Tag: Lia Cook

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.


Art + Science + Textile

We are big supporters of STEAM — Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics — education initiatives. STEAM adds the soft skills of the Arts to the harder Scientific, Technological, Engineering or Mathematical STEM studies to enhance critical and innovative thinking. As an example, STEAM encourages collaboration to understand STEM concepts. STEAM uses tools such as data visualization or fine art imagery to deepen one’s understanding of science, math and technology. This kind of out-of-the-box thinking is what leads STEAM professionals to create new products using 3D printers or distill complicated data sets into easy-to-understand formats, such as infographics. 

Hannah Skye Dunnigan, NASA’s Breakthrough, Innovative and Game-Changing Idea Challenge interview

Projects that result from this collaborative approach can be exciting and out of the box — and some of them involve textile concepts. In an unconventional partnership, a team of undergraduates in design and engineering from Brown and RISD won Most Creative Concept in 2021 at NASA’s Breakthrough, Innovative and Game-Changing Idea Challenge. The team was given $90,000 to create a solution for moon dust. Their solution to control moon dust, which creates significant problems for astronauts and their equipment, involved bundles of fibers, inspired by chinchilla fur, that carry a static charge. Dust that’s not repelled by the charge is caught in the fibers. The design and prototyping lead of the project was Hannah Skye Dunnigan, daughter of bga artist Wendy Wahl and furniture designer John Dunnigan. As a designer, Dunnigan told The Brown Daily Herald,  she was very proud that the team showed that “designers can be in the space as well, not just engineers.” (“Brown, RISD team wins ‘Most Creative Concept’ at NASA Challenge Forum,” The Brown Daily Herald, November 22, 2021). The Brown-RISD connection is potent, Christopher Bull, a senior lecturer in engineering and principal investigator of the project, told the Herald, because it “gets diverse people in the same room trying to solve the problem.” (Here is a Youtube link of their presentation. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQnJnzSlxBo.) 

27lc Data Dots Emotional Intensity cotton, rayon, woven 78” x 50,” 2015. Photo by Tom Grotta

Lia Cook of California, has spent years in STEAM experimentation of her own, exploring the intersections of art, technology and science in her artwork. She is one of the artists in Radical Fiber: Threads Connecting Art and Fiber at the Tang Museum at Skidmore College, a celebration of interdisciplinary creativity and collaborative learning. As the Museum explains, Radical Fiber provides the work as at once fine art, process-driven craft, and scientific tool, complicating existing frameworks across fields. It asks questions: “Can a crochet hook and yarn uniquely explain the complexities of non-Euclidean geometry? How does the 1804 Jacquard loom relate to modern computing?” The exhibition reframes the histories of fiber/science intersections, asking not only how artists continue to engage in scientific inquiry through fiber, but also, how the medium can be used to improve our world for the future. Among the questions to be asked is one Cook has been exploring for some time: How do viewers’ reactions vary when they look at a photograph versus her Jacquard weavings of a photo image  During the Radical Fiber exhibition, a study will be conducted by the Skidmore’s Psychology Department in the neuroscience lab comparing behavioral responses to a series of woven faces by Lia Cook with with the identical photo of the same image. The subjects will be shown 10 digitized photos of the black-and-white photographs of faces and 10 digitized photos of the black-and-white, cotton-and-rayon, woven tapestries translated from the photos and asked to rate the intensity of the facial expression depicted in the image, from 1 (not at all intense) to 7 (extremely intense).

Cook has conducted her own studies of viewers’ responses. To create Data Dots Emotional Intensity, Cook conducted an informal survey of viewers of a large childhood photo of herself and a weaving of the same image. She translated the data she collected into dots and superimposed them on a woven portrait — blue for people who felt no difference between the two; yellow for those more affected by the photo and red for those who found the woven image more emotionally affecting. The woven image won. Red dots predominate, an observable amalgam of art and science.  “A visual pun is at hand,” writes Deborah Valoma of Lia Cook’s work.“[D]igital technology is juxtaposed to digital senses, a reminder that no matter how technologically sophisticated the process, weaving is still a medium of touch and embodied thought….,” Deborah Valoma, “Lia Cook: Seeing Touch,” Lia Cook: In the Folds — Works from 1973-1997 (2007, browngrotta arts, Wilton, CT).

10-11fl White Shell Tongue no.1-2, Federica Luzzi, fine art print on “baritata” paper, 66.875” x 24.75” x 1.25”; 78.625” x 32.75” x 1.25”, 2006

Italian textile sculptor, Federica Luzzi has created works born of conversations with researchers at the National Institute of Nuclear Physics in Frascati, Italy on concepts of dark matter, antimatter, nuclear, subnuclear physics, and an accelerator of particles. Various images of each side of three white sculptures are depicted; “gesture and matter are the terms of a relationship still waiting to be deciphered,” Luzzi explains. Working in the opposite direction of the classic and traditional concept of sculpture as a “way of removing,” the textile medium allows Luzzi to work around a void. Each sculpture, while having a mathematical initial scheme, is ultimately rendered with an element of mistake. “The final unexpected effect I interpret as an ideogram, a gesture, that presents itself as the work unfolds,” she says. “The White Shell Tongue prints suggest a primordial voice, speaking in a language now unknown to us but original, a pure, reductive writing externality, with wrappings and emptied shells.” 

9gs Out of Focus 1-9, Grethe Sørensen, handwoven cotton, 87″ x 85.5″ x 1.5″, 2007

In Denmark, Grethe Sørensen has unpacked digital technologies to create her tapestries. She has developed her own technique, combining weaving and video, selecting and manipulating still images to create a poetic universe of pixels, headlights, traffic lights, neon shop and advertising signs meticulously rendered in cotton thread. She is fascinated by color gradation; dying on the warp before weaving, varying the colors by mixing threads of different nuances in the warp. For Out of Focus 1-9, the artist created an image of hard-edged pixels in basic colors blown up until they appeared “liquid.” Pixels in basic colors are the starting point for her woven constructions. 

Another California artist, Sarah Rosalena Brady,  draws on her multiracial background as Huichol and Laguna Pueblo,  focusing her research on Indigenous scholarship and mentorship in STEAM. She describes her work as deconstructing technology with material interventions, creating new narratives for hybrid objects that speak on issues such as AI, aerospace technologies, and decolonial posthumanism. Her hybrid works operate between human/nonhuman, ancient/future, and handmade/autonomous principles to override power structures rooted in colonialism. Her solo exhibition at Blum & Poe, LA in 2021, https://contemporaryartreview.la/sarah-rosalena-brady-at-blum-and-poe/ featured AI-generated double-sided tapestries depicting satellite images of ice on Mars. 

Brady is Assistant Professor of Computational Craft and Haptic Media in the Department of Art at UC Santa Barbara. UCSB’s is just one of the labs and departments around the US exploring the links between art and science. Another is the recently opened International Arts + Mind Lab at Johns Hopkins Univeristy in Maryland, which studies neuroaesthetics, the scientific study of how the brain responds to the arts and aesthetic experiences, and undertakes this study for the purpose of improving biological, psychological, social/cultural or spiritual outcomes for individuals or populations. “We’re on a mission to amplify human potential,” the Lab declares on its website. The Los Angeles County Museum hosts the LACMA Art + Technology Lab which supports experiments in design, creative entrepreneurship, adventures in art and industry, collaboration, and interdisciplinary dialogue. Another nonprofit endeavor, the SciArt Initiative,  encourages the connectivity and cross-disciplinary approaches needed for the 21st century. The organization notes that artists and scientists seek answers to the same fundamental questions: who are we, why are we here, and where are we going? Both art and science build models of human experience in order to extend the boundaries of human capacity. Despite this common ground, artists and scientists are too often separate in their endeavors. Through exhibitions and micro-grants, the Initiative aims to create more scientific and artistic exchange. 

Exploration into the merger of art and technology, science and craft, is in its early days — watch for more experiments and innovative works.


Acquisition News – Part I, US

We last reported on museum acquisitions of works by artists from browngrotta arts in 2019. There has been continued interest in acquiring work by these artists in the two years since by museums and art programs in the US and abroad. browngrotta arts has placed several works and acquisitions have occurred through the efforts of other galleries, artists and donors. As a result, we have a long list of aquisitions to report. In this, Part I, acquisitions in the Untied States:

Polly Adams Sutton
Polly Adams Sutton, Facing the Unexpected, 2013. Photo by Tom Grotta

Polly Adams Sutton

Polly Adams Sutton’s work Facing the Unexpected has been acquired by the Smithsonian American Art Musuem. It’s going to be part of the Renwick’s 50th anniversary exhibition in 2022.

Norma Minkowitz
Norma Minkowitz’s, Goodbye My Friend, 2017. Photo by Tom Grotta

Norma Minkowitz

Goodbye My Friend by Norma Minkowitz was gifted to the Renwick, Smithsonian American Art Museum, in memory of noted fiber art collector, Camille Cook.

Kiyomi Iwata
Kiyomi Iwata’s Red Aperture, 2009 and Fungus Three, 2018. Photos By Tom Grotta

Kiyomi Iwata 

Two works, Red Aperture and Fungus Three by Kiyomi Iwata were acquired by The Warehouse, MKE in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Two works by Iwata, Grey Orchid Fold V made in 1988, and Auric Grid Fold made in 1995 were donated to the Philadelphia Art Museum.

Adela Akers
Adela Akers, Traced Memories, 2007. Photo by Tom Grotta

Adela Akers

Adela Akers‘ work, Traced Memories from 2007 was acquired by the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco, California in 2020.

Dawn MacNutt
Dawn MacNutt’s, Larger Than Life, 2021.

Dawn MacNutt  

Dawn MacNutt’s 9 foot-high willow sculpture, Larger Than Life, was acquired by Longhouse Reserve in East Hampton, New York in 2021.

Naoko Serino
Naoko Serino’s Existing-2-D, 2017 and Generating Mutsuki, 2021. Photos by Tom Grotta

Naoko Serino

Two works by Naoko SerinoGenerating Mutsuki and Existing 2-D, were acquired by The Warehouse, MKE in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Ferne Jacobs

A work by Ferne JacobsSlipper, made in 1994, was donated to the Philadelphia Art Museum. Another, Centric Spaces, from 2000, was donated to Houston Museum of Fine Art.

Presence Absence Tunnel Four, 1990, by Lia Cook

Lia Cook

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) purchased Presence Absence Tunnel Four, 1990, by Lia Cook, in 2019.

Gyöngy Laky
Gyöngy Laky’s, Noise at Noon, 1996. Photo by Gyöngy Laky

Gyöngy Laky   

The Oakland Museum of California in California acquired Noise at Noon by Gyöngy Laky this year. In 2019, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California Historical Society, added That Word to its collection and the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, California, added Ex Claim!  The Art in Embassies program of the US Department of State, acquired Seek, for the US embassy in Pristina, Kosovo.

Congratulations to the artists and acquiring organizations!


An Artist Evolves: Lia Cook’s Five Bodies of Work

Lia Cook is a relentless innovator who has been involved in textile experimentation since her graduate and undergraduate work in Arts and Design at the University of California, Berkeley in the 1970s. 

While Cook has created varied bodies of work in her storied career, her explorations have a consistent theme. They all involve the experience of touch, the sensation of the body and the physicality of cloth. “Cook’s work defies the ‘ocular-centricity’ of Western art by overturning the hierarchy of the senses and repositioning the sense of touch in the foreground. While the work is never handled in the gallery or museum, the sense of touch is so fully activated that the experience of the work is startlingly touch-sensory,” writes Deborah Valoma, in Lia Cook: In the Folds — Works from 1973 – 1997

Space Dyed Weaving
48lc Space-Dyed Weaving II, Lia Cook, rayon, cotton; woven, 72″ x 33″, 1975

Cook’s early work aimed to envelop the viewer in monumental cloth. “The work was imposing, strident and typically employed magnified imagery of weave patterns as the subject,” writes Valoma, “depicting both in realization and representation the structural realities of weaving.” Space-Dyed Weaving-2, created in 1975, is an example of work from this period. So is Spatial Ikat III-2, the prize for the winner of our Art for a Cause 2021 sweepstakes with UncommonGood (uncommongood.io.), which continues through July 31st.

Through the Curtain in 5 Scenes Transposed
13lc Through the Curtain in 5 Scenes Transposed, Lia Cook dyes on rayon; woven, 5’ x 18.5’, 1986

In the 1980s, cook turned her attention to textile structures — curtains, pockets and crazy quilts. Through the Curtain in 5 Scenes Transposed, which hints at curtains on a stage, is from this period. In the 1990s, Cook created works that took inspiration from images of fabric painted during the Renaissance, when images of drapery were an essential part of a painter’s training.  

Material Pleasures: Leonard I
8lc Material Pleasures: Leonard I, Lia Cook acrylic on linen, dyes on rayon; woven, 53” x 77”, 1993

As Valoma describes, in works like Material Pleasures, created in 1993, Cook painted the imagery of draped fabrics on linen or abaca with acrylics or oil paints. The canvases were finely stripped and inserted as weft into hand-painted warps and woven on a 32-harness loom, purposefully defying conventional definitions.

Big Susan
43lc Big Susan, Lia Cook, woven cotton, 168” x 48”, 2005

In the mid-90s, after two artists-in-residencies, one in Italy and one in Germany, Cook’s work took yet another turn — focusing on the Jacquard loom and incorporating photography, to create works that were narrative and personal. This body of works was featured in The Embedded Portrait, her solo exhibition at the University of Wyoming Art Gallery in 2009.

In 2010, Cook’s shifts again. As an artist-in-residence at the University’of Pittsburgh’s TREND program (Transdisciplinary Research in Emotion, Neuroscience and Development, Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine), Cook was able to compare the emotional responses of viewers to actual photographs and to her weavings of photo images “I wanted to explore the nature of people’s emotional connection to woven faces,” she explains. “I thought that the material and structural aspects of the textile, the physical evidence of the hand and the memories associated with these tactile experiences might intensify the reactions. Something about the textile engenders embodied emotional response beyond that of the two–dimensional photo.”

Neural Networks
23lc Neural Networks, Lia Cook woven cotton and rayon, 83″ x 51″ x 1.5″, 2011

To test her hypothesis, Cook, in collaboration with scientists at TREND tried several approaches. Cook and the scientists could see noticeable differences in individual images from MRI data and in records of electrical brain activity from EEGs when volunteers compared flat and woven images. She underwent this MRI imaging on herself and then, using software from MGH/Harvard, Biomedical Imaging Lab, she manipulated the images for a series of weavings that combine faces and images of brain fibers, as you can see in Neural Networks, 2011.

Cook’s experiments in neuroaesthetics continue — and as always, she makes adjustments and changes her gaze to produce something new. Recently, she has merged three fibers into her imagery — neural fibers, plant fibers and the parallel lines that she used in the 1970s. “Art and science are more similar in their process than many people think,” says Cook. “Each requires starting with a question, being curious, discovering something new, being willing to take the answers or lack of answers — good or bad — and building on that for the future.” 

Keep watching, as this remarkable artist continues to experiment, innovate and create remarkable work.


A Victory for Future Art Funding

Big Bird
The LBJ Presidential Library exhibition, On the Air: 50 Years of Public Broadcasting, 2017, in Austin, Texas. On Nov. 7, 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, establishing the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and, eventually, the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), and National Public Radio (NPR).  Characters © 2017 Sesame Workshop LBJ Library photo by Jay Godwin 06/24/2017

Elections have consequences, as they say, and 2020 election will be no different. Donald Trump tried to make the world to his artistic tastes. His reach was sweeping in efforts to cut funding for the arts and simultaneously oddly specific. I.e., DC should have no more contemporary architecture (www.npr.org); and duck stamps should feature hunting paraphernalia www.thedailybeast.com. He oversaw the disbanding of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, after a mass resignation of private committee members in response to his comments on right-wing violence in Charlottesville, VA in August 2017. And, of course, there would be four years of budgets that included cuts to federal arts programs — National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, even Museum and Library Services.

President-elect Joe Biden’s record is quite different. As The New York Times described him, he’s “No RBG, but a Loyal Promoter of Culture “https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/30/arts/biden-arts-culture.html. Biden’s attitude, wrote The Times, is “less from a consumer point of view and more about the inspirational value and transformational value of the arts,” quoting Robert L. Lynch, president and chief executive of Americans for the Arts. “It’s not, ‘Look, I loved this piece, or this song.’ It’s more about the bigger role of the arts in society.” 

National  Endowment for the Arts Recipients; Lia Cook, Dona Look, Adela Akers, John McQueen, James Bassler, Debra Sachs, Thomas Hucker, Norma Minkowitz and Gyöngy Laky
Funding for the Arts in Action: work by nine National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship Recipients; Lia Cook, Dona Look, Adela Akers, John McQueen, James Bassler, Debra Sachs, Thomas Hucker, Norma Minkowitz and Gyöngy Laky

Actors’ Equity endorsed Biden’s candidacy. “Vice President Biden understands that the arts are a critical driver of healthy and strong local economies in cities and towns across the country,” said Kate Shindle, president of Actors’ Equity. That could bode well for passage of Americans for the Arts Creative Workplace Proposal — 16 specific actions for the next administration to take in order to put creative workers to work rebuilding, reimagining, unifying, and healing communities in every state and territory, as well as within tribal lands www.americansforthearts.org. Among the suggestions from Proposal: Put artists to work addressing public and mental health in communities; Complete the launch of an ArtistCorps within AmeriCorps; and Direct and incentivize the integration of creative workers and creative organizations at the municipal, county, state, and tribal levels during disaster relief and recovery efforts.

Private efforts will continue to be key to the arts’ support, too, of course. For a comprehensive look at new philanthropic initiatives, including #ArtistSupportPledge and Artists for Artists appeal, read “Funding the Future of the Arts,” by Gareth Harris, November 2, 2020. https://www.sothebys.com/en/articles/funding-the-future-of-the-arts?

browngrotta arts wants to play its part, too. From now until the end of the year if you make a purchase from us, we’ll contribute 5% of any sales we make to the American for the Arts Action Fund. 


Volume 50: Artist Focus — Lia Cook

A Beautiful Mind: Lia Cook weaves empirical cerebral data into works of textile art

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

There may be nothing as pleasurable than viewing and experiencing works of art up close and in person. However, recent sheltering in response to the corona virus, required us to approach art online, whether offered by galleries or museums or cultural institutions. This experience and the brain’s response to seeing and experiencing art in different mediums, or the school of neuroaesthetics, has long been a point of interest in the work of California-based textile artist Lia Cook.  

Lia Cook Su Series. Photo by Tom Grotta
45lc Su Series, Lia Cook cotton, rayon, woven 72” x 132”, 2010-2016

Cook works in a variety of media combining weaving with painting, photography, video and digital technology. Her current practice explores the sensuality of the woven image and the emotional connections to memories of touch and cloth. Working in collaboration with neuroscientists, she has been investigating the nature of the emotional response to woven faces by mapping these responses in the brain. She draws on the laboratory experience both with process and tools to stimulate new work in reaction to these investigations.

“I am interested in both the scientific study as well as my artistic response to these unexpected sources, exploring the territory between in several different ways.”

Woven Form by Lia Cook. Photo by Tom Grotta
12lc Woven Form, Lia Cook, rayon, cotton; woven, 45” x 53” 1980

Cook has long been an innovator, varying practice methods. Her early works, like Woven Form, were abstract and had an Op Art feel. In later works, like Leonard’s Quilt, she manipulated the textiles, with piecing and paint. That was followed by explorations of photographic images as tapestries made on a Jacquard loom. browngrotta arts has works from each of these periods which you can see on Artsy in Chronicling the Canon: https://www.artsy.net/show/browngrotta-arts-chronicling-the-canon.

Cook’s significant work, Su Series, comprised of 32 weavings of a single photograph, is featured in browngrotta arts’ upcoming exhibition, Volume 50.: chronicling fiber art for three decades. Here, Cook explores emotional response — highlighting the point at which the face dissolves first into pattern and then into a sensual, tactile woven structure and the various emotions the differing images evoke in the viewer.

“Absorption and inclusion are pervasive strategies in Cook’s work, operating at almost every level: formally, in her constant exploration of new techniques; emotionally in the way she stimulates the sense of touch through the eyes; and intellectually in the multiple reference to different art histories,” Meridith Tromble wrote in an essay for the Flintridge Foundation Awards for Visual Artists 1999/2000 catalogue.



Detail of Leonardos Quilt
Detail of Leonardo’s Quilt, Lia Cook acrylic on abaca, dyes on rayon; woven, 94” x 79” 1990

Volume 50.: chronicling fiber art for three decades.continues live through the 20th. http://www.browngrotta.com/Pages/calendar.php. You can also obtain a catalog that includes an image of Su Series at browngrotta.com: http://store.browngrotta.com/volume-50-chronicling-fiber-art-for-three-decades/.


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 Out and About: US

by Ryan Urcia and Kristina Ratliffe 

Our 2020 “Art in the Barn” exhibition series is not until next Spring but there are plenty of exciting exhibitions featuring some of our favorite browngrotta arts’ artists to check out this Winter season. Below is a round up of 10 must-see shows in the US:

John McQueen, Untitled #192, 1989, burdock burrs and applewood
Ed Rossbach, Croissants, ca. 1987, cartons, block print, and staples
CREDIT
The Henry Luce Foundation and the Windgate Charitable Foundation generously support the reinstallation of the Renwick’s permanent collection.
John McQueen, Untitled #192, 1989, burdock burrs and applewood
Ed Rossbach, Croissants, ca. 1987, cartons, block print, and staples
CREDIT
The Henry Luce Foundation and the Windgate Charitable Foundation generously support the reinstallation of the Renwick’s permanent collection.

Washington, D.C.
Connections: Contemporary Craft
at the Renwick Gallery
On view – indefinitely
Connections is the Renwick Gallery’s dynamic ongoing permanent collection presentation, featuring more than 80 objects celebrating craft as a discipline and an approach to living differently in the modern world. The exhibition explores the underlying current of craft as a balancing, humanistic force in the face of an evermore efficiency-driven, virtual world. The installation highlights the evolution of the craft field as it transitions into a new phase at the hands of contemporary artists, showcasing the activist values, optimism, and uninhibited approach of today’s young artists, which in some way echoes the communal spirit and ideology of the pioneers of the American Studio Craft Movement in their heyday. Includes artist Lia Cook, Toshiko Takaezu, Ed Rossbach, John McQueen, Peter Voulkos.
Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum 

Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street NW, Washington, DC. (212)(202) 633-7970 https://americanart.si.edu

Bamian by Sheila Hicks
Bamian Sheila Hicks (American (lives and works in Paris), born in 1934) 1968 Wool and acrylic yarns, wrapped * Charles Potter Kling Fund and partial gift of Sheila Hicks © Sheila Hicks * Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Boston, Massachusetts
Women Take the Floor 
On view through May 3, 2020
An exhibition of more than 200 works that challenge the dominant history of 20th-century American art by focusing on the overlooked and underrepresented work and stories of women artists – advocating for diversity, inclusion, and gender equity in museums, the art world, and beyond. Includes Lenore Tawney, Sheila Hicks, Olga Amaral, Kay Sekimachi, Toshiko Takaezu
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Avenue of the Arts
465 Huntington Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02115
Phone: (617) 267-9300 mfa.org

Katherine Westphal A Fantasy Meeting of Santa Claus with Big Julie and Tyrone at McDonalds
From Off the Wall: Katherine Westphal A Fantasy Meeting of Santa Claus with Big Julie and Tyrone at McDonalds, 1978. Resist-dyed cotton. San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles, San Jose, CA.


Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Off the Wall: American Art to Wear
On view through May 17, 2020  Delight in the astonishing inventiveness and techniques of a generation of mixed-media artists who pioneered a new art form designed around the body. Coming of age during the dramatic cultural shifts of the 1960s and 70s, the artists in this distinctively American movement explored non-traditional materials and methods to create adventurous, deeply imaginative works. Includes Norma Minkowitz and Katherine Westphal 
Philadelphia Museum of Art 
2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, PA 19130
Phone: (215) 763-8100
https://philamuseum.org

White Pinwheel by Ethel Stein
Ethel Stein,White Pinwheel, 1990 cotton, satin damask weave; woven on a loom with a drawloom attachment fabricated by the artist 87.6 x 83.8 x 2.2 cm (34 1/2 x 33 x 7/8 in.)

Chicago, Illinois
Weaving beyond the Bauhaus
On view through Feb 17, 2020
Presented on the centenary of this foundational organization, Weaving beyond the Bauhaus traces the diffusion of Bauhaus artists, or Bauhäusler, such as Anni Albers and Marli Ehrman, and their reciprocal relationships with fellow artists and students across America. Through their ties to arts education institutions, including Black Mountain College, the Institute of Design, the Illinois Institute of Technology, and Yale University, these artists shared their knowledge and experiences with contemporary and successive generations of artists, including Sheila Hicks, Else Regensteiner, Ethel Stein, Lenore Tawney, and Claire Zeisler, shaping the landscape of American art in the process.
Art Institute Chicago
111 South Michigan Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60603-6404
(312) 443-3600
https://www.artic.edu

In Poetry and Silence Lenore Tawney installation
In Poetry and Silence: The Work and Studio of Lenore Tawney Installation view at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, 2019
Courtesy of John Michael Kohler Arts Center


Sheboygan, Wisconsin
Lenore Tawney: Mirror of the Universe
On view through March 7, 2020
This series of four exhibitions explores Lenore Tawney’s (1907–2007) life and impact, offering a personal and historical view into her entire body of work. Read more about the Tawney exhibits in our earlier blog here: http://arttextstyle.com/2019/12/18/lenore-tawney-gets-her-due/  
John Michael Kohler Arts Center (JMKAC)
608 New York Avenue, Sheboygan, WI 53081
Phone: 920.458.6144
jmkac.org

Toshiko Takaezu portrait, 1998 by Tom Grotta
Toshiko Takaezu portrait, 1998 by Tom Grotta, courtesy of browngrotta arts

Racine, Wisconsin
It’s Like Poetry: Building a Toshiko Takaezu Archive at RAM 
On view through July 26, 2020
RAM’s archive now numbers over 30 works, including Toshiko Takaezu’s (1922-2011) most expansive grouping, the installation comprised of 14 “human-sized” forms, the Star Series. Significantly, the museum’s holdings span the range of Takaezu’s working career—with a double-spouted pot from the 1950s being the earliest and the Star Series (1999-2000) being the latest. 
Open Storage: RAM Showcases Ceramic, Fiber, and Regional Archives 
On view through August 30, 2020
Arranged as a series of artist solo showcases, Open Storage also highlights the earliest kinds of work given to RAM—textiles and works on paper. While ceramic works and art jewelry currently number as the two largest types of contemporary craft represented, examples of textiles, prints, drawings, and works on paper were among the very first gifts of artwork to the museum in the 1940s. This exhibition features the work of 12 artists—Sandra Byers, Gibson Byrd, John N. Colt, Theodore Czebotar, Lillian Elliott, Joseph Friebert, Ed Rossbach, Kay Sekimachi, Jean Stamsta, Merle Temkin, Murray Weiss, and Beatrice Wood—through multiple examples of their work. 
Racine Art Museum
441 Main Street, Racine, WI 53403
Phone: (262) 638-8300
https://www.ramart.org

Installation view of Making Knowing: Craft in Art, 1950–2019 (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, November 22, 2019–January 2021). Alan Shields, J + K, 1972. Photograph by Ryan Urcia


New York, New York
Making Knowing: Craft in Art, 1950–2019
On view through January 2021
The exhibition foregrounds how visual artists have explored the materials, methods, and strategies of craft over the past seven decades. This exhibition provides new perspectives on subjects that have been central to artists, including abstraction, popular culture, feminist and queer aesthetics, and recent explorations of identity and relationships to place. Together, the works demonstrate that craft-informed techniques of making carry their own kind of knowledge, one that is crucial to a more complete understanding of the history and potential of art. Drawn primarily from the Whitney’s collection, the exhibition will include over eighty works by more than sixty artists, including Ruth Asawa, Eva Hesse, Mike Kelley, Liza Lou, Ree Morton, Howardena Pindell, Robert Rauschenberg, Elaine Reichek, and Lenore Tawney, as well as featuring new acquisitions by Shan Goshorn, Kahlil Robert Irving, Simone Leigh, Jordan Nassar, and Erin Jane Nelson. More on this exhibition in our previous post: http://arttextstyle.com/dispatches-making-knowing-craft-in-art-1950-2019-at-the-whitney/
Whitney Museum of American Art
99 Gansevoort Street New York, NY 10014
Phone: (212) 570-3600
https://whitney.org

Installation view of Taking a Thread for a Walk, The Museum of Modern Art, New York 
2019 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Denis Doorly

New York, New York
Taking a Thread for a Walk
On view through April 19, 2020
True to its title, this exhibition takes a thread for a walk among ancient textile traditions, early-20th-century design reform movements, and industrial materials and production methods. Featuring adventurous combinations of natural and synthetic fibers and spatially dynamic pieces that mark the emergence of more a sculptural approach to textile art beginning in the 1960s, this show highlights the fluid expressivity of the medium. More about this exhibition in our earlier blog: Dispatches: Textiles Take Center Stage at the New MoMA, New York, NY
Museum of Modern Art, New York 
11 West 53 Street, New York, NY 10019
Phone: (212) 708-9400
https://www.moma.org

Lia Cook in front of Through the Curtain and Up from the Sea (1985) at MOCA in LA
Through the Curtain and Up from the Sea (1985) at MOCA in LA

Los Angeles, California
With Pleasure: Pattern and Decoration in American Art 1972–1985
On view through May 3, 2020 Featuring approximately fifty artists from across the United States, the exhibition examines the Pattern and Decoration movement’s defiant embrace of forms traditionally coded as feminine, domestic, ornamental, or craft-based and thought to be categorically inferior to fine art. This is the first full-scale scholarly survey of this groundbreaking American art movement, encompassing works in painting, sculpture, collage, ceramics, installation art, and performance documentation. Includes artist Lia Cook
Museum of Contemporary Art
Grand Avenue
250 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Phone: (213) 626-6222
https://www.moca.org 

Please check with each art institution for directions and hours.          


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 — Exhibitions in the US and Abroad

Detail of Imprint by Caroline Bartlett. Photo by Yeshen Venema & The National Centre for Craft & Design

ABROAD

Ctrl/Shift – Sleaford, United Kingdom
Across the pond, Ctrl/Shift: New Directions in Textile Art is currently on show at the National Centre for Craft & Design. Ctrl/Shift, which features work by browngrotta arts artist Caroline Bartlett, presents a wide variety of pieces which present how artists transform their pieces through their creative processes. Focusing on shifts, changes and adaptability, the exhibition highlights the impact of innovative contemporary themes, ideas and technologies on textile art.  Click HERE for more information.

El Anatsui: Material Wonder  – London, United Kingdom
El Anatsui’s work is on view at October Gallery in London through the end of April. The exhibition, El Anatsui: Material Wonder, coincides with the largest retrospective of Anatsui’s work,  El Anatsui: Triumphant Scale, at Haus der Kunst, Munich. Throughout his influential career, Anatsui has experimented with a variety of mediums, including cement, ceramics, tropical hardwood corrugated iron, and bottle-top, to name a few. October Gallery’s exhibition includes a variety of metal wall sculptures accompanied by a series of prints made in collaboration with Factum Arte. Want to see these one-of-a-kind pieces? Head over to October Gallery’s website HERE for visiting information.



Rehearsal, El Anatsui, Aluminum and copper wire, 406 x 465 cm, 2015. Photo Jonathan Greet/October Gallery.

A Considered Place – Drumoak, Scotland
A Considered Place, an upcoming exhibition at Drum Castle in Drumoak, Scotland, will share the work of browngrotta arts artists Jo Barker and Sara Brennan, along with Susan Mowatt, Andrea Walsh and Jane Bustin. The exhibition’s location, Drum Castle, is encircled by late 18th rose gardens and trees from all regions of the 18th century British Empire. Make a day of the outing, starting with a stroll through A Considered Place concluded by a relaxing afternoon wandering around the estate’s grounds. Curious about Drum Castle or A Considered Place, click HERE for more information.

Fendre L’air – Paris, France
In Paris, Jiro Yonezawa is among artists featured in Fendre L’air, an elegant exhibition of bamboo basketry at the Musée du Quai Branly Jacques Chirac. Fendre L’air is the first French exhibition to pay homage to the exquisite craft and creativity of Japanese basket makers. Composed of 160 works, the exhibition delves into the art and history of Japanese basketry. Japanese basketry, which we have discussed in length across many blog posts, grew in popularity during the Meiji era as the revival of a certain type of tea ceremony in which bamboo baskets and containers were used for flower arrangments. As creativity has flourished, baskets have become less utilitarian and more decorative. Today, the work of many Japanese basket makers is so impactful, that the artists themselves have become living national treasures. Click HERE or more information on  Fendre L’air.


Certainty / Entropy (Peranakan 2), Aiko Tezuka, h27 x w76 x b71.5 cm, 2014. Loan:
Aiko Tezuka/Galerie Michael Janssen. Photo:
Edward Hendricks

Cultural Threads – Tilburg, Netherlands
If you happen to be in the Netherlands in upcoming months make sure to check out  Cultural Threads at the Textiel Museum in Tilburg. Featuring work by Eylem Aladogan, Célio Braga, Hana Miletić, Otobong Nkanga, Mary Sibande, Fiona Tan, Jennifer Tee, Aiko Tezuka and Vincent Vulsma, the exhibition focuses on textiles as  a tool for socio-political reflection. “We live in a world where boundaries between countries and people are becoming increasingly blurred, power relations are shifting radically and cultures are mixing,” states the Textiel Museum. As a medium, the unique qualities of textiles provide artists with a plethora of ways to communicate and explore identity in a globalizing world.  Find more information on the Cultural Threads HERE.  

Artapestry V – Arad, Romania
Gudrun Pagter’s work in Artapestry V is making its final appearance in Romania at the Arad Art Museum as the traveling international exhibition comes to a close. The exhibition, which has traveled across Europe, stopping in Denmark, Sweden and Lativa, features the work of artists from 12 European countries. Presented by the European Tapestry forum,  Artapestry V aims to raise the profile of tapestry as an art form and conjure artistic interest in the medium. Find more information on the European Tapestry Forum’s website HERE.

UNITED STATES

The Art of Defiance: Radical Materials at the Michael Rosenfeld Gallery in New York. Photo:Michael Rosenfeld Gallery

The Art of Defiance: Radical Materials – New York, NY  
The current Michael Rosenfeld Gallery exhibition, The art of Defiance: Radical Materials, examines how artists such as Barbara Chase-Riboud, Betye Saar, Hannelore Baron, Nancy Grossman have utilized unique, groundbreaking materials in their work. For the exhibition, each artist utilized materials defined by their physicality, “representing a freedom from the constraints of traditional, male-dominated media in art history.” Each artists’ work blurred the traditional boundaries between two and three-dimensional design, which in turn has expanded the traditional categorical defines of art-making. In New York and want to check out the exhibition, visit the Michael Rosenfeld Gallery website HERE.

Casting Shadows, Janice Lessman-Moss, Silk, linen
Digital jacquard, hand woven TC2 loom, painted warp and weft, 2017. Photo: San Luis Obispo Museum of Art

The Empathy of Patience  – San Luis Obispo, CA
Traveling to the West Coast in the next week? Don’t miss out on a chance to see Michael F. Rohde’s solo exhibition, The Empathy of Patience at the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art. The exhibition is a superb display of Rohdes’ subliminal texture and masterful interaction of light and color. For Rohdes, “the  medium of handwoven tapestry certainly requires patience for execution…empathy, compassion and concern for others is at the base of many of these weavings.” Click HERE for more information on The Empathy of Patience at the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art.

International TECHstyle Art Biennial IV – San Jose, CA
Three hours north of The Empathy of Patience at the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art is the International TECHstyle Art Biennial IV at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles. Focusing on artists who merge fiber media with new information and communication technologies, the exhibition sheds a light on browngrotta arts’ artist Lia Cook’s exploratory pieces. Considering its’ close proximity to Silicon Valley, the International TECHstyle Art Biennial IV introduces artists exploring the intersection of fiber and technology to the international community. More information on the exhibition can be found HERE