes for an important Lia Cook tapestry. You’ll promote her work, fiber arts and the Breast Cancer Alliance in the process, and just maybe, add a remarkable work to your your personal collection.

Installation view of Making Knowing: Craft in Art
Installation view of Making Knowing: Craft in Art, 1950–2019 (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, November 22, 2019–January 2021). From left to right: Peter Voulkos, Red River, c. 1960; Robert Rauschenberg, Yoicks, 1954; Ruth Asawa, Untitled (S.270, Hanging Six-Lobed, Complex Interlocking Continuous Form within a Form with Two Interior Spheres), 1955, refabricated 1957-58. Photograph by Ron Amstutz.

Spatial Ikat III-2, woven by Lia Cook in 1976 during a formative period for fiber art, will be the prize in a sweepstakes organized by UncommonGood, along with a $7,500 prize, a Zoom call with the artist and a copy of the catalog: Lia Cook: In the Folds – Works from 1973 – 1997. The tapestry was donated by browngrotta arts in Wilton, Connecticut, as the latest of its Art for a Cause projects. The proceeds from the sweepstakes will go to the Breast Council Alliance.

Lia Cook works in a variety of media combining weaving with painting, photography, video and digital technology. Her current practice explores the sensuality of the woven image and the emotional connections to memories of touch and cloth. Long recognized as an innovator, Cook’s work has been featured in dozens of group and solo exhibitions worldwide. Her work is found in dozens of museum collections, including that of the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

In Spatial Ikat III-2 Cook aimed to envelop the viewer in a work that was imposing and strident. She perfected the technique used in this work over a period of years. Distorting a plain weave with strenuous physical intervention, the lines undulate and create a topographical terrain, creating the illusion of massive threads moving over and under one another.

Spatial Ikat III-2
Spatial Ikat III-2 by Lia Cook

Donating to win this important tapestry, aids the Breast Cancer Alliance. BCA funds innovative research, breast surgery fellowships, regional education, dignified support and screening for the underserved. 

Enter the sweepstakes here: https://uncommongood.iohttps://uncommongood.io/sweepstakes/win-a-lia-cook-art-piece-valued-at-35000-and-7500-in-cash


Process Notes: On Making Variant by Gyöngy Laky – Material

Gyöngy Laky tells us more about the making of her recent work, Variant. Specifically she answers, Why golf tees?

Detail: Variant by Gyöngy Laky
Detail: Variant, ash, huge ripstixx Mustang Red, 30” x 20” x 4” 2021. Photo by Tom Grotta

“My current interest in use of golf tees in my sculptures arose during the Trump presidency.  He had criticized President Obama for spending time playing golf. Trump, however, spent much more time on the golf course than Obama had – another of Trump’s hypocrisies. Golf tees became emblematic representation of Trump for me, as were his ubiquitous red neckties.  I searched for red golf tees to suggest a connection to Trump in some of my artwork.  

Golf Tease by Gyöngy Laky
Golf Tease, wooden, red golf tees, 16” x 25” x 2” , 2019. Photo by Gyöngy Laky

Having been glued to the news during all of 2020, by the beginning of 2021, I was convinced that the pandemic in the U.S. could have been far less damaging and deadly had Trump not dismantled the government’s infectious disease unit, undermined the CDC, pulled out of the WHO.  If early in 2020 Americans had been urged to wear masks numerous deaths and illnesses could have been avoided.  A number of experts believe that 80-85% mask wearing during the first few weeks/months of the appearance of the virus would have avoided the pandemic levels in the U.S. and saved many lives. The virus would not have had a field day to grow and spread in millions of noses.  I felt a strong urge to create an artwork that addressed the virus and its association with Trump’s trivializing of the danger of Covid-19.  

Fifth Avenue 1/23/16 by Gyöngy Laky
Fifth Avenue 1/23/16, AK-T Tequila MX bottle, golf tees, golf ball, 23″ x 9.5″ x 3.75”, 2019. Photo by Gyöngy Laky

The golf tees heads looked like the graphic representations of the virus in the daily news. I had used golf tees in my art work, but I had never used them as a structuring element.  As I handled the golf tees I realized that they were much like pins or nails or toothpicks (another small wooden wonder) or could even provide the kind of joining that the screws I use to structure sculptures did. The ones I found are 3 1/4″ HUGE Ripstixx Mustang Red extra long. 

Variant by Gyöngy Laky
Variant, ash, huge ripstixx Mustang Red 30” x 20” x 4”, 2021, Photo by Tom Grotta

Had it not been for the virus I would not have discovered how effective and beautiful golf tee connectors could be.  Not only do the tees hint to Trump, using twigs connects to nature and the climate crisis’s role in the pandemic as well.  Painting the branches white suggests bones – a nod to the avoidable deaths of so many.”


Women Artists Get Their Due: Learning About Lia Cook

Women didn’t win the vote until 1920. It took another 100 more years, but in the last few, women artists have finally begun to win the comprehensive, worldwide recognition they long deserved. Exhibitions like Women Take the Floor, at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Anni Albers and Dora Maar at the Tate Modern in London, Sheila Hicks at the Centre Pompidou and A Tale of Two Women Painters: Sofonisba Anguissola and Lavinia Fontana at the Prado in Spain are just some of the ways female artists are getting their due. 

Bamian by Sheila Hicks (American (lives and works in Paris) 1968, Wool and acrylic yarns, wrapped. Charles Potter Kling Fund and partial gift of Sheila Hicks © Sheila Hicks * Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Bethany CT. © 2018 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACS, London. Photography: Tim Nighswander/Imaging4Art

Lia Cook is one of those artists. Receiving critical acclaim from the onset of her career, innovating, experimenting and creating art for nearly five decades, Cook’s recent work in neuroaesthetics in the last decade has gained her a broader audience.  Since the 70s, Cook’s work has promoted a reconsideration of weaving, long-considered women’s work and thus inferior to high or fine art. While pursuing a Master’s degree in Art at UC Berkeley, she joined a group of progressive women in forming Fiberworks Center for Textile Arts. Just out of graduate school, she was issued an invitation to the prestigious Lausanne Biennial in 1973, where she exhibited with fiber art pioneers Magdalena Abakanowicz and Sheila Hicks. Viewers of Cook’s work find craft/fine art distinctions superfluous — a view that has finally taken hold in the art world at large.

space-continuum-1-portrait , Continuum I, exhibited at the 1973 International Biennial of Tapestry, Lausanne, Switzerland

Through July 31st, you have the chance to win an important work from Cook’s early explorations, Spatial Ikat III -2 (1976). The tapestry is a prize in a sweepstakes organized by UncommonGood, a B-corp that helps nonprofits of all sizes expand their reach and do even more good. The sweepstakes prize includes a $7500 prize, a 20-minute Zoom call with the artist and a copy of Lia Cook: In the Folds – Works from 1973 – 1997 (browngrotta arts, Wilton, CT 2007). The tapestry was donated by browngrotta arts as the latest of our Art for a Cause projects; the cash prize is from UncommonGood. The proceeds from the sweepstakes will go to the Breast Council Alliance https://breastcanceralliance.org which funds innovative research, breast surgery fellowships, regional education, dignified support and screening for the underserved. 

browngrotta arts is thrilled to partner with UncommonGood and Breast Cancer Alliance in this sweepstakes. UncommonGood provides comprehensive software solutions for nonprofit organizations. With these tools, groups like the Breast Cancer Alliance can engage more donors and amplify their reach.

This sweepstakes presents an opportunity to create a new fans for Lia Cook’s work while benefiting a worthy cause in the process. A winning combination!

To enter the sweepstakes: https://uncommongood.io


Artist Focus: Carolina Yrarrázaval

Carolina Yrarrázaval portrait
Carolina Yrarrázaval portrait by Tom Grotta

Strength and refinement are words used by those who review or just experience Carolina Yrarrázaval’s elegant tapestries. For a 2003 solo exhibition at the Chilean Museum of Fine Art in Santiago, Sheila Hicks wrote of her works: “Somber steps/weaving dignity/without digression/relentless ascent/rigorous denial/without shame.” Yrarrázaval’s work features a formal and chromatic purity, achieved through the use of colors achieved through a personal dyeing process.

Tapestries by Carolina Yrarrázaval
Tapestries by Carolina Yrarrázaval. Photo by Tom Grotta

There are multiple influences reflected in Yrarrázaval’s work. A solo exhibition, Capas de Recuerdos, at the Centro Cultural Las Condes in 2019, was entitled Layer of Memories, reflecting the layers of weaving, years of research and volumes of textures that feature in her work. Yrarrázaval draws on different manifestations and cultures, from pre-Hispanic geometry to the subtlety and mystery of Japanese textiles. 

Detail of  Memoria Andina
Detail of Memoria Andina, Carolina Yrarrázaval, linen and cotton, 54.25″ x 25.25″, 2019. Photo by Tom Grotta

For example, she lives on the Chilean coast and that environment infuses her work, which features blue greens, wavy lines and iridescent threads that reflect the colors of the beach and lines of the ocean and the horizon. She has traveled to India and Japan and cites costumes she saw there as another influence, evident in deep reds and indigos. She works in linen, jute, cotton, silk, raffia and hemp.

Amazonas, Carolina Yrarrázaval
17jy Amazonas, Carolina Yrarrázaval, yute, jute, raffia and silk, 35.5” x 39.25”, 2017. Photo by Tom Grotta

Traditional textiles are still another source of influence for Yrarrázaval. “Throughout my entire artistic career I have devoted myself to investigating traditional textile techniques from diverse cultures, especially Pre-Columbian techniques, trying to adapt them to my creative needs. Abstraction has always been present as an aesthetic aim, informing my choice of materials, forms, textures and colors. The simple proportions are guided by an intuitive sense that avoids the use of mathematical formulas.”