Category: artist

Creative Quarantining: Artist Check-in 2

Lia Cooks’ studio. Photo by Tom Grotta

Here’s part 2 in our series on how are artists are coping and creating in the time of COVID.

Last month, Lia Cook was interviewed by Carolyn Kipp in California in a Social Distancing Studio Visit blog (http://carolinekipp.com/social-distancing-studio-visits/2020/5/4/3-lia-cook-san-francisco-bay-area-ca). Lia agreed with Jo Barker who we mentioned last week, on artists’ relative comfort with contemplative time. “I do think that artists are used to knowing what to do with private time; how to keep engaged with the moment, experiment with new ideas,” she told Kipp.  “The good part of this experience is that it has given me more time to do what I feel like doing at the moment. I don’t have so much pressure to produce, i.e. finish a piece for an upcoming exhibition, ship it, or even paperwork.” Lia also told Kipp that, Right now, in my practice I am experimenting with new work. Moving from my focus on faces using neurological brain imagery to integrating the fiber connection I see in plants from my garden with the structural woven fibers of the brain. I am repurposing older work by reweaving the imagery back into the new work. Rediscovered work I wove as samples as part of my neurological emotional studies are now becoming material basis for new work.”

Selfie in PPE by Gyöngy Laky
Selfie in PPE by Gyöngy Laky

Bacteria-fighting tips came from Gyöngy Laky, also in California, who has been sharing her thoughts about art in these challenging times with the Shelter Chronicles and other blogs. “I wanted to tell you about something discovered along the way dealing with food in these virus times.  I put all boxes or bags of new food coming in on the landing up on floor 3.  Then I put soapy water in a large bowl or in the kitchen sink.  I wash everything! except for bread!,” says Gyöngy.   “I wash raspberries… super delicately!  I wash lettuce leaves, broccoli, onions, etc.  The trick is to rinse everything very carefully and thoroughly.  Then you need to let things dry on a towel for a bit.  To store berries, I put layers of paper towel between rows, one berry high, in a container and then in the fridge.  We just ate raspberries 4 weeks old and in perfect shape (a few go by the way, but almost all are perfect after all that time). We have blueberries going on their 5th week and still fine!  (To last that long they need, of course, to be nice fresh berries to begin with, if possible.)  The lettuce I lay out on paper towels and then roll them up gently and put them in a plastic bag.  Some heads of lettuce, especially little gems and cabbage, I do not take apart, but rinse well.  They are often so firmly closed that it’s easy to rinse the soap away.  I then roll them in paper towels and put them in a plastic bag in the fridge and, again, they can last 3-4 weeks.”

Gyöngy has a theory about why this works, hypothesizing that washing with soapy water removes a lot of various bacteria that normally leads to spoilage.  “You’ll be amazed how dirty the water gets!” she writes. “Disinfectants are tricky because some of them have to be on the surface of what you are cleaning for some minutes and then wiped off.  Some directions say… clean surface first!  Not good.  We handle mail and then wash our hands thoroughly.  Any things questionable we leave for 10-14 days untouched and assume they are ‘clean’ by then.”

Rachel Max, work in progress, photo by Rachel Max

Rachel Max reports from the UK, “Never have I been more grateful to focus on making than in these difficult times. It has kept me going and I am relishing the time this has given me without other commitments getting in the way. Admittedly I’ve struggled to concentrate, but I have been spending long hours each day working on a new piece for an exhibition which Tim Johnson is organizing in Spain.” Here are images of work in progress. “I’m glad for the focus,” she says, “and I can’t believe how quickly the days are whizzing by.”

Also in the UK, Laura Bacon has been creating — literally — having welcomed a baby boy in May. “It was a bit stressful awaiting the arrival of my baby in the middle of the pandemic,”she writes, “but everything went smoothly in the end. I have my hands happily full with my lovely little boy, and also two-and-a-half-year old little girl. She is keeping me busy, too, as she’s not in nursery in the way that she was before the virus, so for now, I only have time for them.”

Stay Safe, Stay Separate, Stay Inspired!


Creative Quarantining: Artist Check-in 1

Blair tate masks
Rhonda and Tom model their masks by Blair Tate. Photo by Carter Grotta.

Jo Barker wrote us earlier this spring, “The creative community is well set for these isolating few months as we work in that way so much anyway.” Spurred by her remarks, last month, Rhonda and Tom sent a photo of themselves in masks made by Blair Tate asking our artists for specifics: “How have you coped with social distancing, sheltering in place and all the other changes brought on worldwide by COVID 19?” Here is the first in a series of their replies:

Scott Rothstein and his wife left Europe on one of the last flights out and it was packed.After that exposure, each had mild cases of what they think was the virus, but after that,”[i]n an almost surreal way, my days are not much different than before… just spending time in my studio.” His soundtrack of the pandemic is something that was posted at about the same time that we all started staying in — a solo piano concert by the Latvian pianist Vestard Shimkus. https://bit.ly/2YTzrRt Vestard is a friend of Scott’s who he rates one of the best youngish pianists playing today. The music “does take the listener out of this world and into another… which is a pretty nice things these days.”

Carolina photo
Materials from Isla Negra, Chile. Photo by Carolina Yrárrazaval.

“With the Coronavirus, I have found myself working from home in Isla Negra,” writes Carolina Yrrázaval from Chile. “It is a little town by the sea. It is impossible to find the material I need here to continue with the weaving that I had started. Due to this, I began to look for new creative possibilities in my natural surroundings. Wandering amongst the rocks with my dog, Laika, we came across this plant that reminded me of pre-Columbian combs. It has been an interesting project that is still in progress.”

Masks by blair tate
Indian dupatta-cloth masks by Blair Tate. Photo by Blair Tate.

“All still healthy in the epicenter…” wrote Blair Tate from Brooklyn, New York in April. “Just finished sewing my 20th shaped cloth mask for neighbors and friends. They’ve been scattered to the winds at this point. Have 72 of the pleated kind cut and awaiting elastic (en route from Japan for last 2 weeks) so I can sew for a care center nearby.” Blair sent us two – made from pre-washed/pre-shrunk cotton Indian dupatta scraps. Inside lining is cotton face out with poly back (Welspun sheet fabric from many market developments ago) so quick dry. and a sleeve for the nose wire to let the wearer to pinch the wire to grip when wearing.  

Stay Safe, Stay Separate, Stay Inspired!


Annette Bellamy

Artist Focus: Annette Bellamy’s remote lifestyle inspires creativity and advice from Julia Child

by Ryan Urcia and Kristina Ratliff

Solitude often breeds creativity, and while many artists come quickly to mind, like the reclusive Robert Indiana to the enigmatic Frida Kahlo, among many others, the “slow art” of Fiber Art and Modern Craft reveals the intricacy and time-intensive craftsmanship of the unique techniques and materials of the field.

Annette Bellamy Fishski detail, The Sea Within Us
Detail: The Sea Within Us, Annette Bellamy, 2017. Photo by Chris Arend

We would like to tell you more about one such artist, Seattle native Annette Bellamy, a commercial fisherwoman of over 40 years based in Halibut Cove, Alaska. When she is off the water, Bellamy works with clay and fish skin to create conceptual large-scale sculptural work and smaller ceramic forms. She references her time on the water, days in remote areas, and her travels.
 “Life on the water and life making art fuel each other. I value the physicality of both as well as the dependence upon my hands, the importance of timing, the work ethic and tools required, and the reflection afforded.”

Annette Bellamy long lining, hauling gear and there is a yellow eye rockfish on the dressing table. Photo by Alan Parks

At 21, then a student of urban planning and environmental issues at the University of Washington, Bellamy visited the remote fishing community of Homer, Alaska, for the summer of 1973, and never left. There, she met her future husband, a local fisherman, who taught her how to fish. Since then, they have been fishing commercially together during the summer months in their 34-foot wooden boat and in the long winter season, Bellamy spends her time in her studio to work on her craft.

“I think that is what a lot of people are missing. Undisturbed, uninterrupted time. A lot of darkness, a lot of introspection. I think I operate better in a remote area versus an urban area, and it has become a part of my life now,” Bellamy told the Portland Art Museum last year in conjunction with the multimedia exhibition, the map is not the territory.

Detail of Long Lines, 132 suspended Ceramic hooks by Annette Bellamy
Detail: Long Lines, Annette Bellamy,”, 2010. Photo by Tom Grotta

In 1976, she began studying ceramics at the local community college. Her sculpture, Long Lines, 2010, is a powerful artwork inspired by her time fishing in Alaska. It is composed of 132 handmade ceramic hooks suspended from 12 feet of twine. “Long Lines is about how we continue to catch a fish with a hook and line. It is about enduring work that continues to be a part of the human experience. Hooks are twisted and turned and others remain in their original circle shape. They hold a history of use and stories of the fish caught.” The kinetic aspect of the hanging work hints at the movement of the sea.

Fishskin by Annette Bellamy
Food Chain, Annette Bellamy, halibut, sablefish, salmon (including smoked salmon skins), 2017. Photo by Tom Grotta

Bellamy has spent years of fishing commercially in Alaska, long lining for halibut and gill netting and seining for salmon. Her fish skin patchworks reflect the variety of the catch, combining  halibut, sablefish, salmon –even smoked salmon skins.

“The commercial fishing industry is so different from the art community,” she told the Alaska Museum. “I have always loved the contrast and make a point of talking art with fishermen and fish with artists. Everything is interconnected in this world but we seem to build fences.”

Bellamy also loves to cook on board for the crew. She received a response from Julia Child to a letter she sent inquiring about the value of cooking school, explaining her work on the boat and desire to learn more about food preparation. A large installation titled Ode to Julia featured 70 kitchen-tool forms that covered an entire wall. These were made with found metal and clay. 

“The implements of cooking–a spoon, a turner, spatula–become invisible to our eyes even though we handle them every day. The series on kitchen tools was meant to honor the craft of cooking our own food,” she has said of the piece.

Annette Bellamy, Moving Mountains, stoneware, steel pins, and UV resistant lines, 10’ x 12’ . Portland Art Museum, Portland Oregon “ exhibition: The Map Is Not the Territory” Feb 9, 2019 – May 5, 2019, Chris Arend

Bellamy’s work has been exhibited in important museums including Anchorage Museum, Alaska (solo exhibition); Downey Museum of Art, California; New Bedford Museum of Art, Massachusetts; Alaska State Museum, Juneau (solo exhibition); Pratt Museum, Homer, Alaska (solo exhibition); Fuller Craft Museum, Brockton, Massachusetts (solo exhibition); Bunnell Street Art Center (solo exhibition), Homer, Alaska; University of Alaska, Soldotna; Anchorage Museum of History and Art, Alaska; Alaska Pacific University, Anchorage; Alaska Centennial Center for the Arts, Fairbanks; Burris Hall, Highland University, Las Vegas, New Mexico; Wayne Center for the Arts, Wooster, Ohio; Art and Architecture Gallery, Seattle, Washington (solo exhibition); Laband Gallery, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, California. For a full list visit browngrotta.com
Long Lines, will be on view at browngrotta arts forthcoming exhibition Volume 50: Chronicling Fiber Art for Three Decades now scheduled for September 12-22, at browngrotta arts in Wilton, CT. http://www.browngrotta.com/Pages/calendar.php
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Artist Focus: Gyöngy Laky

From City Tree Trimmings to Industrial Harvest, Artist Gyöngy Laky’s Textile Architecture Addresses Contemporary Environmental Issues

Kristina Ratliff and Ryan Urcia

Laky 1997 studio portrait in front of That Word. Photo by Tom Grotta
Portrait of Gyöngy Laky by Tom Grotta 1997. In the background, That Word.

While many artists work conceptually to inspire awareness and address issues of climate change, artists of Fiber Art and Modern Craft have a unique and inherently harmonious relationship with the environment, from their intimate use of natural materials to the fundamentally “slow art” process of hand craftsmanship. 

In terms of the materials they use, they most often come from the earth, from private garden cultivation and harvesting to regional sourcing of plant life – such as bamboo, willow and cedar, and their earthy “scraps” such as branches, grasses, bark and twigs – impress an intrinsic awareness of the origin of things. This, coupled with the preservation of age-old techniques such as weaving, knotting, tying and bundling, earn these creatives rightful acclaim as stewards at the interconnection of art and nature. 

Details of Gyöngy Laky's works
Left to right, top to bottom: Stain 2000, Shifting Currents 2011, Big Question 2007, Our Egg 2018, Cradle to Cradle 2007, Ec Claim! 2014, Occupy 2017, Alterations 2008, Dry Land Drifter 2010

San Francisco-based artist Gyöngy Laky (most people call her Ginge, with a soft “g”) is known for her sculptural vessels, typographical wall sculptures, and site-specific outdoor works composed of materials harvested from nature — such as wood gleaned from orchard pruning, park and garden trimmings, street trees and forests of California — and discarded objects she considers “industrial harvest” such as recycled materials and post-consumer bits from surplus such as screws, nails, telephone wire.

“These annually renewable linear elements are regarded as discards,” Laky notes. “In my studio practice, however, they are employed as excellent and hardy materials.

Gyöngy Laky studio detail
Laky studio, 2018. Photo by Tom Grotta

Born in Hungary in 1944, the physical and emotional effects of war impacted Laky from a very young age and her works often have underlying themes of opposition to war and militarism as well as climate change and the environment, gender equality. Her family emigrated to the US in 1949, resettling in Ohio, Oklahoma and eventually, California.

“After escaping the ravages of war as refugees,” she remembers, Nature’s embrace slowly healed my family,” 

Portrait of the artist working on a piece
Gyöngy Laky working on a piece in her studio, 2018. Photo by Tom Grotta

As a professor at the University of California, Davis for 28 years, Laky was instrumental in developing Environmental Design as an independent department (now the Department of Design). Here, she became fascinated by grids, latticework, tensile structures, strut-and-cable construction and other architectural and engineering linear assemblages. Coupled with her extensive background in textiles, she uses hand-construction techniques based in textile work to build sculptures invigorated by her attraction to the human cleverness of building things. She calls this discipline “Textile Architecture”.  

“The vertical and horizontal elements of textile technology – ubiquitous in textile constructions of all sorts – underpins so much of human ingenuity about making things and led us, eventually, to the age of computers.  In the context of a personal examination of our complex relationship with the world around us, my work often combines materials sourced from nature with screws, nails or ‘bullets for building’ (as the drywall screws I like are, ironically, called). The incongruity of hardware protruding from branches hints at edgy relationships as well as the flux of human interaction with nature,”  says Laky.

Laky is also known for her outdoor and temporary site-specific installations,  including land art works in Italy, which have all addressed nature and environmental sustainability issues.  In 2008, she was commissioned by The New York Times to create sculptures for their “green” issue dedicated to Earth Day. This cover work, titled Alterations, contrasts natural apple wood and grapevine with rough industrial materials, tenuously joined by metal screws, nails, bullets and wire which figuratively, literally and symbolically represent  direct and subtle messages about the interdependence of man and nature.

Laky’s works are in the permanent collections of museums including MoMA in New York, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Smithsonian.  She has had solo exhibitions at Officinet Gallery, Danish Arts and Crafts Association in Copenhagen and Royal Institute of British Architects Gallery, Manchester, and has shown at San Francisco Museum of Art, Renwick Gallery, De Young Museum, and International Biennial of Tapestry in Lausanne, to name a few. She is the recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Grant and a fellow of American Craft Council. For a full list visit browngrotta.com.

For the upcoming exhibition Volume 50: Chronicling Fiber Art for Three Decades at browngrotta arts in Wilton, CT (September 12-20),  Laky continues her personal examination of the complex relationships we have with the world around us and will be presenting three works – Deviation, We Turn and Traverser

Deviation by Gyöngy Laky, 2020. Photo by Tom Grotta

Laky’s typographical wall sculpture, Deviation, is made of apple trimmings, acrylic paint and screws. It portrays many meanings, from functioning like diacritical marks representing “Oh, Why?” to the myriad implications and emotions of the word “Oy” –  the Yiddish word meaning woe, dismay or annoyance – or, if flipped, “Yo” – a slang salutation for “hello” or representing “good luck” rolling an 11 in the game of craps, the only number that always wins.

See more in our exhibition, Volume 50: Chronicling Fiber Art for Three Decades at browngrotta arts in Wilton, CT (September 12-20), http://www.browngrotta.com/Pages/calendar.php


Catalog Lookback: California Dreamin’ – An Online Exhibition on Artsy

Ed Rossbach, Katherine Westphal, Adela Akers, Syvia Seventy, Marion Hildebrandt, Judy Mulford, Deborah Valoma Catalogs

Ed Rossbach | Katherine Westphal | Marion Hildebrandt | Judy Mulford | Deborah Valoma | Adela Akers | Sylvia Seventy

California has played a seminal role in both the history of the Contemporary Fiber Arts Movement and artists from California have played an equally significant role in browngrotta arts’ exhibition archive.  You’ll find California artists represented in nearly all our group catalogs: Lawrence LaBianca in Stimulus: Art and its Inception (vol. 36); Carol Shaw-Sutton in 25 for the 25th (vol. 25); Nancy Moore Bess in 10th Wave I (vol. 17) and 10th Wave II (vol. 18); Karyl Sisson in Karyl Sisson and Jane Sauer (vol. 12) and Ferne Jacobs in Blue/Green: color/code/context (vol. 44). 

California Dreamin’, an online exhibition on Artsy from May 11 to June 5th, features seven artists: Ed Rossbach, Katherine Westphal, Marion Hildebrandt, Judy Mulford, Deborah Valoma, Adela Akers and Sylvia Seventy.  The exhibition borrows from three browngrotta catalogs (vols. 6, 20, 26) and highlights decades worth of art.

Ed Rossbach Basket
Green with Four Ears by Ed Rossbach, 1984. Photo by Tom Grotta

Best-known of the group, Ed Rossbach, completed his graduate studies at Cranbrook in 1946. He, along with Marianne Strengell worked within the narrow parameters of Euro-Bauhaus-Scandinavian weaving traditions for industry.  “In reaction to this tight definition of textiles,” Jo Ann C. Stabb wrote in Retro/Prospective: 25+ Years of Art Textiles and Sculpture (vol. 37), “Rossbach became fascinated by indigenous textile processes and the use of found materials as he studied artifacts in the anthropology collection at University of California, Berkeley, as a faculty member from 1950 to 1979. Noted for creating three-dimensional, structural forms from unexpected, humble materials including plastic, reeds, newspaper, stapled cardboard, twigs,  Rossbach inspired a renaissance in basketry and vessel forms and influenced other artists, including his students Gyöngy Laky and Lia Cook.”

Katherine Westphal Komono
Chuto-Haupa by Katherine Westphal, 1983. Photo by Tom Grotta

Katherine Westphal, who was married to Rossbach, generated experiments of her own.  In the late 60s she was among the first artists to use photocopy machines to make images for art. In the 1970s, in addition to drawings to baskets, she began creating wearable art, which, according to Glenn Adamson, former director of the Museum of Arts and Design. was a genre she essentially invented. She wanted it said of the graments she created:  “there wasn’t another one like it in the world, and most people probably wouldn’t be caught dead in it.”  Few were worn, most were hung on the wall like paintings.  Her work displayed wide-ranging, autobiographical themes, arising from her travels: Native American art from trips through the Southwest, cracked Greek pots viewed on a trip to the Met, portraits of geishas after visiting Japan. “I want to become a link in that long chain of human activity, the patterning on any surface available,” she said. 

Large Sylvia Seventy Paper Basket
Bound Vessel IX by Sylvia Seventy, 1983. Photo by Tom Grotta

Also in the 70s, Sylvia Seventy, inspired in part by her studies of the art of the Pomo Indians, was exploring her own innovative techniques in paper making.  In 1982, The New York Times said of her works, “The vessel forms of Sylvia Seventy, all produced over molds, are rich, earthy bowl shapes, with embedded bamboo, cotton cord and sisal.  From a distance they appear to be hard, perhaps stoneware; on closer inspection, they are fragile works.”  Her vessels feature an accretion of items: compositions of beads, feathers, fishhooks, googly eyes, hand prints, and buttons, creating what Charles Tally called “emotionally poignant landscapes within the interior of the vessel[s].” (Artweek, November 29, 1990). 

Deborah Valoma, author, art historian and creator of both textile and sculpture, heads the Textiles Program at the California College of Arts and Crafts (Oakland).  Valoma credits numerous influencers for her work: “I first learned to knit in Jerusalem from a Polish refugee of the Holocaust.  I learned to stitch lace from my grandmother, descendant of Armenian survivors of the Turkish massacres.  I learned to twine basketry from one of the few living masters of Native American basketweaving in California. These dedicated women tenaciously pass the threads of survival forward.  When their memory fails, my hands remember.  My hands trace the breathless pause when I teeter on the sharp edge of sorrow and beauty.”  Using hand-construction techniques and cutting-edge digital weaving technology, her work hugs the edges of traditional practice.  She upholds traditional customs and at the same time, unravels long-held stereotypes.  Valoma believes that students must locate themselves within historical lineages in order to understand the historical terrain they walk — and sometimes trip — through daily. 

Detail of Sigmund Freud Quote woven by Deborah Valoma
Detail of Femininity by Deborah Valoma, 2008
Grouping Marion Hildebrandt baskets
Baskets by Marion Hildebrandt, 2002-2003. Photo by Tom Grotta

Marion Hildebrandt lived and worked in Napa Valley, gathering most of the plant material used in her baskets from the region until her death in 2011.  “My works are a coming together of my life experiences,” Hildebrandt said.  “My basketmaking reflects a longtime interest and study of native California flora and fauna.”  Hildebrandt employed the same materials that Native Americans used when they inhabited the area.  “It is still possible to find plants here that were used by basketmakers 4000 years ago,” she noted. Although she never attempted to replicate their baskets, she shared a similar appreciation for the natural materials that surrounded her.  “Ever so subtly, plants cycle from winter to summer,” she observed. “Each day, week, month brings changes that effect the materials that I collect and use for my baskets.”

Detail of Judy Mulford Sculpture
Detail of Plan Your Parenthood-Population by Judy Mulford, 2009. Photo by Tom Grotta

Further down the California coast, Judy Mulford continues to create her narrative sculptures and baskets of gourds.  Mulford studied Micronesian fiber arts and in the 70s was one of a group of women who worked on Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party.  She says each piece she creates “becomes a container of conscious and unconscious thoughts and feelings: a nest, a womb, a secret, surprise or a giggle.  And always, a feeling of being in touch with my female ancestral beginnings.”  Her sculptures integrate photo images, drawings, script, buttons and small figures.  Mulford explains: “The gourds are surrounded by knotless netting – an ancient looping technique – symbolic because it is also a buttonhole stitch historically rooted in the home.”

Angled Blue, 1989 and Markings and Blues, 2018 by Adela Akers. Photo by Tom Grotta

In the 1970s, Adela Akers on the East Coast teaching at Temple University, but she has been creating art as a resident of Califonia for the last 25 years. Drawing inspiration from African and South American textiles, Akers creates woven compositions of simple geometric shapes, bands, zigzags and checks.  Many of her works incorporate metal strips —  meticulously measured and cut from recycled California wine bottle caps.  Her techniques and materials produce images that change under different lighting conditions.  Akers also frequently incorporates horsehair into her weavings, adding texture and dimensionality.  Over time, Akers’ work has evolved in scale, material and construction. Yet, several themes reoccur, notably the use of line which, in conjunction with light, brings forth the transformative quality that uniquely characterizes her work.

From May 11th to June 7th, view an assortment of works by these artists at California Dreamin’ on Artsy



Lives Well Lived: Glen Kaufman (1932 – 2020)

leaf, 48” x 24” x 1” 1990
13gk Pulguk-sa, Kyong-Ju, Glen Kaufman, silk damask, silver leaf; screenprint, impressed metal leaf, 48” x 24” x 1” 1990
12gk Yoshikawa, Noto, Glen Kaufman
silk damask, silver leaf; screenprint, impressed metal leaf, 48” x 24” x 1” 1990
13gk Pulguk-sa, Kyong-Ju, Glen Kaufman
silk damask, silver leaf; screenprint, impressed metal leaf, 48” x 24” x 1” 1990
photo by Tom Grotta

We were saddened to learn of the loss of talented artist and educator Glen Kaufman last month. Born in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin in 1932, Kaufman attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison on an Air Force ROTC scholarship, where he met his wife and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in 1954. Following his Air Force service, he enrolled at Cranbrook Academy of Art, earning an MFA degree in Weaving & Textiles in 1959. In 1960, he received a Fulbright Scholarship and attended the State School of Arts & Crafts in Copenhagen. Upon returning to the US, he worked as a designer for Dorothy Liebes in New York City. He returned to Cranbrook Academy as educator, heading the Fibers Department until 1967. In 1967, he was hired by Lamar Dodd as associate professor of Art at the University of Georgia, where taught for over 40 years. He was an honorary member of the Surface Design Association for life and elected into the American Craft Council College of Fellows in 1988. His papers, dated from 1957-2011, were donated to the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian in 2015. The papers primarily document his travels and student work through biographical material, journals, printed materials, and artwork. Included are 15 travel journals, two sketchbooks, biographical material, professional correspondence, teaching files, photographs of Kaufman and works of art, works of art including sketches and weaving samples, two handwoven knotted pile rug samples and printed material. An oral biography of Kaufman with curator Josephine Shea is found on the Smithsonian situate: https://www.aaa.si.edu/download_pdf_transcript/ajax?record_id=edanmdm-AAADCD_oh_366203.

anhattan/New Jersey View
Glen Kaufman, handwoven silk twill, silver leaf; screenprint, impressed metal leaf, 10” x 30” x 1”, 1997
8gk Manhattan/New Jersey View
Glen Kaufman, handwoven silk twill, silver leaf; screenprint, impressed metal leaf
10” x 30” x 1”, 1997
photo by Tom Grotta

From 1983 on, Kaufman divided his time between homes in Athens, Georgia and Kyoto, Japan.. “I have set about creating my work in a foreign place – Kyoto – for half of each year since 1983,” he wrote. “The images in my work can be seen as shadows cast on shoji screens or glimpses of a world seen through a personal window.

In these ‘window views’ I have struggled to achieve a synthesis of my two worlds – tile roofs in Asia; skylines of cities and towns in America. Images of architecture in gold or silver leaf float behind grids on silk panels both large and small,” Kaufman wrote. His work in the US and Japan involved photographs and gold leaf, which he used to capture the architecture of each locale and to reveal aspects of these differing worlds. A grid motif, present in most of these pieces, reflects the prevalence of the grid in Japanese architecture.”The grid fragments the image and at the same time provides a familiar framework, allowing the viewer to perceive the entire image, yet concentrate on the small square.

32gk SHIMOGAMO SCROLLS: STUDIO VIEW II, Glen Kaufman
photo collage, screen print and impressed silver leaf on handwoven kasuri silk, 70” x 17”, 2002
32gk SHIMOGAMO SCROLLS: STUDIO VIEW II
Glen Kaufman
photo collage, screen print and impressed silver leaf on handwoven kasuri silk
, 70” x 17”, 2002
photo by Tom Grotta


“The work evolves from my photographs, photographs that are transformed into strong black-and-white images that express the reality of the subject. These strongly contrasting images are printed onto a silk fabric by screening a special paste over a grid. Subsequently, gold or silver leaf is impressed into the cloth. When the excess leaf is removed, the grid is revealed and the image floats on a surface behind the window grid.The metal leaf I use has inherent reflective qualities that vary depending on the type, color, thickness, and weave of the ground cloth. The reflection of light on the leaf and silk – which changes depending on the light source and the time of day – give an inner life and dynamic visual energy to these works.”

Kaufman’s work appeared in more than 60 solo exhibitions in New York, Boston, Kyoto, Berkeley, Tokyo, Sapporo, Honolulu, San Francisco, Osaka, Nagoya, Seattle, Seoul, Busan, Atlanta and more than 130 group exhibitions in North America, Europe and Asia. His works are in the permanent collections of more than 20 museums, including the Museum of Art and Design, NY; The Art Institute of Chicago; Ba Tang Gol Art Center, Seoul; The Cleveland Museum of Art; Juraku Museum, Kyoto, Japan; Long House Foundation, San Francisco; H.M. de Young Museum, San Francisco; and the Smithsonian Institution, Renwick Gallery, Washington, DC.


Art & Identity: A Sense of Place

In our 2019 Art in the Barn exhibition, we asked artists to address the theme of identity. In doing so, several of the participants in Art + Identity: an international view, wrote eloquently about places that have informed their work. For Mary Merkel-Hess, that place is the plains of Iowa, which viewers can feel when viewing her windblown, bladed shapes. A recent work made a vivid red orange was an homage to noted author, Willa Cather’s plains’ description, “the bush that burned with fire and was not consumed,” a view that Merkel-Hess says she has seen.

Micheline Beauchemin Golden Garden detail
Micheline Beauchemin 3mb Golden Garden nylon cord, metalic thread, sisal and plexiglass 42” x 10.5”, circa 1966-68

The late Micheline Beauchemin traveled extensively from her native Montreal. Europe, Asia, the Middle East, all influenced her work but depictions of the St. Lawrence River were a constant thread throughout her career. The river, “has always fascinated me,” she admitted, calling it, “a source of constant wonder” (Micheline Beauchemin, les éditions de passage, 2009). “Under a lemon yellow sky, this river, leaded at certain times, is inhabited in winter, with ice wings without shadows, fragile and stubborn, on which a thousand glittering lights change their colors in an apparent immobility.” To replicate these effects, she incorporated unexpected materials like glass, aluminum and acrylic blocks that glitter and reflect light and metallic threads to translate light of frost and ice.

Eduardo Portillo & Mariá Eugenia Dávila Triple Weave
Triple weave Eduardo Portillo & Mariá Eugenia Dávila silk, alpaca, moriche, metalliic yarns, copper, natural dyes, 71” x 48.25”, 2016


Mérida, Venezuela, the place they live, and can always come back to, has been a primary influence on Eduardo Portillo’s and Maria Davila’s way of thinking, life and work. Its geography and people have given them a strong sense of place. Mérida is deep in the Andes Mountains, and the artists have been exploring this countryside for years. Centuries-old switchback trails or “chains” that historically helped to divide farms and provide a mountain path for farm animals have recently provided inspiration and the theme for a body of work, entitled Within the MountainsNebula, the first work from this group of textiles, is owned by the Cooper Hewitt Museum.

Birgit Birkkjærs  Ode for the Ocean
Birgit Birkkjær, 65bb Ode for the Ocean, linen and stones, shells, fossils, etc. from the sea 30” x 30” x 4,” 2019

Birgit Birkkjaer’s Ode for the Ocean is composed of many small woven boxes with items from the sea — stones, shells, fossils and so on — on their lids. ” It started as a diary-project when we moved to the sea some years ago,” she explains. “We moved from an area with woods, and as I have always used materials from the place where I live and where I travel, it was obvious I needed now to draw sea-related elements into my art work.”

Polly Bartons Continuum I, II, III detail
4pb Continuum I, II, III, Polly Barton, silk, double ikat, 19” x 52” x 1.75,” 2018

“I am born and raised in the Northeast,” says Polly Barton, “trained to weave in Japan, and have lived most of my life in the American Southwest. These disparate places find connection in the woven fabric that is my art, the internal reflections of landscape.” In works like Continuum i, ii, iii, Barton uses woven ikat as her “paintbrush,” to study native Southwestern sandstone. Nature’s shifting elements etched into the stone’s layered fascia reveal the bands of time. “Likewise, in threads dyed and woven, my essence is set in stone.”

Paul Furneauxs City Trees II and City Lights II detail
1 & 2pf City Trees II and City Lights II, Paul Furneaux, Detail

For Paul Furneaux, geographic influences are varied, including time spent in Mexico, at Norwegian fjords and then, Japan, where he studied Japanese woodblock, Mokuhanga “After a workshop in Tokyo,” he writes, “I found myself in a beautful hidden-away park that I had found when I first studied there, soft cherry blossom interspersed with brutal modern architecture. When I returned to Scotland, I had forms made for me in tulip wood that I sealed and painted white. I spaced them on the wall, trying to recapture the moment. The forms say something about the architecture of those buildings but also imbue the soft sensual beauty of the trees, the park, the blossom, the soft evening light touching the sides of the harsh glass and concrete blocks.” 


Art Assembled: New This Week in June

Summer is finally here and in June, browngrotta arts offered a look at the latest pieces in our collection representing works from around the world. This month, in our New This Week series, we shared some extraordinary pieces by Chang Yeonsoon, Judy Mulford, Lewis Knauss, Pat Campbell and Eva Vargo.
We kicked off the first few days in June with a three-piece work of abaca fiber, pure gold leaf and eco-soluble resin by Chang Yeonsoon, a Korean textile artist who specializes in sculptural fiber works. “I have been studying philosophy and breathing meditation for the last 10 years because I am interested in Oriental philosophy. Chunjeein (天地人) means heaven, earth and human in the East. In the Book of changes (a chinese classic) say that the heaven is a circle, the earth is a square, and the human is a triangle.”

heaven, earth and human sculptures
Chunjeein-1, 2 & 3, Chang Yeonsoon
abaca fiber, pure gold leaf, eco-soluble resin, 33″ x 7.125″ x 6.75″, 2019

Soon after that, we shared a mixed media work, Ancestral Totem by Judy Mulford. “My art honors and celebrates the family” explains the artist. “It is autobiographical, personal, narrative, and a scrapbook of my life. Each piece I create becomes a container of conscious and unconscious thoughts and feelings: a nest, a womb, a secret, a surprise, or a giggle.” This work, which Mulford talks more about in a youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j3-YTMWD4JM art + identity interview, features “memory chairs” and buttons that she sourced from family and friends.

Button hole stitched chair sculpture
Ancestral Totem, Judy Mulford, mixed media, 34.5″ x 10.5″ x 10.5,” 2019

Next in our June series was Lewis Knauss‘ work, Thorny of woven, knotted linen, waxed linen and reed. Knauss’ interest in landscape originated during his first teaching appointment in Ohio. The textures and materials of textiles have provided him a medium to explore his memories of place.

Lewis Knauss wall sculpture
Thorny, Lewis Knauss
woven, knotted, waxed linen, reed, 17″ x 16″ x 6,” 2018/19

We aim to keep your creative palettes full, and so we featured Kundalini Rising II by Pat Campbell of rice paper, reed and wood. Campbell’s work aims to promote, not divide, the world’s population ethnically, racially and religiously, specifically to promote globalization and world peace. We at browngrotta arts fully support her work and the meaning behind each piece. Her work combines hope for the future, love of where she came from, and a reminder to viewers to reflect the best in themselves to solve world problems.

Pat Campbell Rice Paper Sculpture
Kundalini Rising II, Pat Campell
rice paper, reed and wood, 24″ x 14″ x 6.5″, 2009

Last, but most certainly not least, we shared No. 55 (Book of Changes), by Eva Vargo of linen, thread, paper strings and gold leaves. A Swedish artist who has lived abroad for a large part of her life, she has been influenced by each country in which she has lived. iFrom the time she began using paper strings and papers from old Japanese and Korean books in her woven works, it has been an exciting journey for her and it is still a path she keeps on exploring.

Eva Vargo Book of Changes
No. 55 (Book of Changes), Eva Vargo
linen, thread, paper strings and gold leaves, 31.75″ x 29.375″ x 1.5″, 2019

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On Redefining the Medium

In an artspace article last spring, “8 ‘Unbeweavable’ Textile Artists Redefining the Traditional Medium,” the author, Jillian Billard, profiled eight contemporary textile artists who keep the historical and cultural significance of the medium in mind, while addressing topics ranging from colonialism, to power dynamics, to disposal and regeneration.

Listening In Caroline Bartlett, mixed media; wooden rings stretched with archival crepeline, wool, linen tape, perspex,
2.75″ x 17″ x 17″; 5″ x 17″ x 17″; 6″ x 17″ x 17″, 2011. Photo by Tom Grotta.

Several of the artists represented by browngrotta arts take a similar approach, including, Caroline Bartlett, who explores the historical, social and cultural associations of textiles and their ability to trigger a memory. Listening In, for example, resulted from Bartlett’s review of accession cards that “bore witness” to the health and state of textile items in the collection of the Whitworth Museum. The cards described work undertaken to preserve and stabilize each artifact, to endeavors to fill in gaps in the history and making of the object across time and space. In creating works in this series, Bartlett says, “I think of skin, bone, membrane; a layered dermis, and of networks of social, industrial, public and private relations, processes and materiality connecting the building itself with the idea of cloth as silent witness to the intimacies and routines of daily lives.”

Deborah Valoma in her Studio in Minnesota. Photo by Tom Grotta.


Deborah Valoma is an artist and historian. Intensely research-based, her studio practice harnesses the nuances of the humble, yet poetically charged textile medium. Using hand construction techniques and cutting-edge digital weaving technology, her work hugs the edges of traditional practice. She upholds traditional customs and at the same time, unravels long-held stereotypes. Drawing on a growing body of scholarship on textiles, she has developed a rigorous series of textile history and theory courses for students from differing disciplines interested the theoretical discourses in the field of textiles. Valoma believes that students must locate themselves within historical lineages in order to understand the historical terrain they walk (and sometimes trip) through daily. Historical analysis draws a three-dimensional spatial and temporal map, providing much-needed reference points.

Interior Passages, Ferne Jacobs, 
coiled and twined waxed linen thread
, 54” x 16” x 4”, 2017. Photo by Tom Grotta.

Artist Ferne Jacobs explores feminist themes in her work. “My art is made in an attempt to serve the sacred in the feminine, listening and creating a relationship with my own inner nature. Interior Passages is an example “In the world I find myself in today, feminine values are often desecrated.  I am beginning to understand that there is no such thing as a ‘second class citizen’ — anywhere, anytime. There are aspects of world culture where weak people try to control others; because that is the only way they feel their own existence.” Interior Passages resists that approach. “Interior Passages knows she exists,” Jacobs notes. “She needs no one to tell her who she is or what she is.  She knows her value, and I expect the world to respect this inner understanding.  When it doesn’t, I think it moves toward a destructiveness that can be devastating.”


Regeneration is a theme in the work of both Karyl Sisson and Wendy Wahl. Sisson give new lives to common domestic items like paper drinking straws, zippers and measuring tales. Wahl’s work with repurposed encyclopedias raises questions about how we process information, use resources and assign value to things.


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