Category: Process Notes

Process Notes: Wendy Wahl

Wendy Wahl is one of 10 artists whose work will appear in Papertownwhich opens on February 4th at the Fitchburg Art Museum in Massachusetts. Wahl is intentional in her work. She takes a broad sociocultural view of the materials she uses and the meanings that can be advanced through art. Wahl has shared with us information about her process, which we, in turn, are sharing with you:

Detail of Re-Seeing by Wendy Wahl
Detail: 42ww Re-Seeing, Wendy Wahl, 1980 World Book pages, wood
40.75″ x 30″ x 2.5″, 2022. Photo by Tom Grotta

In general

“By accident or design, my work is about cycles and the rich layers of meaning that an awareness to these fluctuations provides. These pieces continue an idiosyncratic exploration into who we are and our place in time through the use of materials that belong to a collective consciousness. The purpose of paper has changed yet for over two millennia it has played a significant role in the identity of cultures and the relationship to their environments,” says Wahl. “At the turn of the 21st century I began to view printed paper, particularly encyclopedias, from an elemental standpoint and as a material for expressing the ephemeral and the everlasting. Deconstructing volumes of information to reconstruct the parts through embodied knowledge is cyclical in nature. 

Encyclopedia pages are used as a material in part because as we know the medium can be the message. If these works are considered landscapes they appear to have captured a moment in some metamorphosis the exact context of which is only suggested. Through movement, a meeting of subtle colors and textures, emotions and ideas emerge that seem to represent fundamental spiraling patterns of existence.”

Re-Seeing Encyclopædia page wall art by Wendy Wahl
42ww Re-Seeing, Wendy Wahl, 1980 World Book pages, wood, 40.75″ x 30″ x 2.5″, 2022, Photo by Tom Grotta

On Re-Seeing 

Re-seeing created in 2022 of World Book pages will be exhibited in Papertown at the Fitchburg MuseumIt also appeared in Crowdsourcing: a survey of textile and mixed media art at browngrotta arts in 2022. Wahl wrote the following about the work: 

“Crowdsourcing information is a relatively recent phenomenon. The Oxford English Dictionary was one of the first projects to make use of the technique 150 years ago. Today Wikipedia is the default digital encyclopedia. The arrival of the latter is one of the reasons why I began, 17 years ago, to transform the contents of original bound encyclopedias into other forms and meanings creating alternative perspectives. This diptych is composed of 1980 World Book pages. Light, dark, color, hidden text and images emerge from the patterned surface inviting a closer look. The work appears to change as the viewer moves toward and around it encouraging the mind and the senses to notice anew.  Each time I deconstruct a discarded encyclopedia book, I revisit that which has come before, bound in stillness, yet part of the present moment, asking me to re-see in ways that engage my mind, body and spirit.”

Bhavantu Encyclopædia page wall art by Wendy Wahl
40ww Bhavantu, Wendy Wahl, 1962 Encyclopædia Britannica pages, wood, 24″ x 24″ x 3″, 2020, Photo by Tom Grotta

On Bhavantu

Bhanvantu is intriguing in shape and color. Wahl writes about its impetus: Pushing the chair away and rising from the round table I walk past the open sliding door leading to an outdoor wonderland where my hidden seat awaits behind the banana tree near the fence. Reluctantly I take seven steps away from that view to arrive in front of the built-in shelves where the 1960 something set of Encyclopedia Britannica are held. A through Z ready to be laid open. Collected information, knowledge and experiences offered in printed form. All I could think was: Isn’t everything I need to learn outside? ‘Bring volumes 9 and 17,’ calls the voice from the adjoining room. Decades later, the deconstructed paper from similar volumes feels like home in my hands, or at least my memory of those moments. Removing the pages from their codex can be as jarring as cutting the limbs of a tree. An inward focus directs the spiral parts to be assembled anew as a reminder of the importance of our collective thoughts, words and actions.”  

Encyclopædia page sculptures by Rebound: Mixed Volumnes 3 by Wendy Wahl
20ww Rebound: Mixed Volumes 3, Wendy Wahl, discarded/deconstructed/restructured encylopedia pages, 40″ x 16″ x 17″ ; 50″ x 78″ x 17″ ; 60″ x 95″ x 17″, ; 101.5cm x 40.5cm x 43cm; 127cm x 198cm x 43cm; 152.5cm x 241cm x 43cm, 2009. Photo by Tom Grotta

She explains the title: The title comes from the last part of the Sanskrit sloka: ‘ Lokah Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu.’ It translates in English, too: may all beings be free and may my thoughts words and actions contribute to that freedom. Bhavantu translates more literally: ‘state of unified existence must be so.'”

Detail of Seeds(of knowledge) WB vol.18/19 Encyclopædia page wall art by Wendy Wahl
26ww Seeds(of knowledge) WB vol.18/19, Wendy Wahl, World Book encyclopedia pages on inked panel, 21.25” x 34.25” x 1.625”, 2011. Photo by Tom Grotta

To see more examples of Wendy Wahl’s work visit our website.


Process Notes: Aleksandra Stoyanov

Aleksandra Stoyanov small woven sculpture
Aleksandra Stoyanov, 9as Reflection wool, plexiglas, 8” x 8.125” x 3.375, 2004
photo by Tom Grotta

We recently corresponded with Aleksandra Stoyanov, known as Sasha, about her practice and influences. Here is what we learned:
On Influences Sasha began drawing in childhood. She was not very healthy as a child. She spent a lot of time in the hospital and this influenced her further understanding of people and life itself. 

Aleksandra Stoyanov, JUDGES wool, sisal
Aleksandra Stoyanov, 5as JUDGES wool, sisal, 91” x 60”, 1998. Photo by Tom Grotta

Her mother sent Sasha to a Art School in Odessa to study drawing. Afterschool she attended Odessa Theater Art College where she studied stenography, graphic arts, painting and theater. Her first great art inspiration in college was her teacher Leon Alshits. He gave her an understanding of composition and the understanding that objects can speak with the same significance as a man and that objects have their own biographies. Studying in Theatrical college altered Sasha’s vision of the world she lived in. Among other things, Sasha was inspired by both Medieval Art and especially taken with black-and-white photography. 

Aleksandra Stoyanov, Personal space wool, linen, silk
Aleksandra Stoyanov, Personal space wool, linen, silk tapestry, 63” x 208.7” 2004


After college Sasha worked in theater production but was disappointed. She left the theater and began experimenting with threads. Sasha loved playing with threads. Feeling a thread for Sasha was feeling a living material. The feeling of thread as a live material and a desire to draw with it brought Sasha to develop her own technique. She began working on a small, simple frame loom working in bright colors.

Aleksandra Stoyanov, From Chaos to Reality
Aleksandra Stoyanov, 2as From Chaos to Reality, 103″ x 101″, 2003


In the 90s, Sasha  and her husband Yan Belinky, packed up and left Odessa to get away from the anti-semitism there that was growing worse. They chose Israel as a better environment to bring up their daughter and give her a motherland. They had no idea what to expect since there was no internet. They just picked up and flew to Israel.

Aleksandra Stoyanov tapestry, From the First Person I
Detail of Aleksandra Stoyanov tapestry, From the First Person I, wool, sisal, silk, cotton threads, 49.25” x 55.6”, 1999 From the First Person II is in the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo by Tom Grotta

In Israel, Sasha learned from Zilli Landman how to work on large looms for her tapestry. Landman helped her refine her technique for weaving on these large looms.

FORWORD, Aleksandra Stoyanov
4as FORWORD, Aleksandra Stoyanov, brown paper and thread, , 106.5″ x 45.5″

Sasha began making her own handmade threads from the wool of the Avassi sheep. Sasha makes all of her threads from their wool, which she says are the only sheep whose wool has the texture she prefers. She dyes the wool in large batches to create the palette for her works.
Sasha’s color palette has completely changed since moving to Israel.  She fell in love with the colors of the burnt summer dessert. Sasha has found that grey-brown hues can suggest more colors and be more expressive than bright colors. Burnt trees, grass and rocks have been the main colors of her palette ever since.