Category: Books

Books Make Great Gifts 2021, Part Two: Novels, Art Books and the Like

2021 has brought us a bumper crop of book recommendations. In Part One, we looked a biographies and autobiographies. This week. in Part Two will look at a broader list — novels, art and reference books, politics and philosophy and a charming children’s biography of Ruth Asawa that we didn’t discover until after Part One was posted.

Nocturnes by Kazue Ishiguro and Netsuke Soseki And Then
Putas asesinas / Murdering Whores

Novels:

Wlodmierz Cygan recommended Nocturnes, Five Stories of Music and Nightfall, by Kazuo Ishiguro. Tamiko Kawata is rereading another Japanese novelist, Soseki Netsuke, while on an exercise bike — currently SorekaraCarolina Yrrazaval is finding  Putas Asesinas by Roberto Bplagno, Murdering Whores in English, “very interesting.”

Bauhaus Textiles, Art for the built environment in the Province of Ontario
Soft Art and Te Aho Tap
Beyond Craft: the art of fabric and Anna Albers on Weaving

Art and Reference Books:

Young Ok Shin offered us a sampling of favorite books from her bookshelf — those of lasting import:

Bauhaus Textiles (T&H, London, 1993), by Sigrid Wortmann Weltge (who wriote the essay in our catalog, Lenore Tawney: celebrating five decades of work); Art in Architecture, Jeanne Parkin (Visual Arts, Ontario 1982); Soft Art, Erika Billetier (Benteli 1980); Te Aho TapuThe Sacred Thread, Mick Pendergrast (Reed Publishing, NZ, 1987). This book is based on the Te Aho Tapu exhibition of traditional Mâori clothing, mainly cloaks, put on by the Auckland Institute and Museum; Beyond Craft: the art fabricMildred Constantine and Jack Lenor Larsen (Van Nostrand Reinhold Co, 1973) and On WeavingAnni Albers (Wesleyan University Press, 1974).

Basketry and The Grotta Home by Richard Meier

Stéphanie Jacques has a classic that she returns to again and again: Hisako Sekijima’s  Basketry, projects from baskets to grass slippers (Kodansha USA, 1986).

Woman Made and Japandi

The Grotta Home by Richard Meier: A Marriage of Architecture and Craft (Arnoldsche, 2019) remains Dawn MacNutt’s “fave and inspiration.” She kindly shared a comment on the book from her correspondence with the late Jack Lenor Larsen: “Have you seen the newest Grotta Book?. It’s spectacular and a durable tribute to Son and Author.” Well, we can’t argue with that! At browngrotta arts we recommend Women Made: Great Women Designers (Phaidon 2021). The Wall Street Journal says it’s: Thoroughly international in scope… a compendium of disarming surprises.” We’d also recommend our Japandí catalog (Japandí: shared aesthetics and influences, browngrotta arts 2021our best-selling catalog of the year.

Webster's Third New International Dictionary

“Recently, I had to discard our family dictionary that I’ve depended on for 50 years,” Wendy Wahl, writes. “I could no longer engage daily with my trusted lexicon because every time I turned the pages to discover a new word it released its microbial matter causing me to sneeze. As much as I loved this book I knew it was time to let it go. This Webster’s Third New International Dictionary has been temporarily replaced by a two-volume World Book Dictionary set from my collection of encyclopedic materials reserved for artwork. Fortunately, WTNID, while not cloth bound, is still in print and available from amazon.”

Craft An American History

Annette Bellamy and James Bassler both recommended Craft: An American History by Glenn Adamson (who wrote the essay in our Volume 50 catalog in 2020). “Well worth reading!,” says Bellamy.

Undinge and Say it Loud

Politics and Philosophy:

“The most important book for me this year is Un-Dinge written by the philosopher Han, Byung-Chul,” says Heidrun Schimmel (Ullstein, Berlin 2021)There are some essays about ” our hand”, meaning “working by hand,” today in our digital world, she says. “This fact is very interesting for me as ‘craft artist.'”

Caste by Isabel Wilkerson

Say it Loud by Randall Kennedy (Random House, 2021) is Polly Sutton’s choice. It’s a collection of provocative essays exploring the key social justice issues of our time—from George Floyd to antiracism to inequality and the Supreme Court. The New York Times says Kennedy is “among the most incisive American commentators on race.” James Bassler has just begun Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent, by Isabel Wilkerson (Random House, 2020) highly recommended last year, too, by Gyöngy Laky.

biography of Ruth Asawa

One more biography:

While gift hunting this season, we discovered Andrea D’Aquino’s biography of Ruth Asawa (A Life Made by Hand: The Story of Ruth Asawa (Princeton University Press, 2019) for children. It is lovely and informative. D’Aquino is an artist. The book is charmingly illustrated, describing Asawa’s interest in spider webs and education in wire work in Mexico. It includes additional factual information in the back and also an activity guide.

To a Year of Good Reading in 2022!


Books Make Great Gifts Part One: the Lives of Others

We don’t know about you, but we’ve gotten a sort of voyueristic pleasure out of seeing people’s kitchens, living rooms and even bedrooms on Zoom calls and tv interviews for the last year and a-half. We’ve enjoyed seeing the art and decor and occasional cat, dog or child walk by. Is that the same impulse that spurred browngrotta arts’ artists to go heavy on memoirs and biographies this year? We can’t say for sure, but they surely have. Here are their recommendations and one of ours, as well.

Fate and Art

Gyöngy Laky wrote eloquently about her re-reading of Fate and Artthe illustrated autobiography of pioneering Polish sculptor, Magdalena Abakanowicz, whose organic installations explored the politics of space in presciently fresh ways.

This work it is not a woven Abakan nor a Bronze Crowd,” writes Laky. “It is Abakanowicz speaking to us directly herself in a most intimate and electrifying way.  The first edition of Fate and Art, a monologue in her own words, was published in 2008.  This second edition was initiated and overseen by Mary Jane Jacob, renowned American curator, writer, and professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.  It was published in 2020 in the midst of an unexpected and deadly virus pandemic that is responsible for the deaths of nearly 800,000 Americans, more than in all the wars in which the US engaged since 1898.” In the current struggle, Laky sees an echo of WWII’s horrific conflict. Abakanowicz was 9, growing up in Poland, when the Nazis invaded. “Experiences that might have defeated others forged an artist whose works express the power, intensity and mystery of human existence,” Laky observes.

“Abakanowicz writes in English, an adopted language – every sentence honed to poetic perfection with each recounted episode providing the strong intellectual and emotional impact so characteristic of the muscle and might of her sculptures and installations,” says Laky.

“She was absorbed by the physical world around her.  She writes of her childhood, ‘The urge to have around me, to touch, to hoard —twigs, stones, shards and bark— continued.  They embodied stories with which I wanted to live.’  Those stories she absorbed and magnified to build the large themes of her work.”

Laky recommends that, if you did not read this captivating book in 2008, you should read it now.  “Given the magnitude of the struggles we face today, Abakanowicz’s life and art will renew inspiration to hope, to act and to create.  This monologue will regenerate belief in human resilience, so well expressed through her stirring and thought provoking narrative and in her art.” 

Everything She Touched: the life of Ruth Asawa and Silence and Beauty by Makoto Fugimura

Tamiko Kawata also recommended an artist’s biography, Everything She Touched: the life of Ruth Asawa. Mary-Merkel-Hess did, too: Silence and Beauty by Makoto Fugimura. “I have been following Makoto Fugimura,” Merkel-Hess writes.. He is a Japanese American, a Christian, a writer as well as an artist and recently had a show at the High Line Nine Gallery in Manhattan. As a Japanese artist and a Christian he was an advisor to Martin Scorsese during the filming of the movie Silence based on the 1966 novel by Shisaku Endo also called Silence. Both the book and the movie tell the story of the martyrdom of Japanese Christians in the late 17th century.” Fugimura’s book Silence and Beauty is an extended reflection on Endo’s novel, the nature of art and how Fugimura’s faith journey overlaps with Endo’s. Fugimura recently published another book called Art and Faith: A Theology of Making (2020).

Anita Pittoni's diaries and articles

Stéphanie Jacques has been reading Anita Pittoni’s diaries and articles, Anita Pittoni: Journal 1944-1945, and a postface by Christina Benussi, Journal 1944-1945 (Editions La Baconnière, Genève). The author was a textile designer,  an artist, a writer and an editor. The book is in French, but she provided us a translated passage: “For me, writing is made exactly like a fabric, it brings me back to my humble artisan work (…); the same law governs me, makes me perform the same movements, so that the material and the structure of the fabric, made of stitches that are linked rather than tight threads, follows the thread of my thought.” Also on Jacques’ nightstand, a memoir of Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Incarneune abstraction /Embodying an abstraction, bilingual edition French-English (Actes Sud, 2020) summarizing her career and artistic aims. Shaped by 40 years of research and risk-taking, she takes the reader on a journey — each chapter is inspired by major encounters: from Constantin Brancusi and Trisha Brown to Johann Sebastian Bach and Pythagoras.

The Luminous Solution

Lizzie Farey is reading The Luminous Solution by Charlotte Wood (Allen & Unwin, 2021) “Drawing on research and decades of observant conversation and immersive reading,” Farey writes, “Wood shares what artists can teach the rest of us about inspiration and hard work, how to pursue truth in art and life, and how to find courage during difficult times.” Charlotte Wood is one of Australia’s most provocative and gifted writers, Farey notes, an award-winning author, and, just happens to be, Lizzie’s cousin. In the Preface, Wood writes, “A rich inner life is not just the preserve of the arts. The joys, fears and profound self-discoveries of creativity — through making or building anything that wasn’t there before, any imaginative exploration or attempt to invent — I believe to be the birthright of every person on this earth.  If you live your life with curiosity and intention – or would like to — this book is for you.”

Poet Warrior

Poet Warrior is a beautifully written memoir by Joy Harjo, the first Native American to serve as U.S. poet laureate, recommended by Annette Bellamy. Harjo shares with readers the heartaches, losses, and humble realizations of her “poet-warrior” road. Poet Warrior reveals how Harjo came to write poetry of compassion and healing, poetry with the power to unearth the truth and demand justice.

Michelangelo in Ravensbruck

Polly Sutton referred to us Michelangelo in RavensbruckThe inspiring and beautifully written memoir records a neglected side of World War II: the mass murder of Poles, the serial horrors inflicted by both Russians and Nazis, and the immense courage of those who resisted. The memoir is of Countess Karolina Lanckoronska, a professor and wealthy landowner, who joined the Polish underground in 1939, was arrested, sentenced to death, and was held in Ravensbruck concentration camp. There she taught art history to other women who, like her, might be dead in a few days. 

The remarkable life story of the pioneering surgeon, Samuel Pozzi, is the subject of The Man in the Red Coat by Julian Barnes, which was recommended by Włodzimierz Cygan. Pozzi was a society doctor, free-thinker and man of science with a famously complicated private life who was the subject of one of John Singer Sargent’s greatest portraits. Barnes’ story of Belle Epoque Paris features Henry James, Sarah Bernhardt, Oscar Wilde, Proust, James Whistler, among others and holds more parallels to our own age than we might imagine.

, (Nina M. Schjønsby (ed.) Arnoldsche). This monograph tells the story of Sætrang (b. 1946) and he

We would add to this list, Bente Sætrang, (Nina M. Schjønsby (ed.) Arnoldsche). This monograph tells the story of Sætrang (b. 1946) and her 40-year commitment to the medium of textile. She is known for her intensive investigation of trompe l’oeil drapery, bold textile printing, monumental abstract color studies, and charcoal drawings. She was Norway’s first professor of textile art, and her political engagement and unique knowledge of color and textile qualities permeate her work. Through essays, poems, interviews, montages, and rich imagery, this monograph sheds light on the different phases of Sætrang’s artistic practice.

1000 years of Joys and Sorrows

Last, but certainly not least, Ai Weiwei’s much-anticipated memoir, 1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows: A Memoir (Random House) is just published. It tells a century-long epic tale of China through the story of his own extraordinary life and the legacy of his father, the nation’s most celebrated poet and is, according to Michiko Kakutani, “an impassioned testament to the enduring powers of art.” Edward Snowden’s notes on the book and what it has to tell us about freedom (“The message that emerges from Ai’s work is that the truest resistance to the oppression of conformity is the riot of human diversity,….”) can be found here: https://edwardsnowden.substack.com/p/culturalrevolutions

This list may offer you enough reading inspiration for all of 2022, but there are more recommendations on the way! Watch for Books Make Great Gifts, Part Two: Novels, Art Books and the Like on arttextstyle next month.


Books Make Great Gifts 2020 Edition

Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds, and Shape Our Futures
Photo from Amazon. The book was dampened
and inoculated with Pleurotus (oyster mushroom) mycelium. The mycelium then digested the pages – and the words – of the book, and sprouted over the
course of seven days. Pleurotus can digest many things – from crude oil to used cigarette butts – and is one of the fungal species that shows the most promise in mycoremediation. It is also delicious when fried lightly with garlic and will make it possible for the author to eat his words. Photo Credit: DRK Videography

Book sales are up nationwide and the artists promoted by browngrotta arts have done their share of reading this year. Polly Sutton pulled Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling by Ross King (Penguin) off her shelf where it had been sitting for years. “Worth it,” she says. Nenna Okore recommends 50 Women Sculptors, from Aurora Metro Books. The book, which challenges the perception that sculpture is a male pursuit, features Okore’s work and that of Louise Bourgeois, Ruth Asawa, Yayoi Kasuma and others.

“If you’re curious about the weird wonderful world of mushrooms and how we are related to the Fungi Kingdom, then Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds, and Shape Our Futures (Random House) is a literary journey to take,” writes Wendy Wahl. “Merlin Sheldrake stitches together a story of our co-evolution offering scientific and historical analysis in a captivating and thought-provoking way. The author transports the reader into the Fungi Kingdom revealing the mysterious maneuverings of this powerful part of nature’s network and the filament threads that binds us together. In two hundred and twenty five pages followed by chapter notes and bibliography, this is a book with doors to unusual discoveries and pathways of connecting in all directions.”


Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson (independently published) is excellent”, says Gyöngy Laky. “Difficult and painful… a must read for every adult person in the U S… should be mandatory reading in high school.” 

L’art du fil, by Marie-Madeleine Masse


Randy Walker recommends a new book from France, L’art du fil, by Marie-Madeleine Masse, published in October by Alternatives press. From the book’s press notes,  photos and embroidered ceramics, arachnean sculptures or totem tapestries … the thread never ceases to inspire contemporary artists from here and elsewhere, as superbly evidenced by the 80 international designers selected in this book one of whom is Walker. “The book is inspiring to me,” he writes,” because it exemplifies how fiber-based work is translated to many scales and contexts and that small, gallery-scale work can and should be celebrated alongside larger works.” 


Objects USA 2020

At browngrotta arts we took note of three beautiful art books that arrived in 2020. First up, Objects USA 2020 (Monacelli Press), with essays by Glenn Adamson and others. In 1969, the Objects: USA  exhibition opened at the Smithsonian Institution, travelling to 22 venues. The exhibtion defined the American studio craft movement. Objects: USA united a cohort of artists inventing new approaches to art-making by way of craft media. Objects: USA 2020 revisits this revolutionary exhibition and its accompanying catalog–which has become a bible of sorts to curators, gallerists, dealers, craftspeople, artists, and auction houses–by pairing fifty participants from the original exhibition with fifty contemporary artists representing the next generation of practitioners to use–and upend–the traditional methods and materials of craft to create new forms of art.

Olga de Amaral: To Weave a Rock

Another visually striking volume, Olga de Amaral: To Weave a Rock (Arnoldsche) traces Amaral’s career over five decades, features more than 40 key pieces of work, and examines the artist’s oeuvre through the lens of contemporary and fiber art. Olga de Amaral: To Weave a Rock celebrates an artist who for decades has gracefully produced across traditional divides: fine art and craft, local and universal, ethereal and material. Published to accompany an exhibition at Cranbrook Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills (US), between 19 November 2020 and 7 March 2021, and The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (US) between 27 June to 19 September 2021, and at Museum of Arts and Design, New York (US), between 21 October 2021 and 27 February 2022.

Signe Mayfield

Published in 2018, but new to us is Anchors in Time: Dominic di Mare by Signe Mayfield (Fine Arts Press). The book includes insightful essays, but much of it features full-page photos of DiMare’s meticulously crafted constructions and detailed oil paintings.The book was produced in conjunction with an exhibition of DiMare’s work at the Museum of Craft and Design in San Francisco, California in 2018. 

Agneta Hobin

Last but nowhere near least, Agneta Hobin oversaw the publication of Agneta Hobinthis year which features lush photographs of her work, a passel of family and historical photos and text in English and Danish. You can puchase the book at browngrotta arts http://store.browngrotta.com
/agneta-hobin/.


The Artful Gift Guide: 5 under $400

As we spend more time in our homes — working, playing, learning —the desire to surround ourselves with artful items that inspire is all the more acute. Here are five unique items from $55 to $400 to delight you or a friend or family member at the holidays and beyond.

The small print: Order for the holidays by December 14th and we’ll ship by the 15th (though due to COVID we can’t guarantee the shippers’ delivery schedule). If you’d like us to gift wrap your purchase, email us at art@browngrotta.com, as soon as you have placed your order. To ensure we know you want gift wrapping, don’t wait to contact us — we generally ship as soon as the orders are received. Quantities are limited.

Volume 50: Chronicling Fiber Art for Three Decades Catalog
Volume 50: Chronicling Fiber Art for Three Decades
Essay by Glenn Adamson, Photography and design by Tom Grotta,
164 full color pages, 9″ x 9″, 221 color images
published by browngrotta arts
$55.00
Handmade Japanese Silk Shawls by sisters Chiaki and Kori Maki
24km Tesu Shawl, Kaori Maki
malda and tassar silk, dyes/harad, indigo, 86″ x 25”; 1998
$380
1chm Silk Shawl/Check, Chiaki Maki
80% malda and tassar silk, 20% wool, yarn dyed by natural material, 82″ x 31″, 1998
$400
Small Red Basket by Danish basketmaker Birigit Birkkjaer
Birgit Birkkjær
65bb.17 Ode for the Ocean 17
linen and stones, shells, fossils, etc. from the sea
2.5″ x 3″ x 3″, 2019
(other colors available)
$130
Japanese Bamboo Vase by Jiro Yonezawa
70jy Ladybug, Jiro Yonezawa
bamboo, glass, kiribako box
7″ x 5″ x 5″, 2009
$400
Coffee Table Book The Grotta Home by Richard Meier
The Grotta Home by Richard Meier: A Marriage of Architecture and Craft
with contributions by Glenn Adamson, Matthew Drutt, Sheila Hicks,
Joseph Giovannini, Louis Grotta, Jack Lenor Larsen, John McQueen,
Richard Meier, Wendy Ramshaw and David Watkins
336 pp., 28 x 30 cm, approx. 300 ills, hardcover English
$85.00

We Get Good Press

Maybe you’ve heard the buzz? In the past six months, both browngrotta arts and Tom’s book project, The Grotta House by Richard Meier: A Marriage of Architecture and Craft, which features many of the artists we work with, have gotten great coverage in the Connecticut publications, nationally and elsewhere in the world.

Collectors Crafty in More Ways Than One. New York Times Article By Ted Loos
New York Times Article By Ted Loos

In December, the illustrious New York Times, profiled Sandy and Lou Grotta, their 300+ collection of Modern Craft  which are beautifully featured/illustrated in The Grotta House book. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/31/arts/design/show-us-your-wall-grotta.html So did Art in America online.

At in America Book Release


https://www.artguide.pro/event/ book-release-the-grotta-home-by-richard-meier-a-marriage-of-architecture-and-craft/ Tom got a shoutout as the photographer in both articles as well. Next up was TLmag, True Living of Art and Design, a Brussels-based, international biannual print and online magazine dedicated to curating and capturing the collectible culture. 

Interview with Tom Grotta and Rhonda Brown: Originators in the Field of Fibre Art. TL Magazine
Interview with Tom Grotta and Rhonda Brown TL Magazine
1st dibs Introspective Magazine Article Tour a Richard Meier-Designed House That celebrates American Craft by Osman Can Yerebakan

Also in February, the Grotta house and browngrotta arts were covered by Introspective, the online magazine produced by 1st Dibs, In the piece titled, “Tour a Richard Meier-Designed House that Celebrates American Craft,” author Osman Can Yerebakan, observes that the Grottas, are “[l]ed by intuition, they simply let an affinity for objects, and for the people who make them, guide their unerring eye.”https://www.1stdibs.com /introspective-magazine/richard-meier-grotta-house/?utm_term=feature2&utm_source=nl-introspective&utm_content=reengagement&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=2020_02_23&emailToken=2277332_1a3d078b2c480b774c0897f7484ece12b4545b9bb006358a40eba4b7215550ce

browngrotta arts presents Transforming Tradition: Japanese and Korean Contemporary Craft in Artfix Daily
Transforming Tradition:
Japanese and Korean Contemporary Craft
in Artfix Daily

On March 1st, Artfix Daily covered our online exhibition in “browngrotta arts presents Transforming Tradition: Japanese and Korean Contemporary Craft.” http://www.artfixdaily.com /artwire/release/7876-browngrotta-arts-presents-transforming-tradition-japanese-and-kor. An article by Rhonda, “Active Collecting: Acquiring Experiences as Well as Art,” appeared in the Spring issue of Surface Design Journal,

Active Collecting: Acquiring Experiences as Well as Art by Rhonda Brown in Surface Design Journal
Active Collecting: Acquiring Experiences
as Well as Art in Surface Design Journal

describing the interactions between Sandy and Lou Grotta and the artists they collect. The couple have met many of those whose work they have collected or commissioned and have developed deep friendships with others, including furniture makers Joyce and Edgar Anderson and Thomas Hucker, jewelers Wendy Ramshaw and David Watkins, ceramist Toshiko Takaezu and weaver Mariette Rousseau-Vermette.

Art of Love, Love of Art n Wilton Magazine
Art of Love, Love of Art: Wilton Magazine

The Spring also saw a light-hearted story in the March/April issue of Wilton Magazine, on Rhonda and Tom, “Art of Love, Love of Art,” by Karen Sackowitz, noting that our creative synergy– for better or worse — has spanned decades (3 decades and 7 years to be precise). Other local publications have championed us as well — The Ridgefield Press, Wilton Bulletin and Connecticut Magazine have talked up our taking art online, nothing that, “Social distancing doesn’t mean people have to distance themselves from the arts” as area arts institutions like bga have taken to providing people with digital experiences on their websites and social media platforms to ensure people are still able to engage with art.

The Collecting Couple Lives with a Rotating Cast of Craft Masterpieces by Casey Lesser in a Artsy Editorial
The Collecting Couple Lives
with a Rotating Cast
of Craft Masterpieces
by Casey Lesser: Artsy Editorial

Artsy, covered the Grottas and their home in April, in “This Collecting Couple Lives with a Rotating Cast of Craft Masterpieces,” by Casey Lesser https://www.artsy.net /article/artsy-editorial-collecting-couple-lives-rotating-cast-craft-masterpieces. Tom got a shout out, too. The author shared Lou’s collecting advice to “do your homework” as he recalled being told that “you have to see 50 works by an artist before you can start to understand what’s good.” Thanks to the internet, that’s much easier today than it was when he and Sandy started out. “Don’t fall in love with the latest stuff,” the author quotes Grotta. “Decide who you like and what you like.”

Dwell featured the Grotta House online

April also saw the Grotta house and book featured in Dwell online https://www.dwell.com /home/the-grotta-house-0257ab73 and in Archello https://archello.com/project/the-grotta-house. In progress (fingers crossed), a piece on The Grotta House by Richard Meier, a Marriage of Architecture and Craft in INTERIOR+DESIGN, a Russian publication.

Comp for upcoming June Interior+Design issue Featuring The Grotta House
Comp of the article to appear in INTERIOR + DESIGN

We hope to get press coverage for our upcoming events:

Online in June: Cross Currents – Arts Influenced by Rivers and the Sea, Vols. 38, 35

Online in July: Fan Favorites — Sekimachi, Sekijima, Laky and Merkel-Hess, Vols. 24, 19, 2, 3, 8, 5, 15, 16, 19

Online in August: Cataloging the Canon – Tawney, Stein, Cook, Hicks and So, Vols. 13, 28, Monographs: 1-3; Focus: 1

Live in September: Volume 50: Chronicling Fiber for Three Decades. Now rescheduled for September 12 -22. Details on how we will mix art viewing and safe practice to come.

Hope you’ll join us for all or some of these.

Stay Safe, Stay Distanced, Stay Inspired!!


Books Make Great Gifts 2019 Edition

From Tapestry to Fiber Art: The Lausanne Biennials 1962-1995

We’ve gathered another year of varied and interesting book recommendations. Gyöngy Laky recommends From Tapestry to Fiber Art: Lausanne Biennials 1962-95 by Giselle Eberhard Cotton and Magali Junet of Fondation Toms Pauli, Lausanne, Switzerland, a book bag recommends as well. “The book describes and illustrates the worldwide exuberance of an art movement that burst, with new energy, onto the world stage of avant garde art in the 1960s and 70s,” she writes.  “The title might fool a reader into believing that the artwork within is traditional weaving, but the cover shouts the excitement to be found within its pages. Nearly 6,000 miles away in Berkeley, California, my artist friends and I were inspired and energized by the sculptural works the Biennales Internationale de la Tapisserie presented at the Musee Cantonal des Beaux Arts.  Not only were many of the works exhibited monumental, they were also breaking with traditional forms and expanding what this astoundingly flexible art medium could be.” The first of Laky’s friends to be included in one of the Biennales, she recalls, was artist Lia Cook. Several years later, in 1989, Laky’s seven-and-a-half-foot high sculpture, That Word, was exhibited in Lausanne. It’s now housed in the Federal Courthouse in San Francisco.

Cotton and Junet are joined by other contributors who, together, give a thoughtful and well-researched view of the development of this art form from the early Biennales to present day.  “Reading this book and viewing the illustrations will provide an understanding of how this movement became so dynamic and why it continues to be so today,” Laky predicts. “Holland Cotter is quoted from a review in 2014, ‘The major art critics are acknowledging what artists have always known, that textile materiality with all its gravity, responsiveness and connections to life and loss holds tremendous capacity to speak to issues of our human condition.'”

Overwhelmed: Literature, Aesthetics, and the Nineteenth-Century Information Revolution


Earlier this year Princeton Press solicited an image of Wendy Wahl’s Branches Unbound, aninstallation at the Grand Rapids Arts Museum 2011, for the cover its forthcoming book by Maurice S. Lee. Wahl writes that she received her copy of Overwhelmed: Literature, Aesthetics and the Nineteenth-Century Information Revolution and, “I am completely delighted. My not-quite-natural trees of deconstructed Encyclopedia Britannica volumes are a fitting image for a book with chapters titled Reading, Searching, Counting and Testing. The author’s historically grounded exploration of the 19th and 20th centuries’ intersection of literature and information offers new ways to think about the 21st century digital humanities.

The Songs of Trees
The Overstory by Richard Powers


We received four recommendations from Chris Drury: The Songs of Trees by David George Haskell, The Overstory by Richard Powers, Underland by Robert MacFarlane and The Wisdom of Wolves by Elli H Radinger.

Underland by Robert MacFarlane
The Wisdom of Wolves

I’m really enjoying The Golden Thread: How Fabric Changed History by Kassia St Clair at the moment, reports Laura Thomas.

The book offers insights into the economic and social dimensions of clothmaking―and counters the enduring association of textiles as “merely women’s work.”

A House in Norway by Vigdis Hjorth


Stéphanie Jacques is reading A House in Norway by Vigdis Hjorth, a novel in which the main character is a woman who is also a textile artist. “You follow her,” she says, “in her creative process and in the difficulties with her neighbors.” Jacques also recommends Hisako Sekijima’s Basketry: Projects from Baskets to Grass Slippers.

Basketry: Projects from Baskets to Glass Slippers

“Not really a new one ;-),” she says, “but for me this book is a gift to get back to basketry in the spring.” 

The Buried: An Archaeology of The Egyptian Revolution

“My favorite book this year was The Buried: An Archaeology of the Egyptian Revolution by Peter Hessler,” writes Mary Merkel-Hess. “The author is well known for his previous books about living in China. In 2011, he moved to Cairo with his wife and infant twin daughters to learn Arabic and write about the Middle East and soon found himself caught up in the Arab Spring. This book is about that political upheaval but also a very human story about living in Cairo, exploring ancient archaeological sites as well as navigating the political unrest of modern Egypt. I had the great good fortune to visit Egypt for several lengthy periods in 2007-8 and this book explained much about a culture that I found fascinating, baffling and at times, frustrating.”

Mrinalini Mukherjee

were two books that we were pleased to add to browngrotta arts’ library this year. First was Mrinalini Mukherjee by Shanay Jhaveri. Mukherjee’s work, which is on exhibit in the new galleries at MoMA, was not exhibited in the US until after her death in 2015. As the book notes explain, “Within her immediate artistic milieu in post-independent India, Mukherjee was an outlier artists. Her art remained untethered to the dominant commitments of painting and figural storytelling. Her sculpture was sustained by a knowledge of traditional Indian and historic European sculpture, folk art, modern design, local crafts and textiles. Knotting was the principal gesture of Mukherjee’s technique, evident from the very start of her practice. Working intuitively, she never resorted to a sketch, model or preparatory drawing. Probing the divide between figuration and abstraction, Mukherjee would fashion unusual, mysterious, sensual and, at times, unsettlingly grotesque forms, commanding in their presence and scale.”

Lenore Tawney: Mirror of the Universe

The second was Lenore Tawney: Mirror of the Universe, Karen Patterson, Editor. The book notes, explain that Tawney was known for employing an ancient Peruvian gauze weave technique to create a painterly effect that appeared to float in space rather than cling to the wall. She was known, too, for being one of the first artists to blend sculptural techniques with weaving practices and pioneering a new direction in fiber art, in the process. Tawney has only recently begun to receive her due from the greater art world. She is currently the subject of a four-exhibition retrospective at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center. This book accompanies the exhibition and features a comprehensive biography of Tawney, additional essays on her work and two hundred full-color illustrations, making it of interest to contemporary artists, art historians and the growing audience for fiber art.


A Couple Collects: Sandy and Lou Grotta of the Grotta Collection

Sandy and Lou Grotta in front of the Grotta House from The Grotta Home by Richard Meier: A Marriage of Architecture and Craft published by Arnoldsche, photo by Tom Grotta
Sandy and Lou Grotta in front of the Grotta House from The Grotta Home by Richard Meier: A Marriage of Architecture and Craft published by Arnoldsche, photo by Tom Grotta

Next month, we will showcase 40 artists whose works part of the remarkable collection of Sandy and Lou Grotta, acquired during their nearly 70-year relationship. “In quality and depth, the Grotta collection of contemporary craft outshines all others, including what is in museums,” writes designer and curator Jack Lenor Larsen. In Artists from the Grotta Collection we will feature important works of fiber, ceramic and wood – just as the Grotta Collection does.

"The Grotta Home by Richard Meier: A Marriage of Architecture and Craft"
The Grotta Home by Richard Meier: A Marriage of Architecture and Craft

The Grottas’ acquisitions are housed in an architecturally significant home designed intentionally to showcase their art. The collection and their home are featured in a new book, The Grotta Home by Richard Meier: a Marriage of Architecture and Craftwhich was photographed and designed by Tom Grotta.

Lila Kulka, Pair, sisal, wool, stilon, 125" x 77", 1989
A couple-themed work by Lila Kulka on of the artists in the Grotta Collection. Pair, sisal, wool, stilon, 125″ x 77″, 1989, photo by Tom Grotta

A well-regarded interior designer, Sandy Grotta (then Sandy Brown) met her husband, Lou Grotta, at the University of Michigan in 1953. After enrolling in multiple art history courses together, the couple quickly developed a mutual admiration for contemporary architecture which would grow to encompass the work of dozens of renowned craft artists. “In the early 1960s, walking out of the Museum of Modern Art, we stumbled upon the Museum of Contemporary Craft next door, ” she says. “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. It was the site of our initial sighting of the wonderful walnut wood work of Edgar and Joyce Anderson.” Soon after, the Grotta commissioned the first work of what evolved into their becoming the most important collectors of Joyce and Shorty’s limited output over the next 30 years. The Andersons introduced them to their friends, ceramists Toshiko Takaezu and William Wyman. “[T]he Andersons were our bridge to other major makers in what we believe to have been the golden age of contemporary craft,” says Sandy, “and the impetus to my becoming our decorator going to interior design school and entering the field.” Lou’s interest in modern architecture and Scandinavian art also stems back to his early years as a student at the University of Michigan. In the early 80s Lou reunited with his New Jersey friend from summer camp, Richard Meier, and, despite differing opinions about craft and differences in opinion concerning craft materials, they decided to collaborate on the creation of The Grotta House. Over a span of five years, the three worked together to design and build a house that combined the Grottas’ unique appreciation for contemporary art and Meier’s formal elements of design.

Sauvages Diptych, Stephanie Jacques, willow, 51" x 18" x 12", 2014
Stephanie Jacques’ couple of willow: Sauvages, Diptych, willow, 51″ x 18″ x 12″, 2014, photo by Tom Grotta


Sandy and Lou continue their curation, still seeking dimensional textile art, sculpture and fine craft that enhances their collection. When it comes to aesthetic decisions, Lou says, the two early disagree. “Since day one, we’ve always been blessed with an amazing like/dislike simpatico. On rare occasions when we disagree, we honor the other’s veto power.” The results of that unique creative collaboration are documented in the more-than 300 photographs that make up The Grotta Home, which will be celebrated in Artists from the Grotta Collection: exhibition and book launch runs from November 2nd to the 10th at browngrotta arts, 276 Ridgefield Road, Wilton, CT.

Together Forever, Judy Mulford, mixed Media, 19.5” x 18.5” x 10”, 2012
This work by Judy Mulford, celebrates partnerships like Sandy’s and Lou’s: Together Forever, mixed Media, 19.5” x 18.5” x 10”, 2012, photo by Tom Grotta


The Artists Reception and Opening is November 2nd, 1 pm to 6 pm; the hours for November 3rd – 10th are 10 am to 5 pm. TheGrotta Home by Richard Meier: a Marriage of Architecture and Craft will be available throughout the exhibition and Tom will be available to sign it. For more info: http://www.browngrotta.com/Pages/calendar.php.

See Me, Norma Minkowitz, mixed media, 11.75" x 22" x 6", 2019
Two heads contribute to a singular vision. Norma Minkowitz, See Me, mixed media, 11.75″ x 22″ x 6″, 2019. photo by Tom Grotta


Art & Identity: the Catalog

art + identity: an international view catalog
art + identity: an international view; a browngrotta arts exhibition catalog

We produced our 49th publication this spring, a 156-page catalog, art + identity: an international view. The catalog features work by 62 artists who have lived and worked in 22 countries in the UK, Europe, Asia, Africa and North and South America. We asked the artists who participated to provide us works that illustrated how identity and influence are reflected in their art. We selected works by artists no longer living on the same basis. The artists involved took an expansive approach, but as you’ll see in the catalog, a few themes emerged. Some artists, for example, were influenced by  the art of other cultures  — through visiting or study. For Dawn MacNutt, it was classical Greek sculpture she saw at the Metropolitan Museum in New York and then in Greece that she has translated in her willow figures. For Paul Furneaux, influences included time spent in Mexico, at Norwegian fjords and then, Japan, where he studied Japanese woodblock. For Adela Akers it was Peruvian weavers; Agneta Hobin,

Nnenna Okore spread
Nnenna Okore spread art + identity: an international view catalog spread

a trip to Zuni pueblos Nnenna Okore was raised in and studied in Nigeria. Common within her body of works is the use of ordinary materials, repetitive processes and varying textures that make references to everyday Nigerian practices and cultural objects. Katherine Westphal had what one writer called “magpie-like instincts.” She called herself a tourist – “then it all pops out in my work – someone else’s culture and mine, mixed in the eggbeater of my mind…” Others found inspiration close to home. Though she travelled extensively and studied in France, Canadian artist, Micheline Beauchemin repeatedly returned to the St. Lawrence River as a theme.

Mary Merkel-Hess catalog spread
Mary Merkel-Hess art + identity: an international view catalog spread

Mary Merkel-Hess evokes the plains of her home in Iowa like “the bush that burned with fire and was not consumed,” a quote from Willa Cather, which Mary says she, too, has seen. 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 our way of thinking, life and work. Its geography and people have given them a strong sense of place. Processes and materials motivated a third group of artists. “I draw inspiration from age-old Indian and Japanese traditional resist-dyeing techniques such as bandhini and shibori ,” says Neha Puri Dhir.

Neha Puri Dhir catalog spread
Neha Puri Dhir catalog spread art + identity: an international view

Ed Rossbach was also a relentless experimenter who learned and adapted dozens of techniques and unusual materials from lacemaking with plastic tubes to enlarging then reinterpreting images from Coptic tapestries to weaving raffia on a loom after studying weavings from Africa. Susie Gillespie grows flax from seed that she processes by retting, breaking and hackling before spinning it into yarn.  The clay from Shigaraki, Japan is crucial to Yasuhisa Kohyama’s work – through the techniques he has pioneered, he aims to highlight the upheavals evident in its creation, including volcanic eruptions and the erosion of water and wind.
Other artists took a more interior and personal view: Aleksandra Stoyanov of the Ukraine and now Israel uses images of ancestors in her work, this time images from childhood, and she notes that the child comes with us into adulthood. Irina Kolesnikova also grew up in Russia. Aspects of her everyday life there are reflected in artworks that feature her Alter Ego – “a slightly comic, clumsy human of an uncertain age (who is just a survivor struggling to keep his existence balanced).” Personal and universal connections to the sensuality and materiality of the woven image motivates Lia Cook.

art + identity: an international view; a browngrotta arts exhibition catalog

She is particularly interested in the emotional connection to memories of touch and cloth. She’s worked with neurologists to measure brainwaves for people who look at a photograph versus a woven version of the same image. The wider world and related issues were the subject for others. Nancy Koenigsberg’s work for this exhibit originated as a visual and emotional response the scenes destruction from the recent California wildfires and to the unfolding ecological disaster of which they are symptomatic. Lewis Knauss’ work has also begun to reflect the worldwide concern for climate change. American artist Mary Giles began creating wall panels that dealt with her concerns about population some years before her death in 2018, exploring in them ideas of density and boundaries.

photo spread
Norma Minkowtz, The Path (pages 50-51) Lilla Kulka, Odchodzacy and Co-Bog Zlaczyl (pages 114-115) Gyöngy Laky, Neo Rupee and Reach (pages 40-41)

The catalog includes an essay, The Textile Traveller, by Jessica Hemmings, Ph.d., Professor of Crafts, University of Gothenburg, Sweden, which creates perspective. This exhibition, “reminds us that the textile is an expert traveller – adept at absorbing new surroundings and influences while retaining elements of previous contexts and functions. Many physically embody the buzz word of our times: resilience. Attention to the textile’s many histories and journeys can help us trace and begin to understand the, often overwhelming, complexities contemporary societies face.”

Marianne Kemp horsehair weaving
Marianne Kemp 5mk Drifting Dialogues horsehair, cotton, linen 45” x 42” x 3.5 “, 2018

The catalog can be ordered for $50 plus tax and shipping on our website at browngrotta arts: http://store.browngrotta.com/art-identity-an-international-view/


Books make great gifts

We received many good suggestions for this year’s book round up and have added two of our own.


Rereading works of particular power was a theme for several of the artists who replied. Jo Barker tells us that she returns again and again to The Thinking Hand: Existential & Embodied Wisdom in Architecture by Juhani Pallasmaa (Wiley, 2009). “As a maker who works in an instinctive way,” she writes, “this book was a revelation. It is often so difficult to talk about and explain embodied knowledge. The book’s subheading may seem misleading, as this is a book of interest to artists, musicians, and writers as well as architects. In fact, anyone interested in the process of creativity, and making. It consists of a series of illustrated essays moving from the physical to the abstract, from the hand itself to emotional theory. The author – ‘one of Finland’s most distinguished architects and architectural thinkers’ – writes concisely. Every paragraph has meaningful content and for this reason is a book that can be picked up and read in short bites, as well as an engrossing long read. At its heart is the importance of the hand as a tool, movements of the hand and development of the mind and imagination. All of this rings true for me as a tapestry designer and weaver.” Barker also recommends Findings by Kathleen Jamie (Sort of Books, 2015). “For anyone interested in Scotland, nature writing, travel, the human condition, this small book is so thoughtful and beautiful. I have given it to several friends.” Kathleen Jamie writes essays and poetry. Findings is a book of 11 short essays. “She writes with clarity and precision,” writes Barker. “Every word counts. Neolithic buildings, birds, the streets of Edinburgh, remote Scottish Islands her family: she really makes you notice tiny details and her thoughts stay with you long after the book is finished.” 

Barker notes that her prior book, Sightlines: A Conversation With the Natural World (The Experiment, 2013) includes observations on the restoration of whalebones, the aurora borealis, cave paintings, bird colonies, an archaeological dig and “is equally absorbing, broad ranging and magical.” 

A favorite book that Jennifer Falck Linssen finds herself rereading is Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants by Douglas Tallamy (Timber Press, 2009). “Returning to Wisconsin six years ago after being away for close to 17 years, it was clear just how the woods and meadows had changed – and not for the better,” she observes. “My husband and I have spent the past six summers battling invasive plants on our land. Just when I think we’ve beat the invasive non-native plants back, they creep forward again. The good news is that in this case it’s been two steps forward and only one step back. And it’s worth the effort to see the beautiful native woodland plants reappear. Doug Tallamy’s book reinforces those efforts by sharing with his readers how important our native plants are and the wonderful creatures they support.”

She recently finished reading The Death and Life of the Great Lakes by Dan Egan (W.W. Norton, 2018) after a fellow artist-friend, equally interested in water health, recommended it. “Growing up along the shores of Lake Michigan I knew a great deal of the history and some of the challenges the Great Lakes have dealt with in the past and at the present,” she says. “Dan Egan writes about how each change and challenge to the Great Lakes has led to a new one. It’s a chain of events both fascinating and frightening – one that I hope will help more people realize just how important both land and water health are to our overall ecosystem.” 

Gyöngy Laky returned to The Box Project: Uncommon Threads (Cotsen Occasional Press, 2016)In October, The Textile Museum at George Washington University announced that it is the recipient of an $18.4 million gift of more than 4,000 textiles (including The Box Project), an endowment and equipment to support the textile collections. Lloyd Cotsen, the donor, was former CEO and chairman of the of Neutrogena Corporation and a prodigious collector of textiles, baskets, books and more. “Lyssa C. Stapleton, the curator of the Cotsen collection and editor or the catalog, described what captivated Cotsen about the textile works he collected,” writes Laky: ‘the flexibility of the medium, it’s dexterity and ability to fill space, to be rigid or pliant, to cover walls or floors, to be sculptural or flat, are what made him a passionate patron.’ Among Cotsen’s collecting projects was The Box Project. “Over several years 36 artists were commissioned to create artworks that would be housed, but not necessarily contained, in two sizes of archival boxes,” writes Laky. “The catalog is a hefty 5 pounds. It is just smaller than the smaller of the two archival boxes that the selected artists could choose to house the artworks that Cotsen commissioned. It is bound in subtly textured indigo fabric and, most strikingly, and metaphorically, it has a window in its cover. It is not only a beautiful object and fascinating read, it is also a window on the field. I read the catalog in 2016, but it stayed vivid in my mind. With the announcement of the gift to GWU, I re-read the thoughtful and thought-provoking essays this fall.” 

“For me,” writes Heidrun Schimmel, “one of the most inspiring books was 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Harari Yuval Noah (Spiegel & Grau 2018).”It’s not an art book, “but one nevertheless very important for my work.” In it, the author conducts an important conversation about how to take on the problems of the 21st century.

Chris Drury also recommends a non-art book, a novel by Elizabeth Gilbert, A Signature of All Things (Riverhead Books, 2014).

Nancy Moore Bess, Polly Sutton and Scott Rothstein chose art books. Bess writes that her go-to books for inspiration and calming are all versions of How to Wrap Five Eggs by Hideyuki Oka (Weatherhill, 2008). “In total I probably have two dozen books on wrapping and gift traditions in Japan. One I own is a real treasure. It’s multiple layers of packaging let you know immediately how significant the contents are. The outer sleeve is beautifully stenciled to hint at what is inside. Plain cardboard and tissue protect the red folder that covers the book itself. This particular edition is filled with photos and illustrations not included in most editions. Gift giving in Japan is very complicated!”

Sutton recommends, Braiding Sweetgrass Robin Kimmerer: “It’s so very good!” Rothstein found interesting Jangarh Singh Shyam: The Enchanted ForestAurogeeta Das (Roli Books, 2017) that accompanied an exhibition of the same name http://artfoundout.blogspot.com
/2017/10/jangarh-singh-shyam-enchanted-forest.html.Singh was a member of an indigenous tribe from Madhya Pradesh in India who created murals, acrylics on paper, clay reliefs and and screen prints of tribal deities that had not been previously visualized and flora and fauna remembered from his childhood.


Kay Sekimachi Master Weaver


We have two picks this year. First, The Shape of Craft by Ezra Shales (Reaktion Books, 2018), a book we predict will join the list of those that readers return to again and againIt explores some of the key questions about craft: who makes it, what we mean when we think about a craft object and how that shapes our understanding of what craft is. Shales’s discussion ranges widely across people and objects: from potter Karen Karnes to weaver Jack Lenor Larsen, glass sculptor Dale Chihuly to Native American basket-maker Julia Parker, as well as younger makers such as Sopheap Pich and Maarten Baas, and to the porcelain and cast-iron sanitary ware produced by the Kohler Company, the pottery made in Stoke on Trent and the people in Asia today who weave beautiful things for IKEA.”This book is of particular value to the fine arts, where today’s practitioners are reaching out more and more into traditional craft without understanding its context,” writes Garth Clark in CFile. “The Shape of Craft lets them know that while rooted in labor, material and haptic experience (I only acknowledge craft as a verb) it can also be intellectually profound and conceptually textured.” The second, and latest, catalog of Kay Sekimachi’s work, Kay Sekimachi: Master Weaver (Fresno Art Museum, 2018prepared to accompany this year’s one-person exhibition at the Fresno Museum of Art. Kay Sekimachi: Master Weaver is lushly illustrated with never-before-seen works from the 1940s to works through the 60s, 70s, 80s, up to 2017. The curators, Kristina Hornback and Michele Ellis Pracy, aimed “to select and ultimately present artwork that encapsulates the breadth, variety, and intrinsic voice of an artist,” in order to illuminate her 77 years “of experimental and remarkable art making.” They have succeeded, masterfully. 


Happy Holiday reading!


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!