Category: Eco-Art

Artist Focus: Laura Bacon

Laura Ellen Bacon is a sculptor who works in natural materials en masse. She uses dicky meadows, one of the most popular and desirable basket willows, a variety that is widely distributed throughout Britain and Ireland. Her work has been described as ‘monumental,’ ‘compelling’ and ‘uncanny’.

Portrait of Laura Bacon
Laura Bacon entering her UK studio. Photo by Tom Grotta

Her large-scale works have been created in landscape, interior and gallery settings including Saatchi Gallery, Chatsworth, New Art Centre, Somerset House, Sudeley Castle (for Sotheby’s) and Blackwell – The Arts and Crafts House in Cumbria. Bacon describes her organic, site-specific woven sculptures for buildings as “muscular forms” that “nuzzle up to the glass and their gripping weave locks onto the strength of the walls.” “In a truly baroque manner, her monumental installations include curvaceous forms and woven willow forms that resemble a kind of sculpted fabric, which springs from garden walls, hangs on the façade of a building, or billows out from a window ledge,” wrote Jane Milosch, Office of the Under Secretary for History, Art and Culture, Smithsonian, in the exhibition catalog of Green From the Get Go: International Contemporary Basketmakers. Yet, when browngrotta arts visited her studio in the UK we were taken aback by how small it was in contrast to largeness of her works. You can see her here, barely able to fit one of her smaller works through her studio door. 

Detail of Surface Form stripped willow from Somerset, UK 30” x 45” x 28”, 2010

Her goal in creating her evocative work is to bring intrigue into both natural and built environments, creating work that might serve to remind  viewers that nature can still surprise. “The ambition in my work is to generate a kind of intrigue and an appeal that touches a powerful nerve (perhaps ancient in its origin) that we cannot precisely locate,” Bacon says. Her work has been driven by a personal and solitary desire to build and shape form with her hands. “The thrill of making an internal space by turning and tying the material into position provokes a strong desire in me to make. My work responds primarily to the structural features of a particular site, in much same way as the questing foot of a Weaver bird might regard the flex of a bough or a colony of wasps might collaborate within the rafters,” she says. “I also respond to the feeling of the site and the opportunity to give the work (and in some way, the host structure) a sense of movement, of slow growth, as if the work will continue to grow when the viewer’s back is turned.”

Poise by Laura Ellen Bacon
Poise, Laura Ellen Bacon, willow, dicky meadows, 19” x 37” x 22”, 2016. Photo by Tom Grotta

Poise, 2016, for example, is an enormous basket form that Milosch observes “seems incapable of sitting still. Instead, it is an energetic, woven structure that twists and turns with such energy that is recalls a robust, fleshy Rubenesque female torso.” Surface Form,  which was featured in browngrotta arts last exhibition, Volume 50: Chronicling Fiber Art for Three Decades, was originally created for Jerwood Contemporary Makers, a prestigious award, of which she was one of winners who shared the prize. The brief, to all the exhibitors, was to create a work that had to be no more than a meter, and sat upon, or involved itself with, a specific square plinth. In response, Surface Form seems to swallow the edge of the surface.

Surface Form Basket by Laura Bacon
Surface Form, Laura Ellen Bacon
stripped willow from Somerset, UK, 30” x 45” x 28”, 2010. Photo by Tom Grotta

Bacon’s work has been exhibited or collected by the Holburn Museum, Bath, UK; Ruthin Craft Centre, Wales, UK; The Gallery, Winchester Discovery Center, UK; Blackwell, The Arts and Crafts House, Cumbria;; Derby Museum and Art Gallery; FUMI Gallery, Sardinia, Greece; Sainsbury Centre, Norwich, UK; Solomon Gallery, Dublin, Ireland; Hall Place, Kent, UK; Crafts Council, London, UK; Chatsworth Garden, Derbyshire, UK; Victoria & Albert Museum, London, UK; and the Morris Museum, Morristown, New Jersey.


Lives Well Lived: Dorothy Gill Barnes (1927-2020)

We are heartbroken to report that innovative contemporary basketmaker and fiber sculptor Dorothy Gill Barnes, passed away peacefully on November 23, 2020 at age 93, after a short battle with COVID-19. Barnes was a revered member of the browngrotta arts community — she taught our son to harvest materials and mark trees when he was just three.

Portrait of Dorothy Gill Barnes in studio. Photo by Tom Grotta

Barnes was known for developing a distinct working process that included scarring trees that had been marked for eventual removal and returning years later, after the trees had been cut, to harvest the scarred and overgrown bark for use in her baskets. This process enabled her to create dendroglyphs—literally, “tree drawings” — in which tree and time became her collaborators. “The unique properties I find in bark, branches, roots, seaweed, and stone suggest a work process to me,” Barnes said. “I want this problem solving to be evident in the finished piece.”

Born in Iowa, and a longtime resident of the Columbus, Ohio area, Barnes studied at Coe College, Minneapolis School of Art and Cranbrook Academy, as well as at the University of Iowa, where she earned BA and MA degrees in art education. Barnes taught fibers as an adjunct faculty member at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, from 1966 until her retirement from university teaching in 1990. Throughout much of her career, Barnes was a sought-after teacher, participating in residencies and workshops in Denmark, New Zealand, Australia, Fiji and Canada, as well as throughout the United States. Barnes’ early influences were the artist and teacher Ruth Mary Papenthien, who taught at Ohio State University, and Dwight Stump, an Ohio-based traditional basketmaker. She also credited the works of John McQueen and Ed Rossbach as spurring her experiments using natural materials to make contemporary sculpture.

Portrait of Dorothy Gill Barnes. Photo by Tom Grotta

Barnes’ technical investigations placed her at the forefront of contemporary fiber art. She used electric tools to expand the scale, scope and complexity of her pieces and she credited power equipment as the source for ideas that handwork alone would not have suggested. She was comfortable incorporating nails, metal wire and staples along with traditional woven assembly methods. In all of her sculptures, Barnes sought to create structures that honored the growing things from which they came, her materials “respectfully harvested from nature.” Like Rossbach and McQueen, she prized experimentation, spontaneity, inventiveness. She continued to expand her artistic practice into her 90s, as a visiting artist working with students in glass in the Department of Art at Ohio State University until 2018.

Millcreek Willow, 1996. Photo by Tom Grotta

A Fellow of the American Craft Council, Barnes received lifetime achievement awards from the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC and the National Basketry Organization. Other awards include the Raymond J. Hanley Award, Outstanding/Artist Educator from Penland School of Crafts, an Individual Artist Governor’s Award for the Arts in Ohio, and four Ohio Arts Council Individual Artist Fellowships. Her work is in the collections of the Columbus Museum of Art; the de Young Museum of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; the Mint Museum, Charlotte North Carolina; Museum of Arts and Design, New York, New York; Racine Art Museum, Wisconsin; Longhouse Reserve, East Hampton, New York; Arkansas Arts Center, Little Rock; the Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian’s Museum of American Art, Washington, DC; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, among others. In Nature, a comprehensive retrospective, was held at the Mansfield Arts Center in 2018. The Ohio Craft Museum hosted From the Woods: Dorothy Gill Barnes, a major mid-career survey in 1999. 

Barnes’ work has been represented by browngrotta arts in Wilton, Connecticut since the 90s. “Barnes’ ability to showcase the natural materials with which she worked, yet enhancing them through weaving, plaiting, scarring, stacking and sflaying, placed her at the forefront of contemporary fiber art,” observes Tom Grotta, co-curator of browngrotta arts. 

“[Barnes] is attentive to the innate characteristics of a given wood in her aesthetic decision making and rarely forces a wood into an unnatural or artificial mold,” wrote Jeanne Fryer-Kohles in From the Woods: Dorothy Gill Barnes, the eponymous catalog for Barnes’ solo exhibition at the Ohio Craft Museum. “At the same time, she works intuitively with an experimental turn of mind and integrity of vision …. Barnes’ works are rarely preplanned; she prefers to wend her way toward and into a piece, accepting detours and possible pitfalls as a matter of course. Barnes takes raw nature as a starting point. Rather than subjugating it, as [John] McQueen does, with a ‘civilizing’ impress, Barnes guides and amplifies it – in a sense, keeping its ghost enshrined.”

Dendroglyph Band Mulberry, 2000. Photo by Tom Grotta

Barnes also had a long history of activism in the civil rights and anti-war movements. She could be found every Saturday for many years, on the Worthington Village Green with her friends from Central Ohioans for Peace, encouraging drivers to “Honk for Peace” as they passed. She encouraged others to think globally and have empathy for all, regardless of differences. She supported environmental conservation, Honduras Hope and Habitat for Humanity, where she was a longtime volunteer. 

Friends are invited to attend a virtual celebration of life to honor Dorothy Gill Barnes on Sunday, December 13th from 3-5 PM EST. Details are available at www.schoedinger.com. Donations in Barnes’ memory can be made to The Nature Conservancy (www.nature.org), Sierra Club (www.sierraclub.org), or to a charity of your choice. Please visit www.schoedinger.com to send online condolences.


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


Anniversary Alert: 30 Years of Catalogs – 30 Days to Save

From November 30th to December 31st, buy three or more browngrotta arts catalogs and save 10% on your order. In addition, for each sale made during that period, browngrotta arts will make a donation to the International Child Art Foundation https://www.icaf.org.
browngrotta holiday sale
In its 30 years promoting contemporary decorative art, browngrotta arts has produced 47 catalogs, 45 of which are still available. Readers have been appreciative: Artist, collector, curator, Jack Lenor Larsen, wrote that “… catalogs produced by browngrotta, and the photography therein, have become so superior, they are an important part of our literature.” Lotus Stack, formerly Curator of Textiles at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, noted that our publications, “consistently engage much more than readers’ minds.”
All of our volumes are heavy on images. Some highlight work by one or two artists, including Lenore TawneyEd Rossbach and Kay Sekimachi. Others, like Beyond Weaving, International Contemporary ArtTextiles, Influence and Evolution and Green from the Get Go, offer insights on materials, themes and influences. Here’s your chance to explore an artist or an era, fill any gaps in your collection or order a full set (a special discount applies to the purchase of all 45).
Our catalogs fall into four loose categories: those about individual artists, those that take a geographic perspective, those designed around a specific artistic theme, and survey publications, that look at a grouping of artists or work over a period of time.
30th Anniversary Catalog Special
On Individual Artists
The most detailed views of an individual artist are found in our Monograph Series of which there are three: Lenore Tawney: Drawings in Air; Lia Cook: In the Folds, Works from 1973-1997; Ethel Stein: Weaver and our Focus catalog, Jin-Sook So. Each includes an essay, describing the origin of their artistic practice. Drawings in Air also includes excerpts from Tawney’s journals.
In addition to the Monographs and Focus series, we have created 18 catalogs chronicling a series of exhibitions we have held featuring two or three artists each. These include: Markku Kosonen, Mary Merkel-Hess, Claude Vermette, Ed Rossbach and Katherine Westphal, Mariette Rousseau-Vermette, Hisako Sekijima; The British Invasion: Maggie Henton and Dail Behennah; Helena Hernmarck and Markku Kosonen; Mary Giles and Kari Lonning; Karyl Sisson and Jane Sauer; Dorothy Gill Barnes and John Garrett; Mary Merkel-Hess and Leon Niehues; Gyöngy Laky and Rebecca Medel; Glen Kaufman and Hisako Sekijima; Three California Basketmakers: Marion Hildebrandt, Deborah Valoma, Judy Mulford; Sara Brennan tapestry and Mary Giles fiber sculpture; Bob Stocksdale and Kay Sekimachi: Books, Boxes and Bowls; Adela Akers and Sylvia Seventy.

browngrotta holiday catalog special

Geographic focus:
We work with artists in several countries and have compiled their works in seven catalogs that provide viewers a sense of how contemporary art textiles have evolved in various locales. These include three exploring Japanese textiles and basketry: Sheila Hicks Joined by seven friends from Japan; Traditions Transformed: Contemporary Japanese Textiles & Fiber Sculpture; and Japan Under the Influence: Japanese basketmakers deconstruct transition, which features Hisako Sekijima and the artists she has influenced. It also includes A Scandinavian Sensibility, featuring 15 artists (an exhibition that traveled to the North Dakota Museum of Art), From Across the Pond, featuring artists from the UK, Advocates for the Arts: Polish and Czech Fiber Artists from the Anne and Jacques Baruch Foundation Collection and one international volume: Beyond Weaving: Contemporary ArtTextiles.
30th Anniversary Catalog Special
Thematic:
For several exhibitions we asked artists to consider a particular material, approach or influence. This list of catalogs includes: Plunge, Green from the Get Go: International Contemporary Basketmakers, Of Two Minds: Artists Who Do More Than One of a Kind, Stimulus: Art and Its Inception, On Paper, Wired, featuring works made of metals and Art of Substance, which won an AIA design award, and which highlights large-scale works.
30th Anniversary Catalog Special
Survey publications:
Our first survey publications, 10th Wave Part 1: New Baskets and Freestanding Sculpture and 10th Wave Part 2: New Textiles and Fiber Wall Art, which provided “states of the art” reviews, were produced in 1997, 10th Wave III: Art Textiles and Fiber Sculpture followed in 2009. In between and since we have published Influence and Evolution: Fiber Sculpture…then and now – a look at fiber from the 60s to the present, 25 for the 25th; Artboombaby boomer artists reflect on their art; Retro/Prospective: 25+ Years of Art Textiles and Sculpture and this past year, Still Crazy After All These Years: 30 years in art.
Take this opportunity to stock up! (Call us for a special price on the full set of 45 catalogs 203-834-0623.)

Anniversary Lookback: Hisako Sekijima at browngrotta arts

For our 30th Anniversary exhibition, Still Crazy After All These Years…30 Years of Art, Hisako Sekijima provided us Structural Discussion VI, a work made in 2016. In 1994, the first year Sekijima showed with browngrotta arts, we sold another work from the Structural Discussion series, #312, which she had made 30 years before in 1987. Even as she addresses a single theme, Sekijima’s use of varied materials and approaches makes the results of these explorations remarkably diverse.

NYT portrait of Hisako Sekijima

Portrait of Hisako Sekijima at her first solo exhibition with browngrotta arts in 1994; baskets of Kudzo vine, walnut, cedar, cherry bark, hackberry shavings and willow bark. Photo by Tom Grotta. The exhibition was reviewed in The New York Times, “Cherishing the Space and the Forms that Define It,” Bess Liebenson, July 1994.

Sekijima writes below about her many-year basket journey in Japan where, she explains, “making non-utilitarian baskets is not so properly appreciated after these 30 years!!” Her journey has included a collaboration with other basketmakers in Japan who have prepared an exhibition and catalog each year for 30 years. Information about that group and its anniversary will form Part 2 of this series of posts and will appear in an upcoming arttextstyle.

Sekijima featured in <em>The New York Times</em>

Sekijima featured in The New York Times

“In the 40 years I have been working with baskets, my concerns have extended beyond basket topics toward sculptural ones. Not only I have used rather common basket materials including tree barks, vines, splints of bamboo or woods, but also I have chosen extended concepts of vessel forms with negative spaces and linear constructions.  Both of my aesthetic and technical ideas such as revaluing negative space and examining the natural property of materials are illustrated in my explorations into the nature and history of basketmaking. It brings me a deeper understanding of physical rules of interplay among materials’ property, constructing method and a form, while it brings me a tactility or real touch of abstract ideas of numbers/counting, time, order, and etc. With coordination of hands, spirits and sense, physical experiences and conceptual ones come together in baskets.

Over the years, basketmaking has continued to inspire my inquiry into how and why human beings are motivated to make objects as well as how object-making forms and develops makers’ way of looking at things in general. As I explored baskets, I came better understand the interaction of human beings and our natural environment. My interest is not confined to representing personal inner imagery, but is widened to research the function of human hands and intellect through our interaction with nature.

Sekijima’s Structural Discussions

On the wall: Structural Discussion IV & V, plaited and woven cedar, 1997-98 from left to right: Structural Discussion VI, plaited cedar and walnut, 2016; Multiple Axis II, looped chamaecyparis (cyprus) and cedar, 2013; Structural Discussion I, plaited cedar, walnut, ginkgo, 1987; From 2 to 3 Dimensions V, plaited and folded walnut.

In 1994, when I was invited to show at browngrotta arts for the first time, basket #312 was among the first sales. It was entitled Structural Discussion and made in 1987, same year browngrotta had opened. Around that time, I concluded my classification of baskets into six primary types: looped, knotted, plaited, coiled, warp/weft woven and twined. Since 1987, visions of structural concepts have continued to return to me and have resulted in varying expressions. A set of two square baskets, #434 and #435, Structural Discussion IV and V made in 1997 and 1998, shows the comparison of plaited structure and warp/weft structure. You see in IV oblong negative spaces put in parallel to the edges, while in V they appear sideways at a 45-degree angle to the edges. IV shows the nature of warp/weft structure; V that of plaited structure. I find it interesting, that as you look at the edges of negative spaces, you see the structural elements behave in the same way in both. How things look depends on where or what you look at: either as a part or as a whole? Different names might be given, or might not.
Structural Discussion I, which I also made in 1987, uses plaited cedar, walnut, ginko and willow to highlight angles and openings. 2 to 3 Dimensions and Structural Discussion VI I made in 2016. VI is a basket in a basket that can be shifted to highlight one angle and then another. For 2017, I plan to create another piece in this discussion, to join browngrotta arts in expressing myself being ‘still crazy about it after 30 years!’”
-Hisako Sekijima

23 Artists Can’t be Wrong — Kudos for our 30th Anniversary Catalog

Our 30th Anniversary Catalog Still Crazy After All These Years…30 years in art
was our most ambitious by far. Our 46th catalog, is the largest (196 pages), with the most photographs (186), featuring the most artists (83) and the most artworks (111). So naturally, we are pretty pleased that clients and artists are excited about it, too. We’ve sold a record number of copies since the release a few weeks ago, and it isn’t even listed on Amazon yet. Many of the artists—23 in fact—have written us raving about the catalog.“

New Age Basket No.4 by John Garrett, collected and artist made parts; copper sheet and wire; found; paint; rivets, 16” x 15” x 15”, 2009

“Very handsome,” pronounced John Garrett who has two works in the exhibition. Kiyomi Iwata, whose piece Southern Crossing Five is included in the exhibition, applauded the catalog as “meticulously photographed and printed” and acknowledged the passion that went into it, describing it as a “real work of love.” British artist Dail Behennah praised it as “…beautiful, full of interest and inspiration.”

Capricious Plaiting by Kazue Honma, paper mulberry plaiting, 56 x 43 x 20cm, 2016

Cordis prize winner Jo Barker felt it was “really stunning seeing the range of work included in the recent exhibition” and was “really proud to be a part of it.”  Gyöngy Laky, whose sculptures are included in the exhibition, found the selection of work for the catalog was “so strong and so creative.” She should know, she’s been in 11 of our catalogs!

Kazue Honma, a basketmaker
who has spent her career radicalizing the field of traditional Japanese basket making wrote “I am very proud of this book including my work. You made me keep going all these years. I cannot say my thanks enough to you.”

Dark Horizon by Adela Akers. linen, horsehair and metal, 23″ x 24″, 2016

Several of the artists appreciated Janet Koplos’ insightful essay, including Adela Akers, whose tapestry, Dark Horizon is included. She wrote “ Wonderful review of the work and your work during all these years by Janet Koplos. Loved her analysis and description of my piece.” The text is “superb” wrote Dona Anderson, whose work, Otaku is featured. “I really enjoyed reading Janet Koplos’ introduction and her appreciation of your contribution to our field,” wrote Karyl Sisson. Ritzi Jacobi, whose sculptural tapestry, Rhythmic, is found on page 59, noted the comprehensive look at browngrotta arts’ history that Koplos took in her essay, “after all these years the catalog gives one a great impression of your activities and preferences.”

Otaku by Dona Anderson, reeds, thread and paint, 17″ x 18′ x 15″, 2015

Learn for yourself where we’ve come from and what our artists are up to by ordering your own copy of
Still Crazy After All These Years…30 years in art HERE

 


Artist in the House: Jane Balsgaard from Denmark

 

Browngrotta arts’ artist Jane Balsgaard recently visited the gallery on her way to the opening of Plunge: explorations from above and below at the New Bedford Art Museum. Balsgaard, a native of Denmark, has been very busy lately. In addition to participating in both Plunge and our 30th Anniversary Exhibition, Still Crazy After All These Years…30 years in art, Balsgaard has just completed a lofty commission for the Hotel Bretagne located in Hornbaek, Denmark.

Jane Balsgaard working

Jane Balsgaard holding “Deck,” a new piece she made while visiting browngrotta.
Photo by Tom Grotta

For the Hotel Balsgaard was commissioned to create something to adorn a 29.5 ft wall facing the Hotel’s staircase. Gallery Hornbaek owner, Susanne Risom, saw Balsgaard’s work as a solution to the immense design dilemma. Balsgaard’s installation, titled Waterfall, consists of 18 reliefs, one sculpture, and one relief in the ceiling, all made with natural materials.

"Waterfall" by Jane Balsgaard

Looking down Jane Balsgaard’s “Waterfall” at the Hotel Bretagne.

The reliefs, varying in length, stretch down the length of the wall creating a straightforward course for the eye to follow. In a statement for Gallery Hornbaek, which assisted in arranging the commission, Art Historian Johan Zimsen Kristiansen explains that the “in the transition between pins, a number of small harmoniously matched fractures and character, along with transparent dots or bubbles of colored paper, all contribute to creating the falls’ dynamics,” and connect the once problematic space.

"Wilton Boat" by Jane Balsgaard

Jane tediously working on “Wilton Boat.”

During her visit at browngrotta arts in Connecticut, Balsgaard worked on a new piece called Wilton Boat, a 12.5” x 11” x 1.5” sailboat made from glass and natural materials, which she sourced fro her yard in Denmark and ours in Wilton.

You can see Jane Balsgaard’s newest works in in browngrotta arts’ online exhibition Cross-Currents: Art Inspired by Water and at the Plunge exhibition through October 8th and of course, by booking a stay at the Hotel Bretagne.


Art Televised: Mary Merkel-Hess on PBS’s Craft in America

Craft in America

Mary Merkel-Hess on PBS series Nature, Craft in America

This month, the PBS series, Craft in America, will premiere its episode titled “Nature,” which features profiles on internationally acclaimed artists who use dimensional art to explore nature’s marvels. Among these visionaries is fiber artist Mary Merkel-Hess, a participant in browngrotta arts’ upcoming exhibition, Still Crazy After All These Years…30 years in art, slated to run from April 22nd through April 30th at the browngrotta arts’ barn/gallery in Wilton, Connecticut.

A native of the Midwest, Mary Merkel-Hess’ home state of Iowa represents the creative force behind many of the art pieces she fashions. By drawing inspiration from the area’s prairie elements, including its vast fields of grass, corn, shrubs and herbs, she creates dimensional art pieces that translate her experiences and familiarity with the Midwest and its unique aesthetics. In fact, many of her abstract pieces are inspired by the images she captures and masterfully replicates from the prairie garden surrounding her home and workshop.

In Chephren's Temple

In Chephren’s Temple, Mary Merkel-Hess

Working with fiber and other materials, such as paper, wood, reed, and acrylic paint, Merkel-Hess creates what she refers to as “Landscape Reports,” fiber vessels that provide a sense of place and containment for the viewer to experience and enjoy. Her process involves building upon layers of paper with careful insertion of reed or cord, creating a mold that is then shaped and painted. Her fiber sculptures illustrate Iowa’s abundance of tall grass, fields and open green space, allowing others to bring a piece of the Midwest, as well as Merkel-Hess’ inspirational prairie garden, to their home.

Airing Friday, April 21, 2017, “Nature” will highlight Mary Merkel-Hess’ creative process, as well as that of other artists, sculptors and woodcarvers whose dimensional artwork challenges audiences to reassess their relationship to the natural world. Check you local PBS listings. You can view more samples of Merkel-Hess’ fiber artwork at http://www.browngrotta.com/Pages/hess.php.


Art Assembled: Featured in January

We had four New This Week selections in January, including evocative sculptures of black willow and recycled aluminum plate and two works that offer commentary on current events.

Christine Joy January New this Week

40cj Smoke Ring, Christine Joy
willow with black encaustic, 23″ x 22″ x 12″, 2014

Christine Joy sources, harvests and then transforms willow into dramatic sculpture. Smoke Ring represents a new direction for Joy, she says, “more looseness and movement on the edge, visually, of coming apart, more exploration of added color to give unity and emotional depth.”

Merja Winqvist January New this Week

11mw Water Lily, Merja Winqvist
recycled aluminum plate, 26” x 25.75” x 1.75”, 2016

Merja Winquist of Finland has created a stylized and shimmering Water Lily of recycled aluminum.

Ceca Georgieva January New this Week

14cg The Iron Curtain, Ceca Georgieva
burrdock burrs, 19” x 16” x 5” 2016

In Iron Curtain, a sculpture of burdock burrs, by Ceca Georgieva of Bulgaria, a figure seeks escape from a web of red threads. The work is about Georgieva’s generation, who remained n Eastern Europe after World War II on the Red side―the Communist side―of the Iron Curtain. “As children,” she says, “we proudly wore the red scarf of a Young Pioneer, and we believed whatever we were told to believe. Our future was programmed and seemed to be clear and beautiful. When cracks began to appear in the Iron Curtain and news from the West slowly filtered into the country, we learned about beat poetry, rock ‘n’ roll, blue jeans and Coca-Cola. We started to feel the lack of freedom and the desire to go out and to live without fear of restriction and deprivation. Then the wall fell down. Now, 25 years later, we are still in front of the half-open curtain, making efforts to get rid of the red iron threads.”

Norma Minkowitz January New this Week

66nm Are We The Same?, Norma Minkowitz, mixed media, 12” x 28” x 26.375”, 2016

Are We the Same? by Norma Minkowitz, also addresses societal change, in this case, assimilation. “My thought was about our society and how, as time goes on, we intermingle and intermarry, ” says the artist, “and at the end we are a combination of many different genes and DNA and perhaps are eventually blended in some way.” Enjoy our selections.


Art Al Fresco: Gyöngy Laky and Chris Drury Create Environmental Art

Chris Drury, The Wandering, Environmental art installation drawing

Chris Drury, The Wandering

In May, Chris Drury began work on The Wandering, an environmental work of art commissioned by the State of Western Australia for the site of the new Perth Stadium, sited on the south bank of the Swan River, overlooking the city to the west. “The work is a meandering dry-stone wall which emerges from a stone whirlpool on the isthmus of the lake to the south, winds its way north in a series of loops, and descends again into the earth on the higher ground, “ says Drury. It appears to have no beginning or end, arising from the high ground in the north and plunging into the stone whirlpool to the south (or vice versa). The wall is 190 meters long and covers a distance of 90 meters as the crow flies.

Chris Drurys The Wandering being built

Chris Drury The Wandering under construction, photo by Chris Drury

This structure, however, is no ordinary wall, for it will be built as a Cornish dry-stone hedge, which is a growing, living thing: a miniature ecosystem and biodiverse habitat. In the UK some of these walls have stood for a thousand years because they are constructed with an earth infill, allowing plants to grow and give rise to habitat for insects etc, eventually binding the structure together. Here in Perth, I adapted the work to the Western Australian climate by planting the wall with indigenous drought-resistant plants, which will be irrigated.” You can see more images on Drury’s website: http://chrisdrury.co.uk/the-wandering/.

Gyöngy Laky Rope-Polcenigo-Caneva Italy

Gyöngy Laky Rope-Polcenigo-Caneva. photo by: Francesca Giannelli (6/12/16)

In May, Gyöngy Laky was a Special Guest at Humus Park, International Biennale V of Land Art, with a collaborating artist, Paul Discoe, northeast of Venice, Italy. Humus Park is Italy’s most important Land Art event. The Land Art is an artistic form using natural materials. Some of its numbers: 13 days, 3 locations, more than 80 artists from 13 countries all over the world, 8 art schools and academies involved. Laky was there for two weeks working onsite. “ Arriving in magical Polcenigo I heard its water symphony… beautiful, clean blue/green water flowing everywhere,” Laky says. “The sound was intoxicating and it explained the verdant green foliage all around. The sun was warm and bright. It was an awe-inspiring place. And, later when it rained and rained, it was still beautiful and I understood even more about the invigorating water gushing from the mountains.” Laky and Paul Discoe, who she invited to be her art partner, very quickly agreed on a project. “We both have worked extensively with trees and materials from trees,” explains Laky, “and we also both share a deep interest in shimenawa – rice straw ropes used in the Shinto religion to adorn sacred places. We found a magnificent tree overlooking the water and reflecting in it. We wanted to honor it. We decided to make rope from the hay provided to adorn the tree. It occurred to us that we were engaged in making something that was, probably, similar to what the ancient inhabitants of that lake dwelling site most likely made also. Rope making with plant fiber dates back to prehistoric times. We were connecting with the land and its history in, yet, another aspect.” See the artists at work at Humus Park on video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vwJg1ZYATw&feature=youtu.be&app=desktop. You can also see — and own — smaller scale works by Gyöngy Laky and Chris Drury in Green for the Get Go: International Basketmakers, at the Morris Museum, Morristown, New Jersey through June 26, 2016. All the works are for sale and we have additional works on our website. For more information: http://www.morrismuseum.org/current-exhibitions/.

Gyongy Laky Pordenone-wheelbarrow Italy

Gyongy Laky Pordenone, photo by Pat van Boeckel, Rerun Produkties, Holland