Tag: Helena Hernmarck

Portraits in Thread

The Textile Museum at George Washington University in DC has a portrait exhibition in the works. Learning about the Museum’s plans got us thinking about works created by browngrotta artists that feature human likenesses. We have a preference for abstract works and find them easier to exhibit as a group in the gallery. As a result, we don’t exhibit many works that are figurative, but we do find faces rendered in textiles consistently appealing. They record a person’s existence, but traditionally reflect much more — power, status, virtue, beauty, wealth, taste, learning or other qualities of the sitter. Portraiture can be popular with artists because of the freedom of composition it involves — lighting, angle of the head, hair, clothes, background, facial expression — almost endless options. Below is a gallery of some engaging portraits by artists who have worked with browngrotta arts.

Process piece by ed Rossbach
Process Piece, Ed Rossbach, 15” x 15” x 2.5”, 1981. Photo by Tom Grotta

This deconstructed portrait by Ed Rossbach works on two levels — it appears to be a model of the way a likeness can be formed, and of course, it revels the likeness in black transferred onto fabric.

Ethel Stein portrait
Portrait, Ethel Stein mercerized cotton lampas (pre-dyed warp and weft) drawloom , controlled, 47” x 34.75” x 1” 1999. Photo by Tom Grotta

Portrait by Ethel Stein is an imagined depiction of a woman in contemplation while Helena Hernmarck’s On the Dock seems to capture an actual moment in time.

Helena Hernmarck tapestry
On the Dock, Helena Hernmarck, wool, 43″ x 57″, 2009. Photo by Tom Grotta

Marijike Arp portraits
DNA Unique, Marijike Arp, transparent foil, threads and paper, 66″ x 118″ x 1.5″, 2000. Photo by Tom Grotta

Marjike Arp made a statement about gender in DNA=Unique. The pair of subjects resemble one another and raise questions for the viewer: Are they related? Are they more similar than different? 

Iria Kolesnikova portraits
Photoatelier #11, Irina Kolesnikova, flax, silk, hand woven, 15.5” x 11.75”, 20” x 16” frame, 2004

Other artists also work from photographic images. Irina Kolesnikova, for example, likes old black-and-white old photos. “I play with images of these pictures, using silhouettes, details of dress, signs of profession. I make collage and imitate collage in woven technique. You can not recognize an exact person in these pieces, because it is not important for me …. I like a paradoxical combination of contemporary art language and ancient handweaving technque.”

From the First Person  by Aleksandra Stoyanov
Aleksandra Stoyanov, From the First Person I, wool, sisal, silk, cotton threads 55.6” x 49.25”, 1999

Ukrainian-born artist Aleksandra Stoyanov began making tapestries in 1987, building on her background in graphic and set design. Some of these are based on photographs from her family album. The images evoke memories; the position of the subjects’ heads on their sides suggests the importance of one’s vantage point in interpreting events.

Lia Cook Su Series
Su Series, Lia Cook cotton, rayon, woven 72” x 132”, 2010-2016. Photo by Tom Grotta

Lia Cook is a master of creating woven portraits from photographic images. Her Su Series Installation features 32 individual portraits. The exact same face, an image of Cook as a child, is used in each of the pieces but it is physically and materially translated differently each time through the weaving process. “The specific way each is translated creates a subtle and sometimes dramatic variation in emotional expression.” Cook says. “As one moves through the installation each iteration evokes a new response. The experience of the person viewing the piece is what is important to me. I am interested in the threshold at which the face dissolves first into pattern and then into a sensual tactile woven structure.  What does this discovery and the resulting intense desire to touch the work add to our already innate, almost automatic emotional response to seeing a face?… The viewer can experience sadness, happiness anger fear etc.  They don’t believe it is the same image”. It is fascinating to Cook — and to viewers of her work — that how an image is translated through the technical weaving process can change the emotional expression of the work.


Sailing Away: The Perpetual Artistic Appeal of Boats

Lawrence LaBianca's Boat installation
Lawrence LaBianca’s Boat installation, 2010: Skiff; Twenty Four Hours on the Roaring Fork River, Aspen CO. Day Two; Boat House; Trow. Photo by Tom Grotta

Boats and ships and time on the water are potent metaphors for the highs and lows of contemporary life.

As FineArt America says of “boat art”:”… whether you own a boat, grew up by the sea, or dream of sailing the wide-open ocean, boats have a way of making us feel a unique combination of calm and adventurous.”.

New York Bay 1884
Helena Hernmarck, New York Bay 1884, wool, 10’ x 13.5’, 1990. Photo by Tom Grotta

Artists at browngrotta arts explore the artistic potential of boats and boat shapes in widely divergent ways. 

Kayak Bundles
Chris Drury, Kayak Bundles, willow bark and cloth sea charts from Greenland and Outer Hebrides, 79″ x 55″ x 12″, 1994. Photo by Tom Grotta

Some, like Lawrence LaBianca, Helena Hernmarck, Chris Drury and Annette Bellamy, have referenced them literally in their work. Lawrence LaBianca creates experiences in which water is an integral part. In Skiff, an antique telephone receiver links viewers to sounds of a rushing river. Twenty-four Hours on the Roaring Fork River, Aspen, CO, is a print created by Drawing Boat, a vessel filled with river rocks that makes marks on paper when it is afloat. Annette Bellamy has lived in a small fishing village called Halibut Cove right across the bay from Homer, Alaska and worked as a commercial fisherwoman. Off season, she reflects on her day job, creating porcelain, earthenware, raku-fired ceramic and stoneware boats, buoys, sinkers and oars that float inches from the floor.

Floating installation at the Fuller Museum

Annette Bellamy, Floating installation at the Fuller Museum (detail), 2012. Stoneware, porcelain wood fired and reduction fired. Photo by Tom Grotta

Others, like Dona Anderson, Jane Balsgaard, Merja Winquist, Birgit Birkkjaer and Christine Joy, are moved to create more abstract versions. Boat is a part of new work of hers that is more angular, says Christine Joy. “The shape that occurs when I bend the willow reminds me of waves on choppy water, boats, and the movement of water.” Birgit Birkkjaer’s baskets contain precious amber that she has found washed up on the shore. The indigo-dyed baskets symbolize the sea that brings the amber to the shore – and a ship from ancient times, transporting the Nordic Gold to the rest of Europe. Boats and boat shapes conjure thoughts of water as a natural force, a spiritual source, or a resource for which humans are responsible — and not doing such a red hot job. 

Dona Anderson Boat
Crossing Over, Dona Anderson, bamboo kendo (martial art sticks); patterned paper; thread, 15″ x 94″ x 30″ , 2008. Photo by Tom Grotta
Nordic Gold comes from the Sea
Birgit Birkkjær, Nordic Gold comes from the Sea, linen, amber, plexi, 2.25” x 27.5” x 13”, 2016. Photo by Tom Grotta
Christine Joy willow boat
Boat Becoming River, Christine Joy, willow 14” x 31” x 10”, 2018. Photo by Tom Grotta

in each case the results are imaginative and intriguing. Enjoy these varied depictions and see more on our website.

Jane Balsgaard Boats
Paper Sculpture II-IV, Jane Balsgaard, bamboo, piassava, willow, fishing line, japaneese and handmade plant paper, 14” x 13.5 x 5“, 2020. Photo by Tom Grotta

Lives well lived: Sandra Grotta

Sandra Grotta at her 80th birthday party. Jewelry by David Watkins, Gerd Rothmann and Eva Eisler. Photo by Tom Grotta

browngrotta arts is devasted by the loss of Sandra Grotta, our extraordinary collector and patron and mother and grandmother. Sandy and her husband Lou have been pivotal in the growth of browngrotta arts through their advice and unerring support. Sandy graduated from the University of Michigan and the New York School of Interior Design. For four decades, she provided interior design assistance to dozens of clients — many through more than one home and office. She encouraged them to live with craft art, as she and Lou had done, placing works by Toshiko Takezu, Mariette Rousseau-Vermette, Helena Hernmarck, Gyöngy Laky, Markku Kosonen, Mary Merkel-Hess and many other artists in her clients’ homes. Among her greatest design talents was persuading people to de-accession pieces they had inherited, but never loved, to make way for art and furnishings that provided them joy. Sandy was a uniquely confident collector and she shared that conviction with her clients.  

Her own collecting journey began in the late 1950s, when she and Lou first stepped into the Museum of Contemporary Crafts in New York City after a visit to the Museum of Modern Art. “The Museum’s exhibitions, many of whose objects were for sale in its store, caused a case of love at first sight. It quickly became a founding source of many craft purchases to follow,” Sandy told Patricia Malarcher in 1982 (“Crafts,” The New York Times, Patricia Malarcher, October 24, 1982). It was a walnut table ”with heart” on view at MoCC that would irrevocably alter the collectors’ approach. The table was by Joyce and Edgar Anderson, also from New Jersey. The Grottas sought the artists out and commissioned the first of many works commissioned and acquired throughout the artists’ lifetimes, including a roll-top desk, maple server and a sofa-and-table unit that now live in browngrotta arts’ gallery space. She followed the advice she would give to others:  “When we saw the Andersons’ woodwork,” Sandy remembered, “we knew everything else had to go,” Sandy told Glenn Adamson. From the success of that first commission, the Grottas’ art exploration path was set. The Andersons introduced the Grottas to their friends, ceramists Toshiko Takaezu and William Wyman. “The Andersons were our bridge to other major makers in what we believe to have been the golden age of contemporary craft,” Sandy said, “and the impetus to my becoming our decorator.”  

Sandra Grotta in her Maplewood, NJ living room
Sandra Grotta in her Maplewood, NJ living room surrounded by works by Mariette Rousseau-Vermette, Peter Vouklos, William Wyman, Toshiko Takaezu, Rudy Autio, Joyce and Edgar Anderson and Charle Loloma. Photo by Tom Grotta

When Objects USA: the Johnson Wax Collection, opened in New York in 1972 at MoCC, by then renamed the American Craft Museum, the Grottas began discovering work further afield. ”Objects USA was my Bible,” Sandy told Malarcher describing how she would search out artists, ceramists, woodworkers and jewelers. A trip to Ariel, Washington, led the Grottas to commission an eight-foot-tall Kwakiutl totem pole for the front hall by Chief Don Lelooska. Sandy ordered a bracelet by Charles Loloma from a picture in a magazine. ”I always got a little nervous when the packages came, but I’ve never been disappointed,” Sandy told Malarcher. ”Craftsmen are a special breed.” Toshiko Takaezu, as an example, would require interested collectors like the Grottas to come by her studio in Princeton, NJ, a few times first to “interview” before she’d permit them to acquire special works. It took 15 years and several studio visits each year for the Grottas to convince the artist to part with the “moon pot” that anchors their formidable Takaezu collection. Jewelers Wendy Ramshaw and David Watkins in the UK also became dear friends as Sandy developed a world-class jewelry collection. At one point, in a relationship that included weekly transatlantic calls, Sandy told Wendy she needed “everyday earrings.” Wendy responded with earrings for every day – seven pairs in fact. “For me, the surprise was that they found me,” says John McQueen. “I lived in Western New York state far from the hubbub of the art world.” McQueen says that he discovered they the Grotta’s were completely open to any new aesthetic experience. “from that moment, we established a strong connection, that has led to a rapport that has continued through the years – a close personal and professional relationship.”

Sandy Grotta's bust by Norma Minkowitz
Norma Minkowitz’s portrait of Sandy Grotta sourounded by artwork’s by Alexander Lichtveld, Bodil Manz, Lenore Tawney, Ann Hollandale, Kay Sekimachi, Ed Rossbach, Toshiko Takaezu, Laurie Hall. Photo by Tom Grotta

Their accumulation of objects has grown to include more that 300 works of art and pieces of jewelry by dozens of artists, and with their Richard Meier home, has been the subject of two books. The most recent, The Grotta Home by Richard Meier: A Marriage of Architecture and Craft, was photographed and designed by Tom Grotta of bga. They don’t consider themselves collectors in the traditional sense, content to exhibit art on just walls and surfaces. Sandy and Lou’s efforts were aimed at creating a home. They filled every aspect of their lives with handcrafted objects from silver- and tableware to teapots to clothing to studio jewelry and commissioned pillows, throws and canes, a direction she also recommended for her interior design clients. The result, writes Glenn Adamson in The Grotta Home,”is a home that is at once totally livable and deeply aesthetic.” Among the additional artists whose work the Grottas acquired for their home were wood worker Thomas Hucker, textile and fiber artists Sheila Hicks, Lenore Tawney and Norma Minkowitz, ceramists Peter Voulkos, Ken Ferguson and William Wyman and jewelers Gijs Bakker, Giampaolo Babetto, Axel Russmeyer and Eva Eisler. They have traveled to Japan, the UK, Czechoslovakia, Germany and across the US to view art and architecture and meet with artists.

Perhaps their most ambitious commission was the Grotta House, by Richard Meier. Designed to house and highlight craft and completed in 1989, it is a source of constant delight for the couple, with its shifting light, showcased views of woodlands and wildlife and engaging spaces for object installation. The Grottas were far more collaborative clients than is typical for Meier. “From our very first discussions,” Meier has written,”it was clear that their vast collection of craft objects and Sandy’s extensive experience as an interior designer would be an important in the design of the house.“ The sensitivity with which the collection was integrated into Meier’s design produced “an enduring harmony between an ever-changing set of objects and they space they occupy.” The unique synergy between objects and architecture is evident decades later, even as the collection has evolved.  Despite his “distinct — and ornament-free — visual language, Meier created a building that lets decorative objects take a leading role on the architectural stage,” notes Osman Can Yerebakan in Introspective magazine (“Tour a Richard Meier–Designed House That Celebrates American Craft,” Osman Can Yerebakan, Introspective, February 23, 2020). The house project had an unexpected benefit — a professional partnership between Sandy and Grotta House project manager, David Ling, that would result in memorable art exhibition and living spaces designed for the homes and offices of many of Sandy’s design clients.

Sandy and Lou became patrons of the American Craft Museum in 1970s. As a member of the Associates committee she organized several annual fundraisers for the Museum, including Art for the Table, E.A.T. at McDonald’s and Art to Wear, sometimes with her close friend, Jack Lenor Larsen, another assured acquirer, as co-chair. At the openings, she would sport an artist-made piece of jewelry or clothing, sometimes both, and often it was an item that arrived or was finished literally hours before the event. “I wear all my jewelry,” she told Metalsmith Magazine in 1991 (Donald Freundlich and Judith Miller, “The State of Metalsmithing and Jewelry,” Metalsmith Magazine, Fall 1991) “I love to go to a party where everyone is wearing pearls and show up in a wild necklace …. I have a house brooch by Künzli – a big red house that you wear on your shoulder. I can go to a party in a wild paper necklace and feel as good about it as someone else does in diamonds.” Sandy served on the Board of the by-then-renamed Museum of Arts and Design, stepping down in 2019. 

Portrait of Sandy Grotta
Sandra Grotta Portrait in Florida Apartment in front of sculptures by Dawn MacNutt and a tapestry by Jun Tomita

From its inception, Sandy served as a trusted advisor, cheerleader and cherished client to browngrotta arts. She introduced us to artists, to her design clients and Museum colleagues. Questions of aesthetic judgment — are there too many works in this display? too much color? does this work feel unfinished? imitative? decorative? — were presented to her for review. (She was unerring on etiquette disputes, too.) The debt we owe her is enormous; the void she leaves is large indeed. We can only say thank you, we love you and your gifts will live on.

You can learn more about Sandy’s life and legacy on The Grotta House website: https://grottahouse.com and in the book, The Grotta Home by Richard Meier: A Marriage of Architecture and Craft available from browngrotta at: https://store.browngrotta.com/the-grotta-home-by-richard-meier-a-marriage-of-architecture-and-craft/.

The family appreciates memorial contributions to the Sandra and Louis Grotta Foundation, Inc., online at https://joingenerous.com/louis-and-sandra-grotta-foundation-inc-r5yelcd or by mail to The Louis and Sandra Grotta Foundation, Inc., P.O. Box 766, New Vernon, NJ 07976-0000.


Art Out and About: Exhibitions Abroad

Things are (happily!) opening up all over. If you are located abroad or planning to travel , there are a number of exciting exhibitions to visit in person and to check out online.

Lookout installation in Spain, Photo by Tim Johnson

Lookout
Mas de Barberans, Spain
An exhibition of the best of European basketmaking, Lookout, has been curated by Monica Guilera and Tim Johnson at the Museu de la Pauma, Mas de Barberans in Catalonia, Spain until September 30, 2021. The collection includes work by Dail Behennah, Mary Butcher and makers from Poland, France, Italy, Crimea and elsewhere. There is a beautifully illustrated 52-page catalogue which you can view online here.

Participation, Archie Brennan, 1977, woven at Dovecot Studios. Image Courtesy of Dovecot Studios

Archie Brennan Goes Pop
Edinburgh, Scotland
The Dovecot Studios in Scotland, is celebrating the extraordinary career of Archie Brennan in Archie Brennan Goes Pop through August 21, 2021. The Studios describe the exhibition as: “Bringing together over 80 tapestries as well as archive material, this is a chance to delve into the world of a master of modern tapestry. Sharp, witty, and immensely talented, Brennan began his 60-year weaving career at Dovecot and was an innovator and iconoclast who inspired weavers all over the world from Papua New Guinea to Australia.” Brennan’s contribution as a pop artist has not been recognized, until now.

Light, Nancy Koenigsberg, coated copper wire, 47″ x 47″ x 8″, 2011, photo by Tom Grotta. Part of the Artapestry6 traveling exhibition. 

ArtTapestry 6
Jyväskylä, Finland
2020’s ArtTapestry finally opened and has begun traveling, opening in Denmark and now installed in Finland and the Museum of Central Finland in Jyväskylä, through September 2022. Next it travels to Sweden. 43 works of 40 artists, from 16 countries were selected. Among the artists included are Gudren Pagter of Denmark, Wlodzimierz Cygan of Poland, Nancy Koenigsberg of the US and Helena Hernmarck, originally from Sweden but now of the US. For more information and to see the catalog, visit here: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5e55552503aff02749460670/t/602e819c27e2076281e2ef40/1613660584707/Artapestry6_catalog_2021.pdf

Sheila Hicks: Cosmic Arrivals
Milan, Italy
The Francesca Minini gallery opened an exhibition of Sheila Hick’s work last week in Milan. Sheila Hicks: Cosmic Arrivals runs until July 17, 2021 (http://www.francescaminini.it/exhibition). The gallery quotes Hicks in its press release, “Nature determines everything. Climate and light influence space. Each of my works inhabits in a particular place, respects its history, its temperature, its architecture.” Fibers are unmade and recreated in her hands, according to the release. Cloth is thus the cornerstone of a way of thinking that was developed under the influence of her mentor [Josef] Albers and continued through the search for a new construction of color and the reuse of textile fibers, often considered functional or decorative.

MAKING NUNO Japanese Textile Exhibition, Photo by JSouteyrat courtesy of the Japan House London

Making Nuno: Japanese Textile Innovation from Sudō Reiko
London, UK
Japan House in London hosts an extraordinary exhibition, Making Nuno: Japanese Textile Innovation from Sudō Reiko, showcasing the innovative work of Japanese textile designer Sudō Reiko. Sudō is renowned for pushing boundaries of textile production and championing new methods of sustainable manufacturing. She has been the design director of leading textile design firm Nuno for over 30 years and is a member of the Japan Design Committee. Her fabric designs combine Japanese craft traditions with new engineering techniques and unusual combinations of diverse materials such as silk, hand-made washi (Japanese paper), nylon tape and thermoplastic. Through July 11, 2021: https://www.japanhouselondon.uk/whats-on/2021/exhibition-making-nuno-japanese-textile-innovation-from-sudo-reiko/.

Textilés
Mons, France
BeCraft in collaboration with the City of Mons and Les Drapiers, Contemporary Art Center (Liège) has installed a provocative exhibit, Textilés through August 1, 2021. www.becraft.org

Happy travels!


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.


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 in situ – Helena Hernmarck at the Aldrich Museum through January 13, 2019

Helena Hernmarck describes the yarn she sources from Sweden at the opening of Helena Hernmarck: Weaving in Progress. Photo by Tom Grotta, courtesy browngrotta arts

A unique view into Helena Hernmarck’s artistic practice is on exhibit at the Aldrich Museum up the road from us in Ridgefield, Connecticut for four more weeks. In addition to showing 20 tapestries created over 40 years by Hernmarck, the Museum has replicated a wall of her studio with a large photograph, installed one of the artist’s smaller looms and invited her and her assistant, Mae Coburn, to complete a weaving onsite. We were at the well-attended opening of the exhibition and particularly appreciated the portion of the exhibit that illustrates her process – from inspiration to drawing to yarn selection to final work. As the Museum describes it: “An inventory of the wool used in the process will be on view, along with a display of materials from the artist’s archive, including photographs, watercolors, drawings, prototype samples, and other ephemera that illustrate and inform Hernmarck’s process and the evolution of her career.”

Process documents–inspiration, drawings, color swatches — preparation for a Hernmarck tapestry. Photo by Tom Grotta, courtesy browngrotta arts

In creating a work, Hernmarck plots the amount of weaving she needs to complete each day on graph paper. She told CT Post in October that when first learning to weave, she knew she wanted to create large-scale works. “I decided that if I could weave one square meter a week, I could live on it. And it’s almost true. I made it coarser [using multiple strands] so I could go faster,” she told the newspaper. That bundling has set Hernmarck’s work apart. “Depending on how she twists the strands and what colors and thicknesses she chooses, she is said to be able to give her tapestries unprecedented depth and complexity. One critical essay described them as almost pointillist,” wrote Joel Lang, “Ridgefield weaver Helena Hernmarck and her loom preside over Aldrich exhibit,” CT Post, October 18, 2018.

Exhibition view from Helena Hernmarck: Weaving in Progress, at the Aldrich Museum, Ridgefield, CT. Photo by Tom Grotta, courtesy browngrotta arts.

Working at the Museum three to four days in a row has required a slight change in approach, Hernmarck says. “It is fun that so many are coming,” including textile enthusiasts and art classes, but hard to get the weaving done as planned while answering all the questions.

Don’t miss the opportunity to see Hernmarck’s art creation in action. The Aldrich is at 258 Main Street, Ridgefield, CT 06877, Tel 203.438.4519; general@aldrichart.org.

The in-residence days are:
November: 23, 24, 28, 29, 30
December: 6, 7, 8, 12, 13, 14, 20, 21, 22, 27, 28, 29
January: 2, 3, 4, 10, 11, 12

Behind the Scenes: Drop Off at Helena Hernmarck’s

We recently took a trip up to Helena Hernmarck’s studio to loan back a few pieces for her upcoming solo exhibition Helena Hernmarck: Weaving In Progress at the Aldrich Museum. Located in Ridgefield, Connecticut, Helena’s studio is only a few miles from browngrotta arts.

A perfectly organized wall of color expands the entire length of the south side of Hernmarck’s studio. The wall acts as a storage for skeins of wool Hernmarck uses in her tapestries. The different skeins are precisely organized by their unique colors and tones, making it easier for Hernmarck to find a specific color when needed. Hernmarck is very particular about the quality of the materials she uses in her work. All the wool she uses is
rya wool, sourced from a specific breed of heirloom sheep in Sweden. The wool is also custom-dyed and spun to her specifications at a family-run spinning mill in Sweden, the place Hernmarck called home before emigrating to Canada, the UK and then settling in the US. Hernmarck has worked with browngrotta arts for more than 20 years, her work is included in 11 of browngrotta arts’ catalogs, including Helena Hernmarck and Markku Kosonen from 1994. Her commissions are found in dozens of corporations, museums and private collections.

Watching Hernmarck work leaves one in awe. Using a technique of her own invention, she is able to conjure details from our visual world, such as sunlight on waters and sails swelling in the wind. Every one of Hernmarck’s tapestries begin with an image, which is then blown up into her desired weaving size. From there, Hermarck plots her working plan on graph paper and produces a certain number of linear inches or feet per day so her commissions are completed on time. This technique allows Hermarck to capture even the smallest details in her weavings. Hernmarck’s attention to detail and her ability to portray subtle color variations, reflections and shadows are extraordinary. From a distance, Hermarck’s weavings look as if they are a single printed blown up photograph. On closer inspection, however, the thousands of strings of wool dissolve into interlaced pieces of warp and weft.


While visiting her studio, we also discussed her upcoming solo exhibition at the Aldrich Museum. Hernmarck never expected the Aldrich Museum’s invitation. “I did not expect to hear from them, after 38 years in town,” explains Hernmarck. “It was so positive that they were interested to show a textile artist in action. Things are changing…”Textiles have gained tremendous notoriety in the art world in recent years. Collectors, museums and art-lovers are becoming more aware of their allure.

Weaving In Progress will be the first solo exhibition of Hernmarck’s work in the United States since 2012. Given that the Aldrich is in Hernmarck’s hometown makes the exhibition all the more special. To be recognized for her accomplishments there is significant for Hernmarck. “It has been said that you can never be a prophet in your own land,” she explains.

In addition to presenting a variety of her work, Hernmarck herself will also be a part of the exhibition. During the exhibition, Hernmarck and her assistant Mae Colburn will create a work in situ, weaving three days a week in the exhibition space. The final work will be 55 inches wide and 40 inches tall, created on a five-foot-wide loom.“My assistant will be weaving with me as she is still in the learning curve,” Hernmarck says. Hernmarck’s aim for the exhibition is simple and direct. She hopes that “visitors will be inspired to do things with their hands and to get away from their computers” in this increasingly technology-focused world.


In Praise of Older Women Artists

Simone Pheulpin at The Design Museum of London. Photo: Maison Parisienne

Last year, Artsy took a look at why old women had replaced young men as the “new darlings” of the art word. Its twofold explanation: as institutions attempt to revise the art-historical canon, passionate dealers and curators have seen years of promotion come to fruition and these artists have gained attention as blue-chip galleries search for new artists to represent among those initially overlooked.

Artsy points at Carmen Herrara, Carol Rama, Irma Blank, and Geta Brătescu and others to make its point. Mary Sabbatino, vice president at Galerie Lelong, is quoted as saying,  “They’re fully formed artists, they’re mature artists, they’re serious artists. They’re not going to burn out as sometimes happens with younger artists…and normally the prices are far below the other artists of their generation, so you’re offering a value to someone.” Barbara Haskell, a curator at the Whitney Museum in New York, says museums everywhere are realizing that “there’s been a lopsided focus on the white male experience” in art history, and are working to correct that.”

Primitive Figures Bird and Insects, Luba Krejci,
knotted linen, 40.5″ x 44.5″ x 2″, circa 1970s. Photo: Tom Grotta

Among the women artists working in fiber who belong on a list of those achieving belated recognition include Ruth Asawa, Sheila Hicks (mentioned in the Artsy article) Kay Sekimachi, Lenore Tawney, Ethel Stein, Simone Pheulpin, Sonia Delauney, Luba Krejci, Ritzi Jacobi and Helena Hernmarck. The international contemporary fiber movement was initiated by women who took reinvented tapestry, took it off the wall and drew global attention to an art form that had been synonymous with tradition to that point. Luba Krecji adapted needle and bobbin lace techniques to create, “nitak,” her own technique, which enabled her to “draw” with thread. In her use of line as “sculptural form,” Ruth Asawa,” provided a crucial link between the mobile modernism of Alexander Calder and the gossamer Minimalism of Fred Sandback, whose yarn pieces similarly render distinctions between interior and exterior moot,” wrote Andrea K. Scott last year in The New Yorker.

 

Damask 5, Ethel Stein, 1980-89. Photo by Tom Grotta

These artists continue their explorations though their seventies, eighties and nineties. An example, Kay Sekimachi, who created complex, elegant monofilament weavings in the 70s and 80s, bowls and towers of paper after that, and continues, at age 90, to create elegant weavings of lines and grids that are reminiscent of the paintings of Agnes Martin. After having received the Special Mention Loewe Craft Prize and exhibited at the  Design Museum of London, this year, Simone Pheulpin continues to create innovative work in her 70s, work that is part of the 10th contemporary art season at Domaine de Chaumont sur Loire and part of the exhibition “Tissage Tressage” at the Fondation Villa Datris.

Artists in the House: Who’s attending the Opening of Blue/Green: color/code/context on Saturday

Keiji Nio, Rough Sea of Sado,polyester, aramid fiber, 48.25” x 47.5”, 2016. Photo by Tom Grotta

The Artists Reception and Opening for Blue/Green: color/code/context occurs this Saturday at browngrotta arts, 276 Ridgefield Road, Wilton, Connecticut 06897. Eleven of the participating artists will be in attendance, enhancing what is always an energizing opportunity to experience our annual Art in the Barn event. Keiji Nio and his family are coming from Japan, Pat Campbell from Maine, Wendy Wahl from Rhode Island, Kiyomi Iwata from Virginia, Norma Minkowitz and Helena Hernmarck from Connecticut and Polly Barton, John McQueen, Nancy Koenigsberg, Lewis Knauss and Tamiko Kawata from New York. Wendy Wahl’s work is made of blue Encyclopedia Britannica pages; John McQueen used plastic bottles — a departure for him. Norma Minkowitz has created a detailed and magical stitched drawing and Lewis Knauss a work of pale, pale green and natural reed and twigs. Join us from 1-5 pm to see their work and that of 50 more artists. The artists will be available throughout the Barn, to answer questions about their work, their favorites or about the work of others. They’ll be wearing name tags — feel free to say hello. For more info: http://www.browngrotta.com/Pages/calendar.php; 203-834-0623. Or visit us during the week — Sunday April 29th – Sunday May 6th, 10-5 pm.