Category: Commissions

Dispatches: Los Angeles for The Box Project Exhibition at the Fowler Museum

In the 2000s, collector Lloyd Cotsen and his then-curator the late Mary Kahelberg began what would become The Box Project: Uncommon Threads, commissioning 36 international, contemporary artists to work within a given set of parameters. They were challenged to work within the confines of an archival box—to create one-of-a-kind works of art. What followed were years of fascinating correspondence with the artists who would participate in the project. As expected, each interpreted the challenge in his or her own way, resulting in an exceedingly diverse collection of works that reflects the artists’ skill and creativity. Most of the pieces in the show are presented in their accompanying 23″ by 14″ by 3” or 14” by 14″ by 3″ boxes.

The Box Project Exhibition at the Fowler Museum Opening

The Box Project Exhibition at the Fowler Museum Opening

 

The exhibition showcases these skilled artists’ ingenious use—and often-expansive definitions—of fiber, while exploring the collector/artist relationship. The exhibition couples the box commissions with other examples of the participating artists’ larger works. Also included are some of the letters and drawings and maquettes for the exhibition — a fascinating glimpse of the creative process.

Helena Hernmarck installation, The Box Project Exhibition at the Fowler Museum. Photo by tom Grotta

Helena Hernmarck’s “box” installation and one of her larger tapestries. Photo by Tom Grotta

The 36 artists whose work appears in this exhibition are Masae Bamba, James Bassler, Mary Bero, Zane Berzina, N. Dash, Virginia Davis, Carson Fox, Shigeki Fukumoto, John Garrett, Ana Lisa Hedstrom, Helena Hernmarck,  Pat Hodson, Kiyomi Iwata, Gere Kavanaugh, Ai Kijima, Hideaki Kizaki, Lewis Knauss, Nancy Koenigsberg, Gerhardt Knodel, Naomi Kobayashi, Gyöngy Laky, Paola Moreno, Jun Mitsuhashi, Kyoko Nitta, Hisako Sekijima, Barbara Murak, Cynthia Schira, Heidrun Schimmel, Carol Shinn, Sherri Smith, Hadi Tabatabai, Koji Takaki, Aune Taamal, Richard Tuttle, and Peter Weber. Work by 10 of those included is available through browngrotta arts.

Artist Talk. Photo by Tom Grotta

Artists’ panel. Photo by Tom Grotta

On September 10th, three of the artists involved, Gere Kavanaugh, Gyöngy Laky, and Hisako Sekijima joined the curator of the Cotsen Collection, Lyssa C. Stapleton, in a conversation about their respective processes and resulting “boxes.” We were fortunate to attend their talk and to catch up with a number of artist, collector and curator friends.

Hisako Sekijima in front of her works at The Box Project Exhibition at the Fowler Museum. Photo by Tom Grotta

Hisako Sekijima in front of her box project. Photo by Tom Grotta

“The box is a technical tool and also a spatial construct,” Sekijima told the audience, “which gave me freedom.” The artist used the box, she explained, as a mold in which multiple baskets were integrated whole.” Kavanaugh spoke at length of her work as a designer for Lloyd Cotsen, including her design of the brightly colored Neutrogena headquarters.

Laky talked about her work and the influence of the environment and feminism on her work — including her free-standing word sculpture, Slowly, composed of letters that can be read as LAG or GAL, and which was motivated by Laky’s efforts in improve gender equity in hiring in the University of California system.

Gyongy Laky. Photo by Tom Grotta

Gyongy Laky with her box project to the right and a larger work above. Photo by Tom Grotta

On October 14th, in Culture Fix, Lacy Simkowitz, curatorial assistant at the Cotsen Collection, who worked closely with artists featured in The Box Project, will discuss how the exhibition developed. From mining the archives to decisions about the exhibition checklist, Simkowitz played a key role in the development of the traveling exhibition. In this gallery talk, she will discuss case studies by James Bassler, Ai Kijima and Cynthia Schira and she share behind-the-scenes stories about the exhibition planning process.

Crowds lining up for the opening reception of The Box Project at the Fowler Museum. Photo by Tom Grotta

Crowds lining up for the opening reception of The Box Project at the Fowler Museum. Photo by Tom Grotta

The Box Project: Uncommon Threads is at the Fowler through January 15, 2017. The Fowler is located on the UCLA campus, 308 Charles E. Young Drive, North, Los Angeles, California 90024; 310.825.4361.


More Art Outdoors: Randy Walker’s latest in Minneapolis

Randy Walkers Urban Fabric installation. photo courtesy of Randy Walker

Randy Walkers Urban Fabric installation. photo courtesy of Randy Walker

Randy Walker is at work on a temporary art installation outdoors in Minneapolis, Minnesota, entitle Urban Fabric. Walker received his fifth Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant that will fund the work. The installation is located on the side wall of the historic Pantages Theater, which is home to a nondescript parking lot. It will be part of the Pantages’ 100th anniversary recognition. Another artist is creating a billboard above the installation, and some of the fiber from Urban Fabric will extend over the top to connect to the building above.

Urban Fabric

Urban Fabric

The image below of Walker’s assistant, Arnold Carlson, illustrates that while the work is simple in concept, its execution is extremely tedious and difficult. The Pantages Theatre is located at: 710 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 55403. You can take a behind-the-scenes tour of the Panteges and other beautifully preserved theaters in downtown Minneapolis in September. More information here: http://dev.preserveminneapolis.org/event/historic-theaters-of-minneapolis-walking-tour/.


Congratulations! Mary Giles is a Renwick Gallery Master of the Medium

Mary Giles details by Tom Grotta and Don Casper

Mary Giles details by Tom Grotta and Don Casper

Today, Mary Giles will receive the 2013 Master of the Medium award for fiber from the James Renwick Alliance and the Smithsonian Museum of American Art in Washington, D.C. The Masters of the Medium award recognizes artists of consummate craftsmanship who have contributed to and influenced their chosen fields. The Masters of the Medium awards were initiated in 1997 on the occasion of the fifteenth anniversary of the James Renwick Alliance and the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Renwick Gallery. The Masters of the Medium Awards are given biennially in odd numbered years.

Mary Giles resides in St. Croix, Minnesota. She creates mixed-media coiled baskets that are sculptural in nature, totems and three-dimensional wall works. Giles’ recently created a 53-inch “boulder,” The Long Divide, of hammered waxed linen, torched tin-coated copper and brass.

The Long Divide by Mary Giles, photo by Don Casper

The Long Divide by Mary Giles, photo by Don Casper

Her 2012 work,Twist, has been added to the American Decorative Arts collection of the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut.

Sentry Field by Mary giles, photo by Tom Grotta

Sentry Field by Mary giles, photo by Tom Grotta

The sculptural piece was made of waxed linen, iron twists, hammered tin and coated copper wire. Giles’ work is in several other museum collections, including that of the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts, Minnesota, Racine Art Museum, Wisconsin, Contemporary Art Museum, Honolulu, Hawaii, Detroit Institute of Arts, Michigan, Museum of Arts and Design, New York, New York. She has said of her work, “Today, I am very concerned about the environment and try to capture the forms, textures and light found in nature” and that she is influenced by the views out of her studio windows, “the light on the river, shadows in the woods, and the textures of the water, rocks and trees.”


Against the Grain: Randy Walker’s Dream Elevator and Other News

 

photo by Randy Walker

photo by Randy Walker

December 2012 saw completion of Dream Elevator by Randy Walker for the City of St. Louis Park, Minnesota.  The structure is a 45-foot tall stainless-steel-and-concrete tower woven with custom-braided polyester rope.  The sculpture is inspired by the nearby Peavey-Haglin Grain Elevator of 1899, the first cylindrical concrete grain elevator in the world.

photo by Randy Walker

photo by Randy Walker

The dedication date of Dream Elevator is as yet undetermined. This year and next, Walker will be at work on at least four public commissions. First,  a permanent outdoor work, Sky Portal, for the Anderson Abruzzo International Balloon Museum in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which will be visible from the sky as well as the ground. Second, Entanglement, in Scottsdale, Arizona, where Walker will use an existing bell tower as a framework for a fibrous wrapping.

photo by Randy Walker

photo by Randy Walker

Third, a temporary, site-specific installation will be built at the two main cargo shipping terminals in San Diego, California that will be part of WRAP: an artistic investigation of the San Diego Tidelands. Finally, Walker will work with his South Minneapolis community to create a large-scale, collaborative installation for which Walker received a Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant.


Process Notes: Permanence and Impermanence in Public Art

Randy Walker, Conceptual Rendering for
Filling the Void

In March 2012, Randy Walker was the first grantee of the McKnight Project, which is funded by the McKnight Foundation and Forecast Public Art. The McKnight Project grant of $50,000 supports the creation of publicly accessible temporary or permanent artwork in Minnesota by a Minnesota-based mid-career public artist. Projects may be in any form or discipline, including performance, dance, storytelling, photography, film, sculpture, painting, etc. http://forecastpublicart.org/grants-mcknightproj.php.

Randy Walker, Conceptual Rendering for
Filling the Void

Walker, in partnership with YouthLink, a drop-in center for homeless youth, is installing a public art sculpture, Filling the Void, that the grant website describes as “a way finder and creative outlet” for the Kulture Klub Collaborative (KKC) http://www.kultureklub.org/about.html. KKC is an independent arts organization that brings together artists and homeless youth in the Twin Cities through multi-disciplinary workshops, open mics, cultural presentations and art outings. Walker’s project, Filling the Void, will consist of a permanent steel framework, a three-dimensional grid, that will act as a loom for a series of temporary fiber installations to be completed collaboratively by Walker and kids from YouthLink. After these initial installations, the framework will be programmed by KKC.  Future artists-in-residence will decide, together with the young people involved in the program, how, and in what media, the framework should be used.

Randy Walker, Conceptual Rendering for
Filling the Void 

Filling the Void will be an exploration of permanence and impermanence in public art through a collaborative process,” says Walker. “As an artist who works with both durable, long-term materials and more temporal fibrous materials, I will investigate how a work of public art might bridge the gap between the ephermeral installation and a traditionally static, unchanging sculpture.  I believe there is a fertile middle ground, where a work of public art might be regenerated, renewed, and recreated periodically in different ways, by different community members, and even different artists,” he adds. “I am interested in how the ‘minimal routine maintenance’ so often invoked in the commissioning of public art might be an opportunity to celebrate a work of art, re-engaging it in the future, rather than the mere preservation of the object.”

Randy Walker, Conceptual Rendering for
Filling the Void

It is Walker’s hope that the sculpture will be a permanent framework upon which ever-changing installations will take place, in the same way YouthLink is a permanent fixture for the ever-changing homeless population it serves.  “It is a visible, public space that will be claimed and defined by a vibrant and creative population that lacks a space of their own,” Walker says.

Randy Walker, Conceptual Rendering for
Filling the Void

The images here are conceptual renderings, showing several possibilities for fiber installations, and potential ways the framework might be engaged using non-fiber media. They also provide insight into a piece of the grant application process, the importance of designing a presentation that enables decision makers to share the artist’s vision.

Randy Walker, Conceptual Rendering for
Filling the Void


Olympic Art News: David Watkins Talks About Designing the Medals for the 2012 Games

London 2012 Olympic medals designed by British artist David Watkins.
The Olympic medals disk circular form is a metaphor for the world. The front of the medal always depicts the same imagery at the summer Games – the Greek Goddess of Sport – ‘Nike’ – stepping out of the depiction of the Parthenon and arriving in London.

Turns out that our family friend, and very talented artist, Davis Watkins, was selected from among 100 artists to design the medals for this year’s Summer Olympic Games. For the Olympic bronze, silver and gold medals, Watkins developed a striking geometric design, juxtaposed with imagery on the front of the medal, which has since 2004 depicted Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, stepping out of the Parthenon. His design for the back of the medal features a 3-dimensional emblem that suggests the built structures of a modern city, a background grid that radiates energy, a ribbon-like form representing the River Thames, and a square, to balance the circularity of the design. Get a behind scenes view of the design process at the Crafts Council’s web page: Striking Gold, http://onviewonline.craftscouncil.org.uk/striking-gold, where Watkins and his student Lin Cheung, who designed the medal for the 2012 Summer Paralympic Games are interviewed. If you are in London, the medals are on display at the British Museum through September 9th http://www.britishmuseum.org/whats_on/exhibitions/london
_2012_games_medals.aspx
.

David Watkins, photo by Tom Grotta

With Wendy Ranshaw, Watkins is part of an art power couple (like Frida/Diego, Pollack/Krasner, and in our field, Stocksdale/Sekimachi, Rossbach/Westphal, Kobayashi/Kobayashi, McQueen/Mensing; Brennan/Maffei, etc.) If you get as far as Wales, you can see Wendy Ranshaw’s solo exhibition of jewellery and objects, Room of Dreams, at the Ruthin Craft Centre — also through September 9, 2012 http://www.ruthincraftcentre.org.uk/08artists.html.


Update: Chris Drury’s Carbon Sink Creates a Dialogue

In a previous blog,  we wrote about Chris Drury’s Carbon Sink, an installation at the University of Wyoming that garnered the ire of local legislators who viewed it as a poor educational investment. Chalk one up to transformative power art.  As you can see from the editorial below, by Wyoming State representative, Tom Lubnau, in the Gillette News Record, (where Rhonda used to live) the controversy led to a valuable dialogue about art, education, energy and the environment http://www.gillettenewsrecord.com/stories/Trying-to-make-silk-purses-from-sows-ears,61404.  Here’s also an image of Chris Drury’s most recent Wyoming-inspired art work, On the Ground: Above and Below Wyoming.

topographical map woven with a Geological map of the state. The border is coal dust and Wyoming earth. The pattern is wind blowing off the Rockies. Size: 3'4"€ x 4'€™1.5"€

Trying to make silk purses
from sows’ ears

Tom Lubnau
Gillette News Record, September 6, 2011

A few weeks ago, the University of Wyoming unveiled a new on-campus sculpture entitled “Carbon Sink.”

The artist,  Chris Drury, is a worldfamous sculptor, the university paid $40,000 to install the sculpture on campus. The artist designed the sculpture as a series of dead logs arranged in a spiral pattern, which he hoped would symbolize the death of forests from pine beetles due to global warming.

On the Ground: Above and Below Wyoming Detail by Chris Drury

Much has been written by journalists, bloggers and in some tersely worded emails about the comments Reps. Gregg Blikre, Norine Kasperik and I made about the hypocrisy of accepting dollars derived from carbon fuels to put up an anti-carbon sculpture. People, mostly from California and New York told we told us we should be “ashamed of ourselves” and that we are “ignorant bumpkins because we hate anything that resembles culture” and referred to us as “cow flops and road apples.”

It is important to understand what we didn’t do. We didn’t ask the sculpture be taken down. We didn’t take any steps to remove funding from the university. And we didn’t engage in any form of censorship. What did we do? We defended our friends and neighbors. Prompted by the existence of the piece of art, we started a discussion. My old art teachers, from back in the day, told me that art was supposed to provoke discussion, to inspire and to affect the viewer.

And that is what we did. We used the existence of the art as an inspiration piece to let folks know that between 60 and 80 percent of the state’s budget is dependent on extractive industries. We asked for some appreciation and kudos for the hard-working folks in the energy industry, who go to work day after day, meeting America’s energy needs and funding in large measure the University of Wyoming budget. We told the university that we thought it was out of touch with the rest of the state, and that we wished they would spend as much time working with us to meet our educational needs as they did being critical of the industries that pay the bills in Wyoming.

And to their credit, the administration of the University of Wyoming listened. We engaged in a dialogue about the misunderstandings, misperceptions and missed opportunities that exist between the University of Wyoming and Campbell County. University President Dr. Tom Buchanan, Trustees Warren Lauer and Jim Neiman, and senior UW staffers Don Richards and Mike Massie took time out of their busy schedules to travel to Gillette, to tour a power plant, the college and other community facilities, and to meet with community leaders and energy company officials to discuss opportunities for UW to offer educational services in the Campbell County area.

Carbon Sink University of Wyoming

The discussions were positive. Dr. Buchanan left the citizens of Campbell County with a clear challenge. If we can define a specific set of needs that can be met by the university rather than a vague list of complaints, the university will work to meet those needs. The monkey is now on the backs of the citizens of Campbell County. We have a great opportunity to advance the education opportunities and the quality of life in northeastern Wyoming if we are wise, and if we can specifically define our needs and put a plan in place to accomplish those needs.

Thanks to Chris Drury for your sculpture. While I don’t agree with your science, or what you believe your sculpture symbolizes, the burnt logs laying in a circular pattern on the grounds of the University of Wyoming were a catalyst to open discussions on a greater UW presence in Campbell County. Art prompted discussion. If we accept the challenge, discussion will lead to better education and an enhanced quality of life.

Rep. Tom Lubnau represents Campbell County. Rep. Gregg Blikre and Rep. Norine Kasperik of Campbell County also joined with him in signing this opinion piece. (reprinted with permission).

For Chris’s views and more on the controversy, visit his blog: http://chrisdrury.blogspot.com/2011_09_01_archive.html.


Installation News: Grethe Sørenson for Tronrud Engineering in Norway

Greyscale+Colour by Grethe Sørensen photo by Bo Hovgaard

In 2010, Danish artist Grethe Sørensen was commissioned to produce a site-specific, large-scale work of textile art for Tronrud Engineering in Hønefoss, Norway. Tronrud Engineering specializes in developing machinery within the industrial automation area. The firm’s new location, designed by Norwegian architects Snøhetta (Snoarc), is situated at Eggemoen, the largest natural flat plateau in Norway.

Tronrud-Grey by Grethe Sørensen photo by Bo Hovgaard

Detail Greyscale by Grethe Sørensen photo by Bo Hovgaard

The work that resulted was Fjeld og li og fjord, a title taken from a quotation from a Danish song about Norwegian landscapes which means “mountain and meadow and fiord.” For the work’s motif, Sørensen took as a point of departure the contours of the landscape around Eggemoen, and rendered these contours in three variations on the same theme — Contour, Greyscale and Color — one theme for each floor in the building. The textiles are integrated into the structure of the building; placed opposite the entrance doors on three floors above each other covering walls of 15 square meters each. Each piece consists of 5 panels of jacquard-woven fabric.

Tronrud-Black by Grethe Sørensen photo by Bo Hovgaard

Detail-Contour by Greteh Sørensen photo by Bo Hovgaard

The first floor shows a color fantasy of the landscape theme. This image is the first impression to visitors and it may be seen as an expression of the creativity that is one of the main characteristics of Tronrud Engineering. The second floor has the Greyscale. From a distance it gives a three-dimensional impression of the landscape. On closer inspection, it’s evident that it is made up of different patterns in black and white – typical digital patterns. These patterns reference Norwegian a traditional knitting pattern, “lusekofte,” a Norwegian sweater pattern, dating from the 19th century. It features a black-and-white design, and the name means “lice jacket,” after the isolated black stitches. The Greyscale motif represents tradition combined with innovation as an expression of the versatility and wide-ranging skills represented by the people in the company. On the third floor is the pure black-and-white image of the landscape with contours and a line in red. This piece expresses the sharpness, seriousness and precision for which the firm is known.

Portrait of Grethe Sørensen¸photo by Bo Hovgaard

The samples were woven by Sørensen on a handloom with digital single-thread control. The final pieces were woven on an industrial jacquard loom at Digital Lab, at the Audax Textile Museum, Tilburg, Netherlands.


Dispatches: Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery, Plymouth, UK

Calculus, by Sue Lawty, 2m x 3m, natural stone on gesso. photo by John Coombes

 

 

 

Taking Time: Craft and the Slow Revolution, opens February 12th at the Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery and runs through April 9, 2011.  The exhibition, which was curated by artist Helen Carnac for Craftspace, “considers how the practice of contemporary craft making embraces similar values and philosophies to those supported by the Slow Movement.  Both think through where things are made, by whom and the importance of provenance. They ask us to slow down, perhaps not literally but certainly philosophically, and to reflect on other and perhaps more thoughtful ways of doing things.”  Taking Time features 19 international artists, makers and designers, including Sue Lawty, Matthew Harris, Heidrun Schimmel and Sonya Clark, whose making practice and work connects with these ideas. In different and sometimes overlapping ways they examine the world through making and in places quietly ask questions about global and local conditions that we find ourselves in today. The exhibition aims to show that contemporary craft practice and its methodologies can generate a modern and timely response to current social debates.

Sue Lawty provided in-progress images and described the process of making of Calculus, her work large and meticulously crafted work for the Taking Time exhibition on her V&A blog  http://www.vam.ac.uk/vastatic/microsites/1395_lawty/wordpress last January. In making the work, she wrote, “hundreds and thousands of decisions were wrestled and questioned in researching, collecting, sorting, selecting, organising, ordering, laying out, composing… The process is by its nature, a meditative and slow affair. I found myself considering how each tiny found fragment of rock laid out in each single row, echoed the minute subtle nuances and individualities embedded in all the rows of all the fragments of woven cloth I’d encountered in the V&A stores. Each unique mark and decision of infinitesimal difference subscribing to the language of the whole.”

The Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery was home to another fascinating installation, Labelled, by Dail Behennah, from February 2009 to May 2010  http://www.plymouth.gov.uk/lookingin_lookingout.pdf.

Labelled-by-Dail-Behennah

Labelled was made of 490 suspended enamel labels, hung in three layers forming a circle over 2m wide. Each enamel was printed with a label from natural history specimens within the Museum’s collections. These specimens were collected and intended for study. The labels were written by curators and collectors over the centuries and record various details about the specimens. One of the core aims of Labelled was to provoke viewers into thinking about why we collect and what can be learned from these specimens. The collections have a genuine scientific importance and are studied to help understand species and habitats in the past as well as in the present. The glittering enamels Behennah used reflected the preciousness of the natural world and different species. The circle was punctuated by red labels, which indicated an endangered or extinct species and reminded viewers of the fragility of the natural world.

Behennah says she was always interested in the idea of the collector’s cabinet which aimed to collect and preserve knowledge. “Without natural history collections in museums, and their associated information, we would not know which species are threatened, on the verge of extinction or already extinct,” says Behennah. “Some, such as the dodo and passenger pigeon, may live on in folklore, but species of insignificant-looking insects or fish can disappear without trace if they have not already been recorded, classified and labelled by collectors in the past, and preserved in museums today.” It was Behennah’s hope that the installation would engender debate about museums and their role, as well as debates surrounding species diversity and conservation. “These are important topics,” Behennah notes, “especially now that we are appearing to witness climate change and habitat movement and reduction.” The Museum’s website still includes additional information, including and interview with Behennah, images of the installation process and some of the specimens and more. http://www.plymouth.gov.uk/lookingin_lookingout.pdf

An example of an enamel label, of the sort Dail Behennah prepared for her installation work, Labelled. A large part of the value of a museum is contained in its labelling and scholarship, a fact that is generally not acknowledged. Each of the 490 enamels in Labelled is printed with a label from natural history specimens within the Plymouth City Museum’s collections.

The Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery is at Drake Circus, Plymouth, PL4 8AJ.


Dispatches: Helena Hernmarck’s Tabula Rasa at Purdue

Helena Hernmarck's Tabula Rasa at the Yue-Kong Pao Hall of Visual and Performing Arts at Purdue's College of Liberal Arts

In 2009, Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana selected Helena Hernmarck to design and execute a tapestry for the Yue-Kong Pao Hall of Visual and Performing Arts at Purdue’s College of Liberal Arts. Lisa Lee Peterson, Professor and Graduate Director of Department of Art and Design, was instrumental in Hernmarck’s selection by the university art committee.  “Of the artists working in tapestry today,” the University’s press materials quote Jack Lenor Larson, “Helena Hernmarck stands without peer.  Her works have been selected for scores of prestigious public spaces and are seen each year by millions of viewers.  The hallmark of Ms. Hernmarck’s work is her skill in creating the optical illusion of three-dimensional designs on flat but richly textured surfaces of tapestry.”

Helena Hernmarck and Lisa Lee Peterson in Front of Tabula Rasa at Purdue University. Photo by Skif Peterson

The University determined the location of the piece — the stairwell between the first and second floors — but left the other details to Hernmarck, who addressed two needs in her conception for the piece. She wanted the designed image to collectively represent the various art forms that are studied within the building — painting, ceramic, jewelry, textile, industrial design, theater, dance and music and she wanted the design to fit within the chosen area and increase the feeling of space in the stairwell.

Designed during the summer 2009, Hernmarck settled on a theme for the design: tabula rasa, the unwritten page, also a piece of ceramic that is scraped clean of marks after each use. Hernmarck’s Tabula Rasa would represent the beginning of the creative journey, whether at inception or at the commencement of an additional phase of the creative process.  During sketching, Hernmarck often finds the road to a final design through a process of changes or “scraping away” of initial ideas in such a way that previous marks still become part of the overall design. The early phase of Tabula Rasa is referenced in the few words written on a white page woven in the tapestry.

Hernmarck achieved the feeling of space for the stairwell that she envisioned by painting and then photographing small cut-up pieces of watercolors so that they cast shadows creating an image of being in flight. This enabled her to place the smallest of the elements of Tabula Rasa closest to the plane of the image, i.e. the place with the most sense of urgency. The final design includes a play on shadows to create a visual illusion on different levels which solved the challenge of designing the lower portion of the work to catch the eye of a person walking up the staircase.

Tabula Rasa, just off-the-loom on display at the Dalamas Museum, Falun, Sweden

Alice Lund Textiles, Borlange, Sweden produced the tapestry. The main weavers were Britt-Marie Bertilsson and Ebba Bergstrom. Tabula Rasa is the twenty-first tapestry of Helena Hernmarck’s design and technique to be woven at Alice Lund Textiles since 1975. The weaving took 30 weeks from beginning to finish. During this time, Hernmarck visited the studio periodically in order to oversee the quality of the work and to participate in both the weaving and the dying process of the wool with its numerous variations, shades and values. The colors were custom dyed at Wålstedts Textile Spinning and Dying Workshop in Dala-Floda. For Tabula Rasa the workshop dyed 24 kg of wool in 41 different colors. Hernmarck prefers to use of a variety of different qualities in the spun wool, such as thin gobeline, gobelin with rya wool, and single-ply rya wool. The final work includes hundreds of different colors and textures. A video of the weaving of  Tabula Rasa can be viewed at http://browngrotta.com/Pages/hernmarck.php.

Tabula Rasa by Helena Hernmarck Detail

Hernmarck’s unique technique combines different weaving methods and patterns with which she has experimented for more than 45 years. The Hernmarck tapestry technique creates a coarse texture much like the Impressionists’ painting style of the early 1900s. A full-scale enlargement of the image in black and white is created before beginning the tapestry. The cartoon is then adhered to the back side of the tapestry and draped over an aluminum tube that presses the cartoon up against the warp from underneath. The cartoon makes it possible to follow the forms and shadows that can be seen through the warp threads. In order to observe what the weaving will look like at a distance, the artist looks through a small pair of binoculars, turned backwards.  While the tapestry is woven on the horizontal loom, only 50 cm of the tapestry can be viewed at one time.  The ongoing action and reaction in changing colors and weaving techniques creates the overall beauty of the tapestry.

Tabula Rasa was unveiled at Purdue on October 12, 2010. The final size of the tapestry is 3 meters high x 4.45 meters wide (11′ x 14.3′); the weight about 50 kg. Hernmarck has created a related companion piece, Tabula Rasa 2, which is available for sale. http://browngrotta.com/Pages/newthisweek.php