Tag: Gyöngy Laky

When Words Aren’t Enough: Artists and Politics, Part III

War and violence are often influences for artistic works. In the last of our three columns on Art and Politics we look at three works in which artists have commented on specific conflicts and three that address the futility violence in differing contexts.

Compound, Norma Minkowitz, mixed media, 70” x 54.75” x 1.5”, 2011

Concerns about war animate Compound, a work by Norma Minkowitz a large panel that chronicles a nightmare scenario, the last moments of Osama Bin Laden’s life.  It features a tiny-mesh crocheted surface. It has a powerful push me/pull me effect once the subject matter– which includes stylized soldiers, SEALS parachuting from a helicopter, the compound where Bin Laden was hiding, and the World Trade Center — clarifies itself. This whole is an unforgettable image.

Responding to a call for art for a browngrotta arts’ exhibition entitled Stimulus: art and its inception in 2011, Norma Minkowitz began, as she usually does, to sketch.  “I began in a spontaneous, unplanned manner,” Minkowitz explains, “arranging lines and subtle patterns, until I had a feeling of the direction it would take. Suddenly, I realized that the linear image had become the apparition of an aerial view of the compound where Osama Bin Laden was found, which I had seen in a newspaper article. Compound combines a replica of the space and my vision of the event.

“This is not my usual way of working,” she says. It is more literal because of its historic significance. I enjoyed this different approach and found it quite timely as we remembered the attack on our country on September 11, 2001. I wanted to commemorate courage, justice and the resolve of the USA.”

Women Warriors, Dona Anderson, mixed media, 2005-2011. Photo by Tom Grotta
Women Warriors, Dona Anderson, mixed media, 2005-2011. Photo by Tom Grotta

The war in Iraq influenced Dona Anderson, as well and resulted in a series of “armor” pieces, including Women Warriors. Anderson’s granddaughter was in the army stationed in Japan while the granddaughter’s husband was in Iraq.  When he came home for a break, he said he did not have any body armor. Anderson was so bothered by this information that she used her art to create some stylized armor for him.

El Salvador, Ed Rossbach, muslin, camouflage netting, sticks, plastic, plastic tape, wire, tied, dyed, linoleum block printed, 1984. Photo by Tom Grotta
El Salvador, Ed Rossbach, muslin, camouflage netting, sticks, plastic, plastic tape, wire, tied, dyed, linoleum block printed, 1984. Photo by Tom Grotta

A previous conflict in Latin America led to the creation of a textile construction, El Salvador, by Ed Rossbach in 1984.  Here, the artist using very simple materials constructed a powerful anti-war statement. The death squads in El Salvador killed many thousands of people before the civil war ended. Rossbach pushed the bounds of conventional 1950’s design. His art used raw materials — like camo mesh — to create forms that explore context, scale and juxtaposition to create irony

Globalization IV; Collateral Damage, Gyöngy Laky, ash, commercial wood, paint, blue concrete bullets, 2005. Photo by Tom Grotta
Globalization IV; Collateral Damage, Gyöngy Laky, ash, commercial wood, paint, blue concrete bullets, 2005. Photo by Tom Grotta

Gyongy Laky, a student of Rossbach’s, regularly addresses political issues in her work. Laky is a powerful advocate for the environment as well as a proponent of the hiring of more women at the University of California, Davis where the artist taught for many years. Through Globalization IV Collateral Damage, she speaks with great force and conviction about the utter waste of blood and treasure that is war. Constructed of ash and commercial wood scraps the three letters spell WAR but can also be rearranged to create other vivid elucidations of the subject: MAR, ARM, RAW, and RAM. Bullets for building and red paint are also used in the construction to dramatic effect.

Help-Siring Soldiers to Sacrifice, Judy Mulford, waxed linen, buttons, beads, babies & bullet casings, 23" x 11" x 9.5", 2005. Photo by Tom Grotta
Help-Siring Soldiers to Sacrifice, Judy Mulford, waxed linen, buttons, beads, babies & bullet casings, 23″ x 11″ x 9.5″, 2005. Photo by Tom Grotta

In Help-Siring Soldiers to Sacrifice,  Judy Mulford, has created a female figure with bullet casings making up her skirt to illustrate the tragedy for mothers in war zones, whose children are served up as fodder for never-ending conflicts. “My art honors and celebrates the family,” says the artist. “It is autobiographical, personal, graphic and narrative. Each piece I create becomes a container of conscious and unconscious thoughts and feelings, one that references my female ancestral beginnings.”

NRA Approved,  James Bassler, woven, stitched and batik dyed; silk and sisal; each 20”h X 12”w X 4”d (as mounted), 3 pieces in one box  with 3 custom stands, 2014.Photo by Tom Grotta
NRA Approved,  James Bassler, woven, stitched and batik dyed; silk and sisal; each 20” x 12”w x 4”d (as mounted), 3 pieces in one box  with 3 custom stands, 2014. Photo by Tom Grotta

James Bassler commented on gun violence in schools in a series of vests that make up NRA Approved. “The cloth I wove, batik dyed and stitched, was inspired by the 19th Century Japanese fireman’s jacket,” he explains. “It was also inspired by our 21st Century public debate about gun violence and what we, as a nation, could do to make our schools safe from the tragic incidents of our times. The NRA has openly suggested that teachers and students wear bullet-proof vests. Often, our young students do wear waterproof aprons when doing creative work. Here, in these woven sculptural forms, I have added camouflage to help conceal children in harm’s way. Camouflage, indeed, has been used throughout.”

Artists can — and do — share their political observations through their work. The rest of us can do the same through our votes. Please do!


When Words Aren’t Enough, Artists and Politics, Part II

Art is not created in a vacuum. Artists have a keen eye that they often cast on current culture. California artists James Bassler and Gyöngy Laky have both been influenced by Donald Trump’s disruptive impact on our political lives, an influence that they have expressed in their art.

JAMES BASSLER
What’s Happening  2016
four-selvaged construction, with shibori star field; warp and weft are a mix of linen, silk, nettles, and cotton, with synthetic dyes. Photo by Tom Grotta.
JAMES BASSLER
What’s Happening  2016
four-selvaged construction, with shibori star field; warp and weft are a mix of linen, silk, nettles, and cotton, with synthetic dyes. Photo by Tom Grotta.

In early 2016. James Bassler, was invited to participate in the 10th Shibori International Conference, to be held in Oaxaca, Mexico that November. Each entry was to utilize some resist-dyeing technique. “I chose to attempt a field of stars in the American flag,” Bassler writes. “I also chose to weave the flag using the pre-Columbian four-selvage construction. The process is slow, but allows for design changes as the weaving proceeds.” He began in the early months of 2016, coinciding with the political preparations of electing a new president. “Those events,” he recalls, “in particular the dominance of Donald Trump, began to affect my design decisions in making the flag. The red and white stripes in my weaving began to incorporate definite agitation, the same agitation I felt watching the presidential debates. The more extreme the rhetoric, the more extreme the stripes.” The flag was completed and sent off, first to LongHouse, East Hampton for a summer exhibition, then to Oaxaca, Mexico by mid-October. The work was returned from Mexico in March of 2017. In early Spring, it was selected to be in an exhibition in Portland, Oregon. There, “as a result of the presidential election,” Bassler says, “the instructions to the exhibition staff were to hang the flag upside down.”

JAMES BASSLER
Donald and His Hapsburg Empire  2016
wedge weave construction; indigo-dyed linen warp; linen, handspun silk from Mexico, spun duck feathers from Mexico, commercial silk weft. Photo by Tom Grotta.
JAMES BASSLER
Donald and His Hapsburg Empire  2016
wedge weave construction; indigo-dyed linen warp; linen, handspun silk from Mexico, spun duck feathers from Mexico, commercial silk weft. Photo by Tom Grotta.

The same exhibition in Oaxaca in January 2016 inspired Donald and his Habsburg Empire. In this piece, Bassler tried to capture both the historical and the contemporary attitude of arrogance and entitlement that has existed throughout history. Historically, the Habsburgs, the ruling family of Austria, 1276-1918 and of Spain,1516-1700, gave the world elitism through birthright, with no regard to proven achievement. “Today in the United States,” he says, “the Kardashian and the Donald Trump model has made the acquisition of vast sums of money and profit an alarming societal objective, an elitism that values profits over people.” The concept was to have contemporary artists explore the use of spun feathers, relating back to their usage in the 17th and 18th centuries.  The invitation was accompanied by many visuals, including images of ceremonial textiles, from those distant centuries, housed in museums throughout the world. “In all honesty, it was a bit daunting to accept the invitation,” Bassler says. “As the only North American in the exhibition, what might I do?  After reviewing all of the material, I couldn’t help but notice that on many of the ancient textiles the feathers were used to promote the double-headed eagle of the Habsburg Empire, a reminder to those subjugated as to who was in charge.  With that in mind and the fact that the feathers came from Canadian ducks, it was a logical step to create the double-headed ducks. The Donald Trump arrogance factor developed as the presidential debates materialized,” he observes.

Donald Trump’s candidacy concerned Gyöngy Laky as a citizen and an artist. “When it became clear that Donald Trump was the Republican candidate” she remembers, “I cringed and told my husband I worried he could win the election and he did. I have been horrified by his demeanor, corruption and abuse of power.”  She was particularly disturbed by his comment shortly before the Iowa caucus, when he bragged that he could commit a crime and it would not deter his supporters. “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters, OK?” he said. “It’s, like, incredible.”  Laky’s best friend lived two blocks from Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue. “This man is joking about killing her or someone else,” she thought. The work that resulted was direct; with a wide-ranging message. “I knew I would have to make an art piece to address who he is… a racist, a sexist, a criminal, a liar, a tax cheat, an incessant golfer on our dime, a man who seems to enjoy making fun of and hurting people and destroying our institutions, someone who does not believe in science, someone who populates our government with incompetent people, someone who supports white supremacists… someone who said proudly that he could commit a crime killing a person without remorse or guilt nor suffering consequence.” The result was Fifth Avenue, 12/23/16 , made in 2019 out of an AK-T Tequila MX bottle, golf tees and a golf ball.

GYÖNGY LAKY
Fifth Avenue 1/23/16, 2019 
AK-T Tequila MX bottle, golf tees and golf ball. Photo by Gyöngy Laky
GYÖNGY LAKY
Fifth Avenue 1/23/16, 2019 
AK-T Tequila MX bottle, golf tees and golf ball. Photo by Gyöngy Laky

Art can help us to understand how to proceed and inspire us to join the fray, observes Laky, quoting Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, “You can’t be what you can’t see.”  Laky also cites a sequel to last year’s Emmy-nominated short,  A Message From the Future with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a new film, Message From the Future II: The Years of Repair, both illustrated by Molly Crabapple, which urges us to look forward with hope. “In Message II, Opal Tometi, co-founder of Black Lives Matter, and Gael Garcia Bernal, Nnimmo Bassey and Emma Thompson, call upon us to be hopeful, be strong, be active and take part.”

Looking forward, “I’m counting on our younger ones, joined by my generation who remember the 1960s, to turn us around,” says Laky. “With the many difficulties we face fumbling and scrambling toward the possibly most consequential election of our lifetimes, we’re called upon to lift our spirits and gather our strength, awakening our activist souls.”


Catalog Lookback: Fan Favorites, an online exhibition

Portraits of Hisako Sekijima, Gyöngy Laky, Mary Merkel-Hess and Kay Sekimachi
clockwise: Hisako Sekijima 1994 solo exhibition at browngrotta arts. Gyöngy Laky 1993 preparing on a piece for her two-person exhibition at browngrotta arts. Our first meeting with Mary Merkel-Hess 1990 at her exhibition at the NY Armory. Kay Sekimachi in her closet selecting works for her 1992 two-person exhibit with Bob Stocksdale at browngrotta arts. Photos by Tom Grotta

In our 50 catalogs, we have showcased the work of 172 different artists. Four of these artists, however — Mary Merkel-Hess, Kay Sekimachi, Hisako Sekijima and Gyöngy Laky —  we have repeatedly chosen as a focus. Each has been the subject of more than one catalog — solo or two-person or special grouping  — and each has been featured in several of our themed survey publications. These artists explore different materials or forms, creating objects and works for the wall.  That willingness to innovate and reinvent has made them continuously collectible for those who acquire works in breadth and for those who pursue the work of individual artists in depth as well.

Details of works by Mary Merkel-Hess
Details of Mary Merkel-Hess’ paper sculptures on and off the wall. Photos by Tom Grotta

Mary Merkel-Hess’s work was the subject of one of our first catalogs in 1992 (#2) Mary Merkel-Hess. The work in our first solo exhibition of her work was brilliantly colored — vessels of green, indigo, cornflower, red and bronze — but our catalog technology was strictly black and white. Despite the noncolor depiction in the small catalog, the lyrical works of papercord and reed were popular and sold out. Her work was acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art that year — one of the first contemporary baskets to enter the Museum’s collection. The success of that exhibition spurred us to host a second show, work by Merkel-Hess and Leon Niehues, in 1996 (#15). Merkel-Hess threw us a curve, though, by skipping the color that we considered her hallmark and producing, instead, a show of work made of translucent white papers — gampi, kobo, abaca, flax — some of it tinged with gold.  These works turned out to be as popular as those in color. Since then, her works have become larger and more sculptural and her recognition has grown while her popularity with collectors has remained a constant.  Her work will be part of Volume 50: Chronicling Fiber Art for Three Decades (#50), in September of this year. 

Details of works by Kay Sekimachi
Details of baskets and sculptural weavings by Kay Sekimachi. Photos by Tom Grotta

In catalog (#3) Bob Stocksdale and Kay Sekimachi, also 1992 and still black and white, Kay Sekimachi’s work made its first appearance, coupled with wood bowls turned by her husband, Bob Stocksdale. Sekimachi has reinvented her practice several times in her lengthy career. She studied weaving with Trude Guermonprez in San Francisco and Jack Lenor Larsen at Haystack in Maine in the 50s. By the 60s she was working with complicated 12-harness looms to create ethereal hanging sculptures of monofilament, then a new material. They were featured in MoMA’s Wall Hangings exhibition in 1963, Deliberate Entanglements at UCLA in 1971 and the Lausanne Biennial in 1975 and 1983. Sekimachi was also part of the contemporary, nonfunctional basket movement with other California artists in the 1960s and 1970s.  This body of work included small woven baskets and woven paperfold-like boxes made of antique Japanese papers. For our exhibition in 1992, she created gossamer flax bowls and patched pots of linen warp ends and rice paper. For our our 1999 exhibition, (#24) Bob Stocksdale Kay Sekimachi: books, boxes and bowls, she created woven boxes and books, and bowls in typical Japanese ceramic shapes that she formed using Stocksdale’s turned bowls as molds. Still the subject of museum recognition and collector acclaim, Sekimachi continues to work at 94, weaving intimate, abstract weavings reminiscent of drawings in pen and ink. 

Details of works by Gyöngy Laky
Details of of sculptures on and off the wall by Gyöngy Laky. Photos by Tom Grotta

In 1993 we produced our first catalog featuring Gyöngy Laky’s work (#5) Leon Niehues and Gyöngy Laky. The exhibition included 13 vessel shapes and one wall work. In 1996, we visited Laky’s complex construction again (#16) Gyöngy Laky and Rebecca Medel. “I think of myself as a builder of sketches in three dimensions,” she said of her textile architecture. The 1996-1997 exhibition featured Laky’s three-dimensional words, an important aspect of her oeuvre. The two versions of the word “No” or “On” illustrated the myriad ways in which such themes are deftly articulated by Laky. Affirmative No. 1 was made of brightly colored, coated telephone wire, piled and sewn. Affirmative No. 2  was much larger — the “O” made of branches still covered with bark, the “N” made of pieces of stripped, unfinished wood. The catalog also contained an image of That Word.  Now in the collection of the federal court in San Francisco, it spells out “ART” in larger-than-life, 3-d letters made of orchard prunings that are seven feet tall. Laky has continued creating word sculptures that combine natural and manmade materials, as disparate as bleached cottonwood branches, plastic army men and construction bullets of metal. In 2008, The New York Times Magazine commissioned her to create titles for its environmental survey, “The Green Issue.” The works that resulted were awarded a Type Directors Club Award. Laky will have two works in Volume 50: a large vessel-shaped sculpture and a type-related, free-standing arrow.

Details of works by Hisako Sekijima
Details of Bark basket sculptures in varying materials by Hisako Sekijima. Photos by Tom Grotta

Last, but certainly not least is Hisako Sekijima, whose innovation and artistry seem to know few bounds. We have focused on her work in three catalogs — (#8) Hisako Sekijima/1994; (#19) Glen Kaufman and Hisako Sekijima/1998; (#30) Japan Under The Influence: Innovative basketmakers deconstruct Japanese tradition/2001. Bark and vine become fabric and thread, framing and nails as Sekijima conducts her experiments in volume and void. The first catalog of Sekijima’s work (#8) included works in wide variety of materials — cherry bark, kudzu vine, cedar, willow, hackberry, bamboo. We were particularly pleased when The New York Times made the 1994 exhibition and the variety of work included the subject of a full-page article in its Connecticut section. They turned to her work again in The New York Times Magazine, including a work of kudzu vine in an article on the uses of the invasive species. We visited Sekijima’s work again in 1998, pairing her pieces, this time of zelikova, apricot, hinoki, walnut and palm hemp bark, with jacquard weavings by Glen Kaufman featuring photographic images of Kyoto. In 2001, we combined works by seven basket artists in Japan: Under the Influence, Innovative basketmakers deconstruct Japanese tradition #30). Sekijima was included, as were four of her students from Japan — Norie Hatekeyama, Kazue Honma, Noriko Takamiya and Tsuroko Tanikawa— each of whom had, like their teacher, had mastered Japanese basketmaking tradition, only to give it a twist. Sekijima wrote in Japan Under the Influence, that Kay Sekimachi (also featured in the catalog) was one of the American artists whose “new notions of basketmaking” and “new forms” had a decisive impact on her as she studied basketmaking in the late 70s. “Since then,” she wrote, “Sekimachi has always been one of my teachers at a distance. Her work has always reminded me of a Japanese respectful expression orime tadashii, which literally means, ‘one’s kimono preserves neat lines of folding which connotes integrity of behavior.’” Sekijima’s work, A Line Willow IV is part of our September exhibition. Like the works these artists have produced over nearly three decades, A Line Willow IV,  represents a line innovative art making that is knotless, homogeneous and flexible. 

See more at our September exhibition, Volume 50: Chronicling Fiber Art for Three Decades (#50).


Creative Quarantining: Artist Check-in 2

Lia Cooks’ studio. Photo by Tom Grotta

Here’s part 2 in our series on how are artists are coping and creating in the time of COVID.

Last month, Lia Cook was interviewed by Carolyn Kipp in California in a Social Distancing Studio Visit blog (http://carolinekipp.com/social-distancing-studio-visits/2020/5/4/3-lia-cook-san-francisco-bay-area-ca). Lia agreed with Jo Barker who we mentioned last week, on artists’ relative comfort with contemplative time. “I do think that artists are used to knowing what to do with private time; how to keep engaged with the moment, experiment with new ideas,” she told Kipp.  “The good part of this experience is that it has given me more time to do what I feel like doing at the moment. I don’t have so much pressure to produce, i.e. finish a piece for an upcoming exhibition, ship it, or even paperwork.” Lia also told Kipp that, Right now, in my practice I am experimenting with new work. Moving from my focus on faces using neurological brain imagery to integrating the fiber connection I see in plants from my garden with the structural woven fibers of the brain. I am repurposing older work by reweaving the imagery back into the new work. Rediscovered work I wove as samples as part of my neurological emotional studies are now becoming material basis for new work.”

Selfie in PPE by Gyöngy Laky
Selfie in PPE by Gyöngy Laky

Bacteria-fighting tips came from Gyöngy Laky, also in California, who has been sharing her thoughts about art in these challenging times with the Shelter Chronicles and other blogs. “I wanted to tell you about something discovered along the way dealing with food in these virus times.  I put all boxes or bags of new food coming in on the landing up on floor 3.  Then I put soapy water in a large bowl or in the kitchen sink.  I wash everything! except for bread!,” says Gyöngy.   “I wash raspberries… super delicately!  I wash lettuce leaves, broccoli, onions, etc.  The trick is to rinse everything very carefully and thoroughly.  Then you need to let things dry on a towel for a bit.  To store berries, I put layers of paper towel between rows, one berry high, in a container and then in the fridge.  We just ate raspberries 4 weeks old and in perfect shape (a few go by the way, but almost all are perfect after all that time). We have blueberries going on their 5th week and still fine!  (To last that long they need, of course, to be nice fresh berries to begin with, if possible.)  The lettuce I lay out on paper towels and then roll them up gently and put them in a plastic bag.  Some heads of lettuce, especially little gems and cabbage, I do not take apart, but rinse well.  They are often so firmly closed that it’s easy to rinse the soap away.  I then roll them in paper towels and put them in a plastic bag in the fridge and, again, they can last 3-4 weeks.”

Gyöngy has a theory about why this works, hypothesizing that washing with soapy water removes a lot of various bacteria that normally leads to spoilage.  “You’ll be amazed how dirty the water gets!” she writes. “Disinfectants are tricky because some of them have to be on the surface of what you are cleaning for some minutes and then wiped off.  Some directions say… clean surface first!  Not good.  We handle mail and then wash our hands thoroughly.  Any things questionable we leave for 10-14 days untouched and assume they are ‘clean’ by then.”

Rachel Max, work in progress, photo by Rachel Max

Rachel Max reports from the UK, “Never have I been more grateful to focus on making than in these difficult times. It has kept me going and I am relishing the time this has given me without other commitments getting in the way. Admittedly I’ve struggled to concentrate, but I have been spending long hours each day working on a new piece for an exhibition which Tim Johnson is organizing in Spain.” Here are images of work in progress. “I’m glad for the focus,” she says, “and I can’t believe how quickly the days are whizzing by.”

Also in the UK, Laura Bacon has been creating — literally — having welcomed a baby boy in May. “It was a bit stressful awaiting the arrival of my baby in the middle of the pandemic,”she writes, “but everything went smoothly in the end. I have my hands happily full with my lovely little boy, and also two-and-a-half-year old little girl. She is keeping me busy, too, as she’s not in nursery in the way that she was before the virus, so for now, I only have time for them.”

Stay Safe, Stay Separate, Stay Inspired!


Art Assembled: New This Week May

As we can all agree, May has certainly been a month for the books. Now, more than ever, we’ve been using creativity as a stress-relieving outlet. During the month of May, the art that we highlighted comes from a very talented group of artists that draw profound inspiration from everyday life, including: Kazue Honma, Sylvia Seventy, Gyöngy Laky, and Adela Akers

Kazue Honma
13kh Seed of plaiting/9cross-11pit, Kazue Honma, gettou fiber, 8.75” x 8” x 9.75,” 2

Kazue Honma is a Japan based artist who has radically experimented with traditional Japanese weaving techniques. As you can see, the work that Honma creates is nothing short of facinating.

Sylvia Seventy
24ss Continuing with the Bridge to Nowhere, Sylvia Seventy, recycled handmade paper, willow, redbud and deadfall sticks, nylon and linen cords, wax and acrylic paint, 6” x 10.25” x 6.5,” 1983-2019.

California based artist, Sylvia Seventy often finds inspiration from her own life when creating art – stating that her art can be seen as the pages in the diary of her adult life.

“My molded paper art vessels are pages in the diary-like book of my adult life,” says Sylvia Seventy. “When I started making my vessels, it soon became evident to me that the universal shape of what appeared to be an ancient pottery bowl was an approachable path for the viewer. With or without an art background, my bowls allowed people to let their guard down and be drawn into the complexity of the art vessel, its intricate interior and conceptual allusion.”

Gyöngy Laky
127l Reach, Gyöngy Lakytwigs, paint, doll arms, trim screws, 35.5” x 25” x 6.5”, 2012.

In creating Reach, Gyöngy Laky was inspired by two new monetary symbols adopted this decade, one for the Indian rupee in 2010 and this one, for the Turkish lire in 2011.

They simultaneously suggested to her both greater globalism and stronger nationalism. “I was intrigued when the new rupee was announced,” said Gyöngy Laky. “Because I had begun a currency series of sculptures and by 2010 had completed a dollar sign, a couple of cent signs, the Chinese renminbi (yuan), the Japanese yen and the European Euro. Shortly after, Turkey did not want to be left behind and came up with a new design for its lire. I added both, as Neo-Rupee and Reach, to my currency series.”

Adela Akers
59aa The Grid, Adela Akerslinen, horsehair, paint, metal foil, 45″ x 38″, 2008.

Before Adela Akers devoted her life to the arts, she completed studies to be a pharmacist, in which she says has a strong influence into her artwork.

“There is a mathematical discipline in the way the work is constructed,”
​says Akers. “This mathematical sequence is in strong contrast to the organic process (handweaving) and materials (linen and horsehair) that bring the work to fruition.”

​Stay Safe, Stay Distant, Stay Inspired!


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


Artists from the Grotta Collection: Exhibition and Book Launch Opens Saturday

We’re getting ready to welcome six artists and lots of art fans to our fall event: Artists from the Grotta Collection: an exhibition and book launch, which opens on Saturday (Artist Reception and Opening: 1 pm to 6 pm). Featured in the exhibition is the work of more than 44 artists, who are among the artists collected by Sandy and Lou Grotta over nearly 70 years. Here are some behind the scenes views of our preparations.

2 Sara Brennan Tapestries
Installation of Dark Blue Line I and Linen Tapestry with Broken Grey Line by Sara Brennan above the New Kitchen Server

Here’s a shot of Tom installing a pair of Sara Brennan’s elegant tapestries.

Installation of Gyongy Laky's True North
Gyöngy Laky’s True North partially installed showing the exposed nails that get covered by the wood pieces

Over two-hundred nails are needed to install Gyøngy Laky’s True North.

The work that required the most ingenuity and effort to install was Helena Hernmarck’s substantial tapestry, 1884 New York Bay. This is just a glimpse of the varied work that will be included in the exhibitions, which includes ceramics, furniture, fiber sculpture and mixed media. Hope we’ll see you there.

The results of that unique creative collaboration are documented in the more-than 300 photographs that make up The Grotta Home, which will be celebrated in Artists from the Grotta Collection: exhibition and book launch runs from November 2nd to the 10th at browngrotta arts, 276 Ridgefield Road, Wilton, CT.

The Artists Reception and Opening is November 2nd, 1 pm to 6 pm, browngrotta arts, 276 Ridgefield Road, Wilton, CT 06897. The exhibition hours for November 3rd – 10th are 10 am to 5 pm. A book about the collection, The Grotta Home by Richard Meier: a Marriage of Architecture and Craft, will be available throughout the exhibition and Tom will be available to sign it. For more info: http://www.browngrotta.com/Pages/calendar.php.


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!


Acquisition News

Diagonal, Kyoko Kumai, stainless steel, 2016.

We have learned about a host of acquisitions for artists who work with browngrotta arts’ since our acquisition reports last July and August 2018.  A large number of our artists’ work are now included in the collection of The George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum thanks to the remarkable gift of the late Lloyd Cotsen, former chief executive officer and chairman of the board of Neutrogena Corporation, which included 4,000 textiles, an endowment and equipment to support the textile collections he assembled.

Attitude, Lia Cook, Handwoven cotton and rayon, 1999.Photo by: Bruce M. White@ Lloyd E. Cotsen, 2016.

The gift includes the Cotsen Textile Traces Study Collection, one of the world’s most significant textile study collections ever assembled by an individual and The Box Project: Uncommon Threads, organized by Cotsen Foundation for Academic Research, which includes work by John Garrett, Helena Hernmarck, Agneta Hobin, Kiyomi Iwata, Lewis Knauss, Naomi Kobayashi, Nancy Koenigsberg, Gyöngy Laky, Heidrun Schimmel and Hisako Sekijima. Cotsen’s gift also included Lia Cook’s 1999 work, Attitude.

Other acquisitions of note:

Ed Rossbach: Bobbin Lace, 1970, was acquired by the Minneapolis Institute of Art, through browngrotta arts.

Eduardo Portillo and Mariá Eugenia DávilaNew Nebula, 2017, was acquired by the Toledo Art Museum in Ohio, through browngrotta arts.

Norma Minkowitz: The Minneapolis Institute of Art purchased a crocheted and stitched wall hanging called Journeys End, 2017, and a stitched drawing with collage and crochet, Lunar Landing, 2017.

Shin Young-ok: Rhymes from 2000 was acquired by the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul, Korea

Moot, Helena Hernmarck, wool, linen, cotton, 1971. Photo by Helena Hernmarck.

Chang Yeonsoon:  In addition to being a finalist for the Loewe Craft Prize in 2018, the Loewe Foundation in London collected three works of Chang Yeonsoon’s works in August, 2018.

Polly Barton: Fertile Ground, was chosen by the Art in Embassies program to be in the US Embassy in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

Nancy Koenigsberg: Teal Concentric Boxes was a gift from Camille and Alex Cook to the Racine Art Museum, Wisconsin.

Ampersand by Gyöngy Laky

Ethel Stein: Butah, 2011, went to the Art Institute of Chicago in Illinois through browngrotta arts.

Kyoko Kumai: Kumai’s tapestry, Diagonal, which was acquired by teh Victoria & Albert Museum in London in 2016, is on display at the Museum until the end of July 2020. The National  Museum of Art in Riga, Latvia collected Kumai’s work in 2018.

Åse Ljones: Three pieces from Ljones’ series, It is Still Quiet, were acquired by KODE Museum, Bergen, Norway in 2017.

Adela Akers: In 2018 Akers’ work, Traced Memories, was acquired by The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco/De Young Museum.

Gyöngy Laky: In addition to This Way and That, which is part of The Box Collection, which went to the The George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum, Seek, from 2016, was acquired by the United States State Department for the new Kosovo Embassy in Pristina. 

Helen Hernmarck: Moot, 1971 was acquired by the Minneapolis Institute of Art. 


Art Out and About: US

The opportunities to see great art are endless this summer! Heading to the West Coast for work? Take a detour and visit  the newly opened Nordic Museum to check out Northern Exposure: Contemporary Nordic Arts Revealed in Seattle, WashingtonVisiting friends or family in the Northeast? Make plans to spend the day in New Haven and see Text and Textile at The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library on Yale’s campus. Whether you are in the North, South, East or West there are a wide variety of strong exhibitions on display across the US this summer, here are a few of our favorites:

Grethe Wittrock's Nordic Birds at the Nordic Museum

Grethe Wittrock’s Nordic Birds at the Nordic Museum in Seattle, Washington. Photo by Grethe Wittrock

Northern Exposure: Contemporary Nordic Arts Revealed at the Nordic Museum, Seattle, Washington

The newly opened Nordic Museum hopes to share and inspire people of all ages and backgrounds through Nordic art. The museum is the largest in the US to honor the legacy of immigrants from the five Nordic countries: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. Northern Exposure studies “how the Nordic character continues to redefine itself within an evolving global context” by challenging “perceptions of form, gender, identity, nature, technology and the body,” explains the Museum. The exhibition features work by internationally acclaimed artists, including Grethe Wittrock, Olafur Eliasson, Bjarne Melgaard, Jesper Just, Kim Simonsson and Cajsa Von Zeipel. Made of Danish sailcloth, Wittrock’s Nordic Birds immediately attracts the eye upon entering the exhibition. Northern Exposure: Contemporary Nordic Arts Revealed will be on display through September 16, 2018. For more information click HERE.

Traces: Wonder by Lia Cook at the Racine Art Museum, Gift of Karen Johnson Boyd. Photo by Jon Bolton

Traces: Wonder by Lia Cook at the Racine Art Museum, Gift of Karen Johnson Boyd. Photo by Jon Bolton

Honoring Karen Johnson Boyd: Collecting In-Depth at Home and at RAM, Racine Art Museum, Wisconsin

The Racine Art Museum’s new exhibit Honoring Karen Johnson Boyd: Collecting In-Depth at Home and at RAM showcases art advocate and collector Karen Johnson Boyd’s collection of ceramic, clay and fiber art. The exhibition, which is broken up into a series of four individually titled exhibitions, with varying opening and closing dates, highlight Boyd’s interests, accomplishments and lifelong commitment to art. Throughout her life, Boyd was drawn to a diverse array of artistic styles and subjects. Boyd, who collected fiber in an encyclopedic fashion, supported artists of varying ages with varying regional, national and international reputations. Boyd’s Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home provided her with many display options for her fiber collection. Though baskets encompassed the majority of Boyd’s fiber collection, she regularly altered her environment, adding and subtracting works as she added to her collection. The exhibitions feature work from Dorothy Gill Barnes, Lia Cook, Kiyomi Iwata, Ferne Jacobs, John McQueen, Ed Rossbach, Hideho Tanaka, Mary Merkel-Hess, Norma Minkowitz, Lenore Tawney and Katherine Westphal. Honoring Karen Johnson Boyd: Collecting In-Depth at Home and at RAM will be on display at the Racine Art Museum through December 30th, with exhibited pieces changing over in mid-September. For more information on Honoring Karen Johnson Boyd: Collecting In-Depth at Home and at RAM visit the Racine Art Museum’s website HERE.

Text and Textile at The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Text and Textile at The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, New Haven, Connecticut

In New Haven, Connecticut, The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library recently opened Text and Textile. The exhibition, which will be on display through August 12th, explores the relationship and intersection between text and textile in literature and politics.Text and Textile draws on Yale University’s phenomenal collection of literature tied to textiles, from Renaissance embroidered bindings to text from Anni Albers’ On Weaving. Additionally, the exhibition features: Gertrude Stein’s waistcoat; manuscript patterns and loom cards from French Jacquard mills; the first folio edition of William Shakespeare’s plays; the “Souper” paper dress by Andy Warhol; American samplers; Christa Wolf’s “Quilt Memories”; Zelda Fitzgerald’s paper dolls for her daughter; Edith Wharton’s manuscript drafts of “The House of Mirth”; an Incan quipu; poetry by Langston Hughes, Emily Dickinson, Susan Howe and Walt Whitman; and “The Kelmscott Chaucer” by William Morris. For more information on Text and Textile click HERE.

Kaki Shibu by Nancy Moore Bess. Lent by Browngrotta Arts

Kaki Shibu by Nancy Moore Bess. Lent by Browngrotta Arts

Rooted, Revived, Reinvented: Basketry In America at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft. Houston, Texas

The traveling exhibition Rooted, Revived, Reinvented: Basketry In America is now on display at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft in Houston, Texas. The exhibition, which is set to travel around the United States through the end of 2019, chronicles the history of American basketry from its origins in Native American, immigrant and slave communities to its presence within the contemporary fine art world. Curated by Josephine Stealy and Kristin Schwain, the exhibition is divided into five sections: Cultural Origins, New Basketry, Living Traditions, Basket as Vessel and Beyond the Basket which aim to show you the evolution of basketry in America. Today, some contemporary artists seek to maintain and revive traditions practiced for centuries. However, other work to combine age-old techniques with nontraditional materials to generate cultural commentary. Rooted, Revived, Reinvented: Basketry In America features work by browngrotta arts’ artists Polly Adams Sutton, Mary Giles, Nancy Moore Bess, Christine Joy, Nancy Koenigsberg, Dorothy Gill Barnes, Ferne Jacobs, Gyöngy Laky, Kari Lønning, John McQueen, Norma Minkowitz, Leon Niehues, Ed Rossbach, Karyl Sisson and Kay Sekimachi.

Kay Sekimachi in Handheld at the Aldrich Museum

Kay Sekimachi in Handheld at the Aldrich Museum. Photo by Tom Grotta

Handheld at the Aldrich Museum, Ridgefield, Connecticut

The Aldrich Museum’s new exhibition Handheld explores how contemporary artists’ and designers’ perceive the meaning of touch. Touch is one of the most intimate and sometimes unappreciated senses. Today, the feeling our hands are most familiar with are our that of our handheld devices and electronics. Touch is no longer solely used to hold objects such as pencils and tools, in fact, touch is increasingly taking the form of a swipe, where the sensation is ignored in favor to the flat visual landscapes of our own selection. “Handheld takes a multifarious approach—the hand as means of creation, a formal frame of reference” explains the Aldrich Museum. It serves the viewer as “a source of both delight and tension as they experience sensual objects in familiar domestic forms, scaled for touch, that can be looked upon but not felt.” The group exhibition, which features work by Kay Sekimachi will be on display until January 13, 2019. For more information on Handheld click HERE.