Dispatches: Italy

Carter looks at the reverse sides of Raphael’s portraits of Agnolo Doni and his wife, Maddalena Strozzi, at Room 41 Uffizi Galery in Florence

We visited Italy earlier this month. It was an orgy of art and wine and fine food. Much of what we saw was traditional and magical — Fra Angelico, DaVinci, Bernini, Michelangelo.

Reviewing work for the 1980s in Milan, Triennale di Milano Design Museum, Carter, Carol and Rhonda
Reviewing work for the 1980s in Milan, Triennale di Milano Design Museum

We made time for the contemporary, too — in Milan, the Triennale di Milano Design Museum was a highlight (https://www.triennale.org/en/). We walked down memory lane — cutting edge lighting, furniture and objects from the 60s, 70s, 80s and later.

Wendy Wahl, Period Dress

Venice, of course, meant the Venice Biennale and its satellite exhibitions. First Stop, PersonalStructures at the Palazzo Bembo, and exhibition “in the context of the Venice Biennale,” mounted by the European Culture Center (https://ecc-italy.eu/exhibitions/2019art). Peering into a warren of small rooms, we found Wendy Wahl’s Period Dress.

American Pavilion, Martin Puryear
Martin Puryear’s Swallowed Sun (Monstrance and Volute) 

Then Tom and Carter visited the Biennale central site; admirably illustrating this year’s theme – May You Live in Interesting Times (https://www.labiennale.org/en/art/2019). Tom and Carter headed straight to the American Pavilion, featuring Martin Puryear. We are big fans – loved his solo show at MoMA in 2008. He’s a maker of big baskets in a some ways. Works of fiber were on display in several pavilions.

Work from Finland’s Pavilion
Carter in the Venezuelan Pavilion Venice Biennale

Carter and Tom liked what they saw at the Venezuelan and Finnish pavilions in particular.

Alexandra Bircken, Angie, Venice Biennale
Alexandra Bircken, Angie

They were taken by German artist Alexandra Bircken’s work in the Arsenale and Korean artist Suki Seokyeong Kang’s experiments with space.

Work by Suki Seokyeong Kang
Work by Suki Seokyeong Kang

Our only disappointment — Federica Luzzi was not in Italy when we visited, but in Japan where she is participating in a solo show at the LADS Gallery, as part of a an international exchange through the City of Osaka.


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. 


Art + Identity: Cultural Influence

Figurative twig sculptures by Dawn MacNutt
Dawn MacNutt Praise North and South for art + identity: an international view

In our Spring 2019 exhibition Art + Identity: an international view, we asked artists to provide us work that reflected on identity. The 60+ artists took an expansive view, as you can imagine, but a few themes emerged. One of those was the influence of other cultures which these artists acquired by visiting and study.  For Dawn MacNutt, the influence for her works, Praise North and Praise South, was classical Greek sculpture she saw first in a museum and then in Greece. “The sculpture and architecture of ancient Greece has been a major influence on my vision” says MacNutt. “I first encountered pre-classical Greek sculpture in the hallways of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York as a teenager in the 1950s. When I visited Greece 40 years later, the marble human forms resonated even more strongly.  The posture and attitude of ancient Greek sculpture reflects forms as fresh and iconic as today… sometimes formal … sometimes relaxed.” Praise North and Praise South reflect the marble human forms, “columns, caryatids …  sometimes truncated … ” found outdoors as well as in museums in Greece. They were inspired by two study and work trips to Greece that MacNutt made just before and after the millennium, 1995 and 2000.

Contemporary African ceramic textile art by Nnenna Okore
1no Ashioke, Nnenna Okore, burlap, ceramic, 28” x 35” x 4”, 2007


Nnenna Okore grew up 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. “… [M]uch like impermanent earthly attributes, my organic and twisted structures mimic the dazzling intricacies of fabric, trees, barks, topography and architecture,” says Okore. “All my processes are adapted or inspired by traditional women’s practice, the African environment, third-world economies and recycled waste.” Also, informing her aesthetics are familiar sounds of sweeping, chopping, talking and washing, processes that reflect the transience of human labor and its inevitable mark on the material world.

Horsehair weaving by Adela Akers
Adela Akers The Grid, 2008 Linen, horsehair, paint, metal foil 45” × 38”

The weavers of South America are an influence for many artists. Research into the textiles of ancient Peru and Peruvian artists’ techniques informed Adela Akers‘ earlierwork. “Their inventive use of structure and pattern has inspired my work to this date.,” she says.

 Carolina  Yrarrázaval tapestry from Chile
Carolina Yrarrázaval Memoria Andina, 2019 Linen and cotton 54.25″ × 25.25″

Carolina Yrarrázaval has always been fascinated by the strong people of the Andes “who live in harmony with nature, surrounded by a beauty that often turns into a harsh environment.” The remarkable community of the Precolumbian era were preservers of ancient traditions,” she says. An eclectic set of cultural influences attracted Katherine Westphal. She had what one writer called “magpie-like instincts,” buts he called herself a tourist, gathering experiences and images and memories — “then it all pops out in my work – someone else’s culture and mine, mixed in the eggbeater of my mind…,” she told her oral biographer.

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

You can purchase a copy of the catalog Art + Identity: an international view at browngrotta.com.


UK Basketry Revisited at the Ruthin Craft Centre

Propius, Lizzie Farey, willow
Propius, Lizzie Farey, willow
© Lizzie Farey

Works by a notable group of artists are on exhibit in Basketry: Function & Ornament at the Ruthin Craft Centre in the UK through October 13, 2019. The exhibition, curated by Gregory Parsons, looks at current practice of some 30 makers from throughout the UK including bg artists Lizzie Farey, Dail Behennah, Tim Johnson, Rachel Max and Laura Ellen Bacon. Basketry: Function & Ornament brings together functional vernacular work from various parts of the country, alongside pieces that are sculptural and ornamental, providing “a survey of a craft that has been somewhat sidelined in times of great technological advances, yet offers a sustainable answer to so much of our modern day throw-away habits.”

Keeping Time Baskets
Keeping Time Baskets,
© Tim Johnson, 2019

Tim Johnson’s artistry is represented by baskets from his “Keeping Time” series. “These ‘keeping time’ baskets, like all baskets, take time to make,” he says. “The twining, folding and stitching that holds them together marks increments of being, a declaration of presence, the makers time is kept in the work, a trace of activity. “

Thatched and piled textile structures date back to Neolithic times, Johnson says, providing insulation and weather protection in our ancestors garments and shelters. “In the ‘keeping time’ series I am happy to work in this tradition and relate the basket’s captured spaces to the containment of ancient clothing and architecture.”

Ventus, Lizzie Farey, willow
Ventus, Lizzie Farey, willow
© Lizzie Farey

The other artists in Basketry: Function & Ornament include influential makers Lois Walpole and Mary Butcher, the remarkable Irish basketmaker Joe Hogan and Lise Bech along with Mandy Coates, John Cowan, Mary Crabb, Jane Crisp, Jenny Crisp, Alison Dickens, Rosie Farey, Eddie Glew, Charlie Groves, Stella Harding, Peter Howcroft, Anna King, Annemarie O’Sullivan, Sarah Paramor, Dominic Parrette, Polly Pollock, Ruth Pybus & David Brown, Clare Revera, Lorna Singleton and Maggie Smith.
RUTHIN CRAFT CENTRE
THE CENTRE FOR THE APPLIED ARTS
PARK ROAD, RUTHIN
DENBIGHSHIRE
LL15 1BB
OPEN DAILY
10.00AM – 5.30PM
ADMISSION FREE


Happy Summer Hiatus!

Stonington Maine
Stonington Maine, photo by Rhonda Brown

At browngrotta arts we have a boatload of projects in the works for Fall. To concentrate on those — and on a couple of great trips we have planned — arttextstyle is taking the month of August off — to recharge our batteries and do some big picture thinking. We’ll be back in September with new posts, ideas, information and loads of luscious artwork.
Happy Summer!!


Art Assembled: New this Week in July

We always want our blog to be a place for textile and fiber artists and collectors to be inspired, and a place to see and learn from the best. We started the summer off hot and July was no different. We kicked off the month of July with artist Lija Rage. She is influenced by many different cultures. She is particularly interested in drawings of ancient cultures on the walls of caves in different parts of the world. Eastern culture with its mysterious magic, drawings of runes in Scandinavia, Tibet and the mandala, Egyptian pyramid drawings. 

Lija Rage wall sculpture
3lr My Sun For Everyone, Lija Rage, bamboo, copper wire, fabric 46.5” x 58.75” x 1.25”, 2018

“Currently, I am interested in new technologies and their use in contemporary fiber art. Textile and fiber art for me are types of modern art that use fiber as their medium. It is the type of art that borders the four fine arts types with the same high requirements and tasks. I believe in its development in the modern world.” Lija Rage New This Week featuring My Sun For Everyone, by Lija Rage.

Tamiko Kawata safety pin wall art
34tk Infinite, Tamiko Kawata, safety pin on canvas wrapped wood 11″ x 11″ x 3″, 2014

We continued the month with works from Tamiko Kawata. Discarded materials are important to Tamiko Kawata, not only for environmental issues but also to reflect his current life. Her choice of materials and interpretation are influenced by the differences experiences between life in America and Japan where she grew up.

“Safety pins function variously as thread, yarn, clay or truss in my work process. I found them soon after I arrived from Japan, out of the necessity to shorten all-too-long American clothing. I noticed their smooth texture and their head- and tail-like details. In the beginning, I found ways to interlock them, as if weaving. I found constructing systems as I went along, using only the inherent structural properties of the pins, and now can create anything from “drawings” to three-dimensional, self-standing works.” Tamiko Kawata New This Week featuring Infinite, Tamiko Kawata, safety pin on canvas wrapped wood.

Wendy Wahl Encyclopedia art
32ww CE/EB #4, Wendy Wahl
Encylopedia Britanica and Comptons pages, poplar frame, 24″ x 32″ x 1.5″, 2011.
27ww EB ’62 vol. 17-18, Wendy Wahl
Encylopedia Britanica pages, poplar frame, 24″ x 32″ x 1.5″, 2011

One thing you could count on as a child was never having to look at an encyclopedia during the Summer and Wendy Wahl made sure of it! She continues to wow us with her use of this material, and she pushes them into a contemporary extreme, somewhere between art and object.
“My art has always been a protest against what I have met with in weaving. I started to use rope, horsehair, metal and fur because I needed these materials to give my vision expression and I did not care that they were not part of the tradition in the field.” Wendy Wahl New This Week featuring work from Wendy Wahl.

Kiyomi Iwata Ogara Choshi
21ki Fungus Three, Kiyomi Iwata, Ogara Choshi are gathered. The surface is embellished with gold leaf and French embroidery knots, 6.5” x 8” x 7.5”, 2018

We wrapped up the month with artist Kiyomi Iwata. In her work, she explores the boundaries of East and West through absence and presence, void and volume.

Fungus Three is made from ogarami choshi. Even though they are all created in the same manner, the elements are all different shapes and tones. The individual pieces are gathered together to make one large bundle. This was inspired by a saying I heard: ‘If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’  This seems a good thought to keep in mind during these trying times.” Kiyomi Iwata  New This Week featuring work from Kiyomi Iwata


Dispatches: Philadelphia

Philadelphia skyline from the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum

There are no end to art and historical treasures in Philadelphia and Rhonda had a chance to meet up with some good friends and take in a few last week. The Philadelphia Art Museum is a wonder and its annex, the Perelman Building, houses two intriguing exhibits: Souls Grown Deep: Artists of the African American South and The Art of Collage and Assemblage through September 2nd. Souls Grown Deep combines and extraordinary collection of textile art, sculpture, and painting acquired from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation.

Roman Stripes Variation Quilt, 1970, Loretta Pettway(born 1942)

With remarkable inventiveness, generations of quilters from Gee’s Bend, Alabama have created arresting compositions of color and form from worn-out clothes and other repurposed fabrics. Provocative mixed-media paintings and found-object sculptures by Thornton Dial, Lonnie Holley and others are displayed amongst the quilts, whose subjects and materials echo with the painful history of the American South and the conditions of life for many who live there. The collage exhibition includes works by Joseph Cornell, a personal favorite, and other less-expected names including Romare Bearden, Bettye Saar and Pablo Picasso.

Protecting Myself the Best I can (Weapons by the Door), 1994, by Lonnie Holley (American, born 1950), 2017-229-24.
Lonnie Holley/ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Photo: Stephen Pitkin/Pitkin Studio/Art Resource (AR), New York

We found artfulness of another kind at the National Constitution Center’s new permanent exhibition, Civil War and Reconstruction: The Battle for Freedom and Equality. Some interesting textiles are on display, including a fragment of the flag that Abraham Lincoln raised at Independence Hall, 1861 (From the Collection of the Civil War Museum of Philadelphia on loan from Gettysburg Foundation) and an embroidered potholder that reads, “Any Holder but a Slaveholder.” We also appreciated the Anti-Slavery Alphabet from 1847.

Cardbird II, 1971, Robert Rauschenberg

The exhibition has an ambitious premise, to illustrate how the nation transformed the Constitution after the war to more fully embrace the Declaration of Independence’s promise of liberty and equality. The 3,000- square-foot exhibit brings to life the stories of Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, Harriet Tubman and other figures central to the conflict over slavery. It features the stories of lesser-known individuals, too, in order to shed light on the American experience under slavery, the battle for freedom during the Civil War and the fight for equality during Reconstruction, which many call the nation’s “Second Founding.” Highlighted are the three constitutional amendments added between 1865 and 1870, which ended slavery, required states to respect individual rights, promised equal protection to all people, and expanded the right to vote to African-American men. The exhibition covers, as the Wall Street Journal terms it: “the racially egalitarian society that was briefly wrestled into being after the abolition of slavery, before the ravages of Jim Crow and the hard-fought triumphs of the civil-rights movement.”

Potholder, National Constitution Center, Philadelphia

The artfulness is evident in the matter-of-fact way the signage and artifacts give equal time to the efforts made to reach equality and those determined to subvert each of those amendments — including displays about Ku Klux Klan, complete with original robes, which were not white but maroon and heavily ornamented. Also edifying and persuasive is the neutrally presented, but inescapable, evidence that the goals of these amendments are yet to be achieved. An example, noted by one reviewer, is the 13th Amendment. “The interactive displays…show the debates, the drafts, and the redrafting of those amendments and help to explain how the final draft [of the 13th] actually allowed forced labor ‘as a punishment for crime’ … It does not take long to make the connection between the 13th Amendment and the shockingly profitable system of prison labor and prison farms which still exists today.” (Margaret Darby, Exhibit Review: Civil War and Reconstruction Phillylifeandculture.com, May 9, 2019).

Anti-Slavery Alphabet, National Constitution Center, Philadelphia



Process Notes: Stéphanie Jacques

Studio Installation, Brussels, Belgium, photo Tom Grotta, courtesy of browngrotta arts
Stéphanie Jacques Studio Visit

Stéphanie Jacques wrote about identity for browngrotta arts’ latest exhibition, art + identity: an international view. Here are Jacques’ thoughts on the topic:

Detail, Ce qu'il en reste
Detail, Ce qu’il en reste, photo Tom Grotta, courtesy of browngrotta arts

“At the present time, the notion of identity seems to me to be a dimension in constant movement. I can distinguish, however, one coherent element, a sort of red thread : the desire to assemble all that is scattered. 

“Winter 2015, in my studio notebook, I draw a human face.  A woman’s face.  Tears in the form of feet and hands stream from her eyes. That winter, I continued working on a series of sculptures which will become the work Ce qu’il en reste.  A small human figure stands upright. She is in balance.  Hanging from her pelvis is an assemblage of cubes and parallelepipeds which tumble to the floor. 

Detail, Ce qu'il en reste, photo Tom Grotta, courtesy of browngrotta arts
Detail, Ce qu’il en reste, photo Tom Grotta, courtesy of browngrotta arts

“Summer 2016, after 15 years of living in the country, I move to a new studio, in town. There, the first thing I make is a series of monotypes. Inspired by the drawing of the previous winter, this time, I engrave an image of the woman’s face on a sheet of linoleum. With each new print, another face appears. Little by little, an open mouth takes the place of the tears.  Blue…. Red…., on this white paper, like an unconscious trace, areminder of the violence which is spreading throughout Europe at that time.  Violence moreover, which still continues today. This face has something to tell.  

Detail, Ce qu'il en reste, photo Tom Grotta, courtesy of browngrotta arts
Detail, Ce qu’il en reste, photo Tom Grotta, courtesy of browngrotta arts

“Applying the coiling technique, I stitch bundles of white thread.  First comes an eye, two eyes, then the mouth, the whole face.  Between my hands, a soft and damaged material takes form. One senses anger. It is the first time I create a human face, a mask. ‘Without a doubt one of the most ancient forms of expression of human culture’ so a book on the subject informs me. On a table, are two looped legs covered in plaster. They will find their place, on top of this head. 

“That summer, I spend hour upon hour sewing, cubes and parallelepipeds made of willow and stitching with waxed linen thread.  Small, medium, large.  Assembled and tinted with India ink, they form a structure into which I may enter.  

Detail, Ce qu'il en reste, photo Tom Grotta, courtesy of browngrotta arts
Detail, Ce qu’il en reste, photo Tom Grotta, courtesy of browngrotta arts

“Oh Joy ! I dance in my studio, searching somehow through my movement, a relationship with this form. I set up the camera and take photos. My face is veiled. The frame is fixed. As the shooting advances, a story appears. I decide on four images.  Four attempts at materializing this constant transformation, at bringing life to this form.  A series of portraits follows. This time, sitting on a chair, my appearance is modified by wearing an object, a sculpture. Each image incarnates a new state, another state. 

The process here described is necessary for these images to exist. They are not an end in itself but a document of what has passed.Certain emotions, intuitions, propel me to make certain objects. More and more, I feel the need to record their creative impact and this physical sensation which passes through my body as it is positioned in space and time. It is my way of questioning the identity of these forms.  Using image is a means to make them fall from their pedestal.”

Detail, Ce qu'il en reste, photo Tom Grotta, courtesy of browngrotta arts
Detail, Ce qu’il en reste, photo Tom Grotta, courtesy of browngrotta arts

Stéphanie Jacques
April 2019


Dispatches: San Francisco

Carter Grotta, of our browngrotta arts team, traveled to San Francisco last month. We asked him to snapshots of interesting art. Here are some of the highlights!

First the de Young. There, Carter visited the Saxe Collection at the de Young Museum, where he saw an Untitled work of bark and stone by Dorothy Gill Barnes and ceramics by Toshiko Takaezu and Paul Soldner.

Ruth Asawa installation at the deYoung Museum

A great collection of works by Ruth Asawa, San Francisco’s most well-known fiber artist, is also on display at the de Young Museum along with a unique abstract quilt, A Bend in the River, by Joe Cunningham.

A Bend in the River by Joe Cunningham
A Bend in the River by Joe Cunningham
SFMOCA digital installation

Next SFMOCA. Carter was quite taken by this remarkable digital installation, part of snap+share: transmitting photographs from mail art to social networks, a unique take on transmitting photographs from mail art to social networks. This work illustrates what it means to engage with the technological advancements of the 21st century to create digital conversations in photographs.

Magdalena Abakanowicz Four on a Bench
Magdalena Abakanowicz Four on a Bench

Also housed at the SFMOMA, the sculptures of Magdalena Abankanowicz, like Four on a Bench, are representative of the oppressive historic conditions of her native country, Poland.

Jannis Kounellis Untitled piece of steel
Jannis Kounellis, Untitled

Also at SFMOMA, was this interesting Untitled piece of steel, crucible, tar and rope, by Italian-born artist, Jannis Kounellis, in The Doris and Donald Fisher Collection.

Tanabe Chikuunsai IV bamboo sculpture
Tanabe Chikuunsai IV

Also worth a trip, the Asian Art Museum which features an exciting installation by Tanabe Chikuunsai IV — a 4th generation bamboo artist, that seems to have grown organically within the gallery space.

Federal Court House building in San Francisco
Federal Court House Building

What Carter couldn’t see — or photograph at least — was That Word, a larger-than-life sculpture of twigs by Gyöngy Laky which is on loan to the federal courts where photography is strictly prohibited.
You can see That Word, though, even if you can’t take a photograph. Just one of a series of interesting stops in a city that is great for art tourism!


Who Said What: Josef Albers

“Easy to know that diamonds– are precious good to know that rubies — have depth but more–to see–that pebbles–are miraculous.”
Josef Albers

Pebble Sphere Sculpture by Dail Behennah
Large Pebble Sphere by Dail Behennah
Detail of The Seashore stone ribbons by Keiji Nio
Detail of The Seashore by Keiji Nio, polyester, aramid fiber 48” x 48,” 2019
Thirty Year stone Calendar Art by Sue Lawty
Triginta Annis (Thirty Years in Latin), Sue Lawty, natural stone on gesso 27” x 26”, 2017