Tag: Mary Merkel-Hess

Books Make Great Gifts 2016

Another year of widely divergent books. Art, biology, history and biography are all represented in the answers we received to the questions we asked of artists that work with browngrotta arts: What books cheered you? Inspired you? Provided an escape?

Dona Anderson, wrote that she is reading Herbert Hoover: A Life by Glen Jeansonne (NAL, New York, 2016) who calls Hoover the most resourceful American since Benjamin Franklin. “I recently had a birthday and remember that my mother went to vote on the day I was born, November 6th, and she voted for Herbert Hoover. Consequently, I started to think about what the political atmosphere was like then — as ours was so crazy and even more so now. When I went to the library in October, the Hoover book was brand new and it appealed to me.” Rachel Max is reading Materiality, edited by Petra Lange-Berndt (MIT Press, Cambridge, 2015), one of the latest additons to the Whitechapel Documents of Contemporary Art series. It’s a fantastic series. Each volume in the series focuses on a specific theme and contains many thought-provoking essays from theorists and artists. Materiality not only addresses key geographical, social and philosophical issues, but it also examines how artists process and use materials in order to expand notions of time, space and participation. As the publisher notes, “this anthology focuses on the moments when materials become willful actors and agents within artistic processes.” Max has also been dipping into the diaries of Eva Hesse. “They are extremely private and were never meant for publication. But, as a huge fan of her work it is interesting to read her thoughts,” Max writes.

Gyöngy Laky recommended, highly, Daughters of the Samurai, A Journey From East to West and Back by Janice P. Nimura (W.W. Norton, New York, 2016). “This book is a fascinating biographical history chronicling the lives of three young Japanese girls sent to America in 1871 by the just barely 22-year-old Empress, Haruko. Their mission was to become educated and to bring back to Japan western ideas to advance the role of women and to help Japan adopt western knowledge and technology. Haruko […”something of a prodigy: reading at the age of three, composing poetry at five, studying calligraphy at seven and plucking the koto (a stringed instrument) at 12] had earlier married the 16-year-old Emperor who ascended the throne in 1868. He had adopted the name, Meiji, or Enlightened Rule—to usher in the beginning of a new era. The new era was a plunge into modernization. Sending three young girls to the West turned out to be more enlightened than expected. Sutematsu Yamakawa, 11; Shige Nagai, 10 and Ume Tsuda, the youngest, a tender, 6, remained in the U.S. for 10 formative years and then changed the future and subsequent history of Japanese women forever.

Nimura’s skillful crafting of a can’t-put-it-down narrative of their experiences on two sides of the Pacific is a vividly rich visual, as well as historical, account. She produced for the reader, through captivating descriptions illuminating the startling differences between these two very different cultures, the contrasting worlds we could easily visualize.

Stacy Shiff, Pulitzer Prise-winning author of Cleopatra wrote: “Nimura reconstructs their Alice-in-Wonderland adventure: the girls are so exotic as to qualify as ‘princesses’ on their American arrival. One feels “enormous” on her return to Japan.” It is just this Alice-in-Wonderland aspect of their story that caught my imagination. As in Louis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, it is the environment and the material culture that sets the stage for remarkable events. The tangible aspects of two vastly contrasting cultures – intellectually, technically, behaviorally and in terms of the accoutrements of every day life, express well the often conflicting, peculiar and unexpected events in the girls’ lives. The girls move from Japanese clothing, furniture and customs to western style and then back again feeling more comfortable in western settings than in their birth homes kneeling on the floor and lavishly swathed in yards and yards of embroidered silks.

In the late 19th century the US was bursting with inventions and change. Planning begun in the 1850s for the Chicago World’s Fair was well under way, ushering in the Gilded Age of rapid industrial growth, design innovation and expansion of popular culture. A startlingly appropriate time for the girls’ cultural experiment to take place. Nimura, who moved to Japan for three years with her Japanese/American nesei husband, was adept at utilizing her keen sense of design and broad knowledge of the two disparate material cultures. She skillfully brought to life the vast differences between the two civilizations through masterful and insightful descriptions of clothing, hairstyles, furniture, interiors, architecture as well as the cities in which they existed. This, combined with her extensive research, presents the reader with many insights into the relations between the two countries and their intertwined histories through the lives of these exceptional girls and their extraordinary adventures.

As Miriam Kingsberg of the Los Angeles Review of Books wrote, “Daughters… is, perhaps, less a story of Japanese out of place in their country, than of women ahead of their time.” Laky adds that while she was a professor of art and design at the University of California, Davis, she encouraged her students to study abroad. “This book illustrates how education and experience in a foreign country enhances understanding of other cultures and peoples – perhaps more important today than in the 1870s and 80s. I believe travel also greatly inspires creativity.”

The Box Project, edited by Lyssa C.Stapleton (Cotsen Occasional Press, Los Angeles, 2016), “is one of the very best catalogs I have ever seen and not only the precious book binding!,” wrote Heidrun Schimmel. “I´m still reading the important essays again and again…and I´m learning again and again…” The Box Project is a limited edition book. It will be available at browngrotta.com next week. John McQueen wrote that The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben (Greystone Books, Vancouver, 2016), will change your next walk in the woods. “Trees will never seem the same again. This is a scientific study on how trees communicate with each other among many other things that I, for one, never thought about.”

Currently, Jane Balsgaard is reading The Wind is my Mother: The Life and Teachings of a Native American Shaman by Marcellus “Bear Heart” Williams and Molly Larkin (revised edition, Berkeley Publishing Group, New York 2012) and Diary of an Stupid Man, by Uschi Tech, published in Denmark by Forlaget Helle.
It is a sad and exciting story about a typical lonely man in today’s Denmark, she wrote. “Written in a wonderful language – so one can just imagine him, by reading it and it is just as sad as StonerMary Merkel-Hess has three recommedations. “I heard Cornelia Mutel read from her book, A Sugar Creek Chronicle: Observing Climate Change from a Midwestern Woodland (University Of Iowa Press, Iowa City, 2016), last March just after it was published” she writes. “I bought it immediately. Connie Mutel is a trained scientist but in this book she has written a very personal account of climate change occurring in her own small woodland here in Johnson County, Iowa. She has woven stories of her own life into observations of the possibly irreversible changes that are happening around us. It is a beautifully written and thoughtful book, but not a hopeless one. She ends with a discussion of things that we can do and strategies for our policymakers.”
Her second recommendation is Food Power: the Rise and Fall of the American Postwar Food System by Bryan L. McDonald. Bryan is Merkel-Hess’s son-in-law, a history professor at Penn State and long-time student of security issues. This book details how the unprecedented abundance of food mid-century was used to advance U.S. goals and values around the world. That food can influence global policy is an issue that Merkel-Hess never considered until now, but one she found fascinating.
The third book, is one for the Sinophiles and academically inclined among us, is The Rural Modern: Constructing the Self and State in Republican China by Kate Merkel-Hess. Merkel-Hess has another academic connection: Kate is her daughter and also a history professor at Penn State. This book about rural reform in China before the Communist revolution documents a desire for modernity rooted in Chinese rural traditions and institutions. Merkel-Hess found it interesting that American foundation money and the YMCA were involved in these early modernizing efforts.
We also have two limited-edition, artist-designed books to highlight: Judy Mulford: 80 Chairs by Judy Mulford and Marian Bijlenga: Miniatures, An autobiographical archive reflecting 30 years of work by Marian Bijlenga. In each case, the artist has created a reflective work — celebrating a full and accomplished career. The books are available at http://www.browngrotta.com/Pages/books.php.

As always, enjoy!


Art Event: browngrotta arts at art on paper in New York City, March 5 – 8, 2015

Karyl Sisson, Straw Skyline vintage paper drinking straws and polymer, 14.375” x 32.5” x 3”; 2013, Tom Grotta

Karyl Sisson, Straw Skyline
vintage paper drinking straws and polymer,
14.375” x 32.5” x 3”; 2013, Tom Grotta

For three days this March, browngrotta arts will present inventive works made of handmade, recycled and commercial paper by artists from North America, Europe and Asia at art on paper, Pier 36, 299 South Street, in New York City. Many artists cut, fold or print on paper. The international contemporary artists whose work browngrotta arts will exhibit at art on paper take a more immersive approach to the medium, treating it as material – stacking, molding, carving and weaving it, as others would wood, linen, clay or marble.

Mary Merkel-Hess Basket

Llano (Deep orange )
23″H x 25 x 15
Reed and paper, 2012, photo by Tom Grotta

Toshio Seikiji of Japan and Chris Drury of the UK, for example, use paper like fabric — weaving, stitching and etching on newspapers, maps and other paper to create arresting assemblages. Others of the artists featured by browngrotta arts recycle to create their works, including Kazue Honma who creates object of Japanese telephone books, Dona Anderson who creates vessels of dress pattern paper and Korean artist, Jin-Sook So who creates collages using old Korean texts. Karyl Sisson’s striking New York skyline is composed of re-purposed paper straws. Hisako Sekijima of Japan and Sylvia Seventy from the US, mold paper pulp – in Seventy’s case, to create paper bowls populated with found and other objects. Scandinavians, Jane Balsgaard of Denmark and Merja Winquist of Finland, create three-dimensional sculptures. In Balsgaard’s case, she makes the paper she uses from materials gathered near her summer home in Sweden. American Mary Merkel-Hess uses gampi paper, papier-maiche and reed to create sculptural baskets forms and bas relief wall works.

Old Paperwork Untitled, Jin-Sook So Korean schoolbook pages burnt, handmade wooden platter, gold leaf, silver leaf, painted acrylic color, 35.5” x 43.25” x .75”, 2014, Photo by tom grotta

Old Paperwork Untitled, Jin-Sook So
Korean schoolbook pages burnt, handmade wooden platter, gold leaf, silver leaf, painted acrylic color, 35.5” x 43.25” x .75”, 2014, Photo by tom grotta

Working alongside its Beneficiary Partner, The Brooklyn Museum, and its Presenting Partner, The Wall Street Journal, art on paper will focus on “the notion of what a work on paper can be”, says its director, Max Fishko. The fair, art on paper, is at Pier 36, 299 South Street, New York, New York. There is a preview on Thursday, March 5th from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. and a VIP party that night from 8 to 10:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday the Fair opens at 11; Friday and Saturday it closes at 7 p.m.; Sunday at 6 p.m. For more information and to purchase tickets to the preview and party, visit: http://thepaperfair.com/about/art-on-paper/. For more information on browngrotta arts’ exhibition, call Tom Grotta at browngrotta arts: 203-834-0623 or visit browngrotta.com: http://browngrotta.com/Pages/calendar.php.

Sylvia Seventy Basket

18ss PUZZLES, Syllvia Seventy
molded recycled paper, wax, jigsaw puzzle pieces, waxed shaped paper pieces, wire, beads, thread, 3.25″ x 11″ x 9.75″, 2011, photo by tom grotta


Books Make Great Gifts: 2014 Edition

As in previous years, artists represented by browngrotta arts have an eclectic and interesting list of books to recommend, art-related and otherwise. Thanks to dozen-plus artists who made suggestions, 18 books in all.

Tamiko Kawata reports that she had the chance to read a few books while icing her injured shoulder after therapy, first three times a day, then two times. She enjoyedHaruki Murakami’s Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki Haruki Murakami’s Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. She is now reading — and enjoying — Even Back.Then.the.Fox.Was.the.HunterHerta Muller, Even Back Then, the Fox Was the Hunter.

Mary Merkel-Hess recommends Pilgrim.on.the.Great.Bird.ContinentPilgrim on the Great Bird Continent: The Importance of Everything and Other Lessons from Darwin’s Lost Notebooks by Lyanda Lynn Haupt. “It is the gracefully written account of how, during his five years on the Beagle, Charles Darwin became an accomplished naturalist who could discern scientific truths from the creatures he studied. “ she writes. “Haupt documents this transformation by concentrating on Darwin’s lesser-known writings, particularly his notebooks. At points it reads like a travelogue and a manual for bird watchers. I found it fascinating.”

“I do not get to read books as much as I like,” writes Kiyomi Iwata, ” but the best book I read this year wasThe.Grief.of.Others.Leah.Hager.Cohen The Grief of Others by Leah Hager Cohen. Even though she is very young — my daughter’s age — I found her prose most sensitive, insightful and compassionate. Her most recent book is No.Book.but.the.World.A.NovelNo Book for the World, which I am still reading.”

The most inspirational book Toshio Sekiji read this year was Korea.Economic.drilled.throughKorean Economy Drilled Through by Lee Hong Chang, which was originally published in Korea by Bobmun-sha,1999, the Japanese translation was by Hosei University Press in 2004. The book illuminates the dramatic changes from the medieval age to the modern age. It was one of a number of related books Toshio has read over the last two years as he prepared a report, “Korean Lacquer Culture through Neolithic Age to Modern Age” for the Bulletin of the Lacquer Art Museum in Wajima, Japan.

Ulla-Maija Vikman most enjoyed Flayed.ThoughtsNyljettyjä ajatuksia (Flayed Thoughts) by Juha Hurme. In Finnish only at this point, it’s a story of a 700-mile, 20-day rowing journey in which the characters eat, camp on islets and beaches and discuss what is essential and how what’s essential is transmitted.

There are two recommendations from Ruth Malinowski: The.Hare.With.Amber.EyesThe Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal, recommended last year by Kay Sekimachi (and published by Rhonda’s other employer, FSG/Macmillan) and 1913: The Year Before the Storm1913.The.Year.Before.the.Storm by Florian Illies. The latter highlights developments in literature and art, as well as politics, covering the lives of Kafka, Rilke, Thomas Mann, Camille Claudel, Freud, Stalin, Hitler and some Royalty. Wars, love letters, art thefts and many more events from1913 are cleverly combined in 12 chapters, each reflecting a calendar month.

Ceca Georgieva rated ShantaramShantaram by Gregory David Roberts as her most inspirational read of the year. (Full disclosure, this one is also published by Rhonda’s other employer, St. Martin’s Press/Macmillan and a book she also quite enjoyed. It’s been optioned by Johnny Depp and the movie is currently in production.)

“Of the many inspiring reads this year,” writes Wendy Wahl, “two authors stand out who had an impact on my work as a visual artist interested in the potency of printed text on paper. I was given The.Size.of.ThoughtsNicholson Baker’s The Size of Thoughts, by my husband when I was trying to weave together seemingly disparate yet connected ideas that sometimes are considered mundane and should be thought of as blessed into a cohesive short story. Baker’s style reminded me to keep doing what I was doing. I went onto read his Double.Fold.Libraries.and.the.Assault.on.PaperDouble Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper, which became the inspiration for a sculpture I made this year that shares its name. One of my favorite library activities is to stroll through the stacks with my head cocked to one side and my index finger underlining titles vertically to see what’s there. I was delighted to come upon On Paper,On.Paper.The.Everything.of.Its.2000.Year.History The Everything of Its Two-Thousand-Year History by Nicholas Basbanes, ‘a self-confessed bibliophiliac.’ I’ve checked this book out several times, paid late fees and, since I can’t write in this copy, I realize I must own it.”

Five art books got the nod from our artist/correspondents including Iridescent.LightIridescent Light: The Emergence of Northwest Art by Deloris Tarzan Ament with photographs by Mary Randlett. Dona Anderson “enjoyed immensely” Ament’s profiles of 21 artists who lived and worked in Washington State during formative periods in their careers, profiles that blend discussion of their work and commentary on the obstacles they faced and the influences they brought to bear on one another.

Scott Rothstein rates Bharany.CollectionsA Passionate Eye: Textiles, Paintings and Sculptures from the Bharany Collections, Giles Tillotson, ed. as a “great book.” Mr. Bharany is Scott’s “Indian Father.” He is very involved with textiles as well as paintings and other Indian art forms. Scott says, “I had tea with him three times a week when I lived there and we get back to India almost every year, mostly to spend time with him. He is around 88 years old, so we feel we need to be with him as much as we can.” The book on Judith Scott, Judith.Scott.Bound.UnboundJudith Scott, Bound and Unbound, he recommends, too — more for the photos than the text.

Nancy Koenigsberg found the volume created to accompany the traveling exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, Fiber Sculpture 1960-presentFiber: Sculpture 1960 to the Present (available on our website, browngrotta.com), “a must read for fiber people,  makers and buyers — especially young artists who don’t know who some of these artists are. I was really surprised to discover that!!,” she says.

“My favorite book for this year,” writes Adela Akers, “is, without a doubt: In the Realm of NatureIn The Realm Of Nature: Bob Stocksdale & Kay Sekimachi (available on our website, browngrotta.com). A beautiful book, well conceived with excellent writing by Signe S. Mayfield. The life history of these two wonderful artists is beautifully intertwined with perfect images of their work. What a pleasure!”

Wishing you all new year that provides plenty of time for pleasure reading!


Art News — Pulp Culture: Paper is the Medium

Morris Museum, Morristown New Jersey, photo by Tom Grotta

Morris Museum, Morristown New Jersey, photo by Tom Grotta

Morris Museum, Morristown, New Jersey

Takaaki Tanaka work "A Harden Nest" in front of the Morris Museum's Pulp Culture exhibit. Photo by Tom Grotta

Takaaki Tanaka work “A Harden Nest” in front of the Morris Museum’s Pulp Culture exhibit. Photo by Tom Grotta

Through December 7th

More than 80 works are presented in the Morris Museum’s current exhibition of art by contemporary artists who have stretched the boundaries of paper as a creative medium and source of inspiration.

A Red Grethe Wittrock among the works at the  Morris Museum, Pulp Culture exhibit, Photo by Tom Grotta

A Red Grethe Wittrock among the works at the Morris Museum, “Pulp Culture” exhibit, Photo by Tom Grotta

The exhibition includes surprising objects made from paper ranging from life-size sculptures of human figures and whimsical figures to geometrically complex folded objects to jewelry and paper dresses. The “paper” includes dollar bills, book pages, florists’ wrapping, dress patterns and more. Included are papermakers, sculptors and engineers, whose methods and materials include handmade paper pulp, folded paper, molded paper, recycled paper and cut paper.

Richard Meier Collages among the artists exhibited in "Pulp Culture" at the Morris Museum. Photo by Tom Grotta

Richard Meier Collages among the artists exhibited in “Pulp Culture” at the Morris Museum. Photo by Tom Grotta

Among those featured in Pulp Culture are architect Richard Meier, designer Massimo Vignelli and jeweler Robert Ebendorf. Ten of the 46 featured artists are represented by browngrotta arts. Takaaki Tanaka’s several-part paper pulp piece appears at the entrance. Wendy Wahl’s works made of Encyclopedia Britannica pages are also included along with

Morris Museum, Pulp Culture, Wendy Wahl, Kazue Honma, Merja Winqvist. Photo by Tom Grotta

Morris Museum, Pulp Culture, Wendy Wahl, Kazue Honma, Merja Winqvist. Photo by Tom Grotta

work by Dona Anderson. Jennifer Falck Linssen, Grethe Wittrock, Kay Sekimachi, Toshio Sekiji, Merja Winqvuist, Mary Merkel-Hess and Kazue Honma. The Morris Museum is at 6 Normandy Heights Road, Morristown, New Jersey and open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays; noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. For more information: 973-971-3700 or www.morrismuseum.org.


The Year in Books: Art, Life and Learning — Part 1

World Book EncylopediaIt’s been a literary trip back in time for some of browngrotta arts’ artists this year. Every day since February, Wendy Wahl has chosen something at random to read from a well-preserved, slightly earthy smelling set of the 1957 World Book Encyclopaedia. “This pursuit began,” she explains, “when I brought the volumes into the house from the studio to use as a barricade on furniture for my then one-year old Labrador Retriever. It kept her off the sofa but when I wasn’t looking she decided to explore Volumes A and N-O to see how they tasted. Volume M stands out in my memory, the letter of moving water. Included on the glossy pages are mangoes, mathematics, music, Moscow, Mexico, Morocco, molybdenum, money, minerals, medicine, manuscripts, Magna Carta, Mozart, Mendelssohn, monotype, mimeograph, motion pictures, moons, meteors, Mary, Moses, Mohammed, Manet, Monet, Matisse, milk, meat, mushroom, Madison, Marx but no Mandela. It has been revealing to look at these entries through the lens of the editors writing fifty-six years ago; War& PeaceI’m interested in how and what is presented and this 40th edition’s place in the 20th century.” Mary Merkel-Hess spent the entire autumn of this year reading one book – War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. “My husband and I and a few others read it under the tutelage of an enthusiastic, young Russian professor,” she writes, “who served tea cakes and strong coffee during each of our discussions. Yes, it’s a great book and our study quickly led us to consider the history surrounding the book (Napoleonic wars), the complicated and fascinating Tolstoy family (especially the marriage of Leo and Sonya) and the use of the book and characters in other works of art – music and film. There is an American film version of the book starring Audrey Hepburn and a much better Russian film version which runs to 8 hours or so. We and our fellow classmates were captivated and the writing was, of course, superb. We read the new translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. I am not exactly recommending War and Peace, but if you would like to be submersed for awhile, able to ignore the news and unable to engage in topical conversation, I do recommend choosing it or another of the ‘great books’ as a way to take the focus off your regular life. I am now considering TheIdiotDostoyevskiThe Idiot by Dostoyevski (the favorite book of Pope Francis) or Joseph and His Brothers by Thomas Mann, which my daughter gave me a few years ago. Either way, I know I am in for the perfect escape.” Look for more recommendations in our next post.


November 26th: Our Online Exhibition Opens With an Offer for CyberMonday

On Monday, November 26th, browngrotta arts will present an online version of our 25th anniversary exhibition,Retro/Prospective: 25+ Years of Art Textiles and Sculpture at browngrotta.com. The comprehensive exhibition highlights browngrotta arts’ 25 years promoting international contemporary art. Viewers can click on any image in the online exhibition to reach a page with more information about the artists and their work.

“Some works in Retro/Prospective: 25+ Years of Art Textiles and Sculpture reflect the early days of contemporary textile art and sculpture movement,” says Tom Grotta, founder and co-curator at browngrotta arts. “There are also current works by both established and emerging artists, which provide an indication of where the movement is now and where it may be headed.”

Since Monday the 26th is CyberMonday this year, sales of art, books, catalogs, videos or dvds placed online or by telephone that day will be discounted 10% (excluding tax and shipping). In addition, bga will make a donation to the International Child Art Foundation for each sale made from November 24th through December 31, 2012. Visit browngrotta.com. For more information call Tom at 203.834.0623 or email us at art@browngrotta.com.


Make a Day of It! Visit Retro/Prospective and Other Art Events Near Wilton, CT

If you plan to come to Wilton, Connecticut between October 26th and November 4th for browngrotta arts anniversary exhibition, Retro/Prospective: 25+ Years of Art Textiles and Sculpture, consider adding a stop at one of the other cultural venues in our area on your trip. There are several exhibitions to choose from — all within 30 minutes of browngrotta arts:

Flinn Gallery
Greenwich Library
9 x 9 x 3: New Visions
101 West Putnam Avenue
Greenwich, CT 06830
203.622.7947
through November 28, 2012

Katherine D. Crone, Blades of Grass, Wood, Usuyou Gampish, nylon monofilament Digitally altered photograph, inkjet printed, bookbinding stitched

9 x 9 x 3: New Visions is an exhibition of works created by members of the Textile Study Group of New York to fit inside wooden boxes with 9” x 9” x 3” exterior dimensions. Juror for the exhibition was Janet Koplos, who is a contributing editor of Art in America, where she was senior editor for 18 years. Among the artists included in the exhibition are: Katherine D. Crone, Margaret Cusack, Jeanne Heifetz, Nancy Koenigsberg, Carole P. Kunstadt, Yasuko Okumura, Gail Resen, Lois Russell, Barbara Schulman, Naomi Tarantal, Charlotte Thorp, K. Velis Turan, Saaraliisa Ylital and Erma Martin Yost. The Gallery hours are: Sunday 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm; Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday 10:00 am – 5:00 pm and Thursday 10:00 am – 8:00 pm.


The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum

Wendell Castle
Wandering Forms— Works from 1959–1979
258 Main Street
Ridgefield, CT 06877
203.438.4519
through February 20, 2013

Wendell Castle birdsyeye Maple Veneer and Mahogany Table, private Collection
photo by Tom Grotta

Celebrated American designer/craftsman Wendell Castle (b. 1932) has been creating unique pieces of handmade sculpture and furniture for over five decades. Castle, who has consistently challenged the traditional boundaries of functional design since the outset of his career, was instrumental in helping to shape the American studio furniture movement throughout the 1960s and 1970s. He remains one of the most important American furniture makers working today.”To be inventive and playful and produce furniture which is a complement to nature, rather than in contrast to it is my philosophy,” Castle wrote in the catalog for the exhibition, Fantasy Furniture, held at the Museum of Contemporary Crafts, New York, New York in 1966.”My idea is not to reconstruct or stylize natural forms, but to produce a synthesis or metamorphosis of natural forms.” The Aldrich Museum hours are: Tuesday to Sunday, 12 noon to 5 pm.

The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum
united states
Artist’s Projects
through February 24, 2013

united states is a semester of solo exhibitions and artist’s projects that approach both the nature of the United States as a country and “united states” as the notion of uniting separate forms, entities, or conditions of being. Timed to coincide with the 2012 American election season, united states is presented at a time when political and social divisions in this country are readily apparent, and polarization on many major issues is at an historical high. The Aldrich Museum hours are: Tuesday to Sunday, 12 noon to 5 pm.

The Wilton Historical Society
Building a Future From the Past: Architecture
224 Danbury Road
Wilton, CT 06897
203.762.7257
through October 31, 2012

Architect David Ling holding, model of the browngrotta barn from the building a Future From the Past: Architecture exhibit ion. Photo by TomGrotta

This exhibition explores architects’ work to preserve antique homes while bringing them into the 21st Century. Among the homes included is browngrotta arts‘ home/office, designed by David Ling Architect, New York, New York. The Society’s hours are: Tuesday through Friday: 10 am to 4 pm; Saturday: 1 to 4 pm; 2nd & 4th Sundays of the month 1 to 4 pm.

browngrotta arts
Retro/Prospective: 25+ Years of Art Textiles and Sculpture
276 Ridgefield Road
Wilton, CT 06897
203.834.0623
October 26 through November 4, 2012

Ray Series, Mary Merkel-Hess, paper, reed, 24″ x 24″ x 6″ each, 2012, photo by Tom Grotta

This exhibition features work by more than 70 artists, some are pioneers, some mid career and some new to the field of art textiles, while others work in wood and metal, porcelain, glass and clay. Artists’ reception and Opening: October 27th, 1 to 5 pm; http://browngrotta.com’ hours October 26th and October 28th- November 4th: 10 am to 5 pm.


Coast to Coast — Exhibitions Around the US

Here’s a round up of exhibitions throughout the US that are worth traveling to see.  They are listed in date order — a few of them close this month or next; others are open through the fall.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Craft Spoken Here
Last Week – through August 12th

Artists in the exhibit include: clockwise; WATERFALL by Lenore Tawney; SPIRALS AND PATHS by Rebecca Medel; CERAMIC 42 by Yasuhisa Kohyama; BODY LANGUAGE by John McQueen; SEASIDE by Krystyna Wojtyna-Drouet; RAY by Mary Merkel-Hess

With Craft Spoken Here, curated by Elisabeth Agro, the Nancy M. McNeil Associate Curator of American Modern and Contemporary Crafts and Decorative Arts, the Philadelphia Museum of Art seizes the opportunity to experiment with its craft collection and to understand craft in an international context. Some 40 contemporary works from 1960 to the present in ceramic, glass, metal, wood, lacquer, paper and fiber—some by living, acclaimed artists, including Lenore Tawney, Rebecca Medel, Yasuhisa Kohyama, John McQueen,  Krystyna Wojtyna-Drouet, and Mary Merkel-Hess and others by lesser-known creators—are on view. Representing the Americas, Africa, Asia and Europe, the works highlight formal qualities that cross cultures, time, and media. Hear Agro describe the evolution of the exhibition and the installation of Tawney’s Fountain of Water and Word, in a podcast at the art blog.

Philadelphia Museum of Art
Perelman Building
2525 Pennsylvania Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19130
phone 215.763.8100
www.philamuseum.org

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
At First Light: The Katagami Sculpture of Jennifer Falck Linssen
through September 16, 2012

Handcrafted vessel of katagami-style handcarved paper. Materials include archival cotton paper, aluminum, waxed linen, paint, varnish, freshwater pearl, and sterling silver.

Utilizing the ancient Japanese paper carving technique of katagami, Colorado-based artist Jennifer Falck Linssen creates three-dimensional sculptures that explore the beauty of line and the delicacy of nature. Since 2003, Jennifer has been shaping katagami stencils into three-dimensional vessels and sculptures, combining the katagami paper carving with more traditional metal-smithing and basketry techniques to create contemporary sculptures that transform the two-dimensional stencil into a unique three-dimensional art form.

Myrtle Beach Museum of Art
3100 South Ocean Boulevard
(across from Springmaid Pier)
Myrtle Beach, SC 29577
phone 843.238.2510
fax 843.238.2910
www.myrtlebeachartmuseum.org

East Hampton, New York
Accumulations NOW
through October 6th

Dawn MacNutt is one of the artists included in Accumulations NOW

Accumulations: NOW bills itself as, “[s]imply, the best of craft. NOW.” Cuurated by Jack Lenor Larsen, the exhibition at LongHouse Reserve features 500 works made in the last 100 years, including a number of important pieces from the collection of the late Dena Katzenberg. Artists shown in the NOW collections include, in fiber Anni Albers, Jun-ichi Arai, Dawn MacNutt, Ed Rossbach, Peter Collingwood, Ethel Stein, Helena Hernmarck and Chunghie Lee; in clay Hans Coper, Toshiko Takezu and Peter Voulkos; hollowware by Chunghi Choo; and furniture masters including Judy Kensley McKie and Edward Wormley. You can see the exhibition catalog and installation shots, here: Accumulations_Now_Catalog.pdf and here: http://www.longhouse.org

LongHouse Reserve
133 Hands Creek Road  East Hampton, NY 11937
phone 631.604.5330
http://longhouse.org

 

San Francisco, California
Fiber Futures: Japan’s Textile Pioneers
Part one through October 6th
Part two October 13 – December 29th

Takaaki Tanaka in front of his work at Fiber Futures when it was in New York at the Japan Society

If you missed this remarkable exhibition last fall at the Japan Society in New York (or in an earlier incarnation in Japan) you’ve got another chance. Fiber Futures explores a new art that is emerging from a remarkable fusion of Japanese artisanal and industrial textile making. Coaxed from materials as age-old as hemp and newly developed as microfilaments, a varied array of works by 30 artists from multiple generations, including Hisako Sekijima, Takaaki TanakaNaoko Serino, Hideho Tanaka, Naomi Kobayahsi and Kyoko Kumai, are on view in this important two-part exhibition.

Museum of Craft and Folk Art
51 Yerba Buena Lane
San Francisco, CA 94103
phone 415.227.4888
http://www.mocfa.org

Minneapolis, Minnesota
In Our Nature: Tapestries of Helena Hernmarck
through October 14th

Helena Hernmarck 2009 FOREST PATH , wool and linen, 6′ 7″ x 6′ 7

In Our Nature: Tapestries of Helena Hernmarck, is an assemblage of 19 large-scale tapestries by  legendary trompe-l’oeil weaver, Helena Hernmarck. Monumental works immerse the viewer in the best of nature: lush blooms, rich green forest scenes, and sunny poppy pastures. Hernmarck’s work represents a lifetime of closely honed weaving technique that combines intensely sensitive attention to color with one-of-a-kind combination of textures creating layered, shaded effects. The tapestries in In Our Nature: Tapestries of Helena Hernmarck are on loan from three major arts museums, several corporate and individual collectors, and from Hernmarck’s own collection.

American Swedish Institute
2600 Park Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55407
phone 612.871.4907
http://www.asimn.org


Exhibit News: FiberPhiladelphia 2012

This weekend marks the opening of FiberPhiladelphia is an international biennial and regional festival for innovative fiber/textile art.Pick up a copy of the FiberPhiladelphia directory, with all the venues listed (there’s even an app to help you get directions). You’ll see our 25th Anniversary ad in the Directory, featuring work by Ritzi Jacobi and Mary Merkel-Hess, and an ad for SOFA NY featuring a concrete basket by Klaus Titze and a much-appreciated congratulations to us. Among the Philadelphia exhibitions we hope to visit later this month: Distinguished Educators, at the Crane Arts Building: Grey Area, 1440 North American Street through April 12th which includes celebrates significant artist/mentors who have shaped the field:

WINTER GOLD, Adelea Akers, Linen, horsehair, paint & metal 30" x 72", 2011

Adela Akers, Lewis Knauss, Gerhardt Knodel, Gyongy Laky, Joan Livingstone, Rebecca Medel, Jason Pollen, Cynthia Schira, Warren Seelig, Deborah C. Warner, Carol Westfall, Pat Hickman, solo and in collaboration with the late Lillian Elliott; Andrea Donnelly: Binary, Sondra Sherman: Found Subjects at the Philadelphia Art Alliance, 251 South 18th Street, through April 21st; and Secret Garden, which includes work by Lenore Tawney, Mary Merkel-Hess, Ted Hallman, Sheila Hicks,
and Jim Hodges at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Perelman Building, Fairmount and Pennsylvania Avenues, through July.
Visit the FiberPhiladelphia website for complete details. http://www.fiberphiladelphia.org/fiberphiladelphia_exhibitions_2012

 


Books Make Great Gifts 2011: Artist Recommendations

This year we asked the artists we represent just one question:

What was the most enjoyed/most inspirational book you read this year?? Here are their wide-ranging replies:

Nancy Moore Bess and her friend, artist Sharon McCartney share studios with for occasional “play dates” that involve hours of restorative art chat, small handwork and book sharing. It was Sharon, Nancy says. who introduced me to the exhibition catalogue, El Anatsui at the Clark (Clark Art Institute). “I had seen ads for his work,” adds Nancy, “but the catalog was more than glorious photographs – it placed his current work in the larger context of his entire career/life. Known now for his monumental ‘fabrics’ with metals and Nigerian liquor bottle caps, his earlier work with wood, found metals, steel sheets, etc. was equally exciting for me. I love rust! I was extremely sorry to have missed the exhibition which was installed in the Stone Hill Center at the Clark Museum, but delighted to have access to the book.

Sharon loved a book that Nancy owned, Boro, by Amy Sylvester Katoh, who lives and works at the Blue & White shop in Tokyo. When she tried to order it, she found a different book that Nancy recommends,  Boro: Rags and Tatters from the Far North of Japan by Yukiko Koide and Kyoichi Tsuzuki (Aspect). Both books illustrate the traditional practice of reusing rags and stitching them into clothing and household textiles. Amy’s book concentrates on mostly indigo fabrics which she collects. Both books include impressive photographs with the closeup images really illustrating how the fabrics are used. “Sharon and I both do a great deal of top stitching,” Nancy says, “she on her fabric constructions (she is the queen of French knots!) and I on my experimental paper work. The variety of garments in her book and the variety of fabrics really inspires me to get to the book store!!”

“I have one great book to add,” writes Gyöngy Laky, “though only peripherally art related:
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, illustrated by Ellen Forney (Little, Brown; National Book Award) . This is a semi-autobiographical novel by award-winning author, poet and film-maker, Sherman Alexie.  Alexie has been named one of Granta’s Best Young American Novelists and has been lauded by The Boston Globe as “an important voice in American literature.” He is one of the most well-known and beloved literary writers of his generation, with works such as Reservation Blues and War Dances. He also wrote the screenplay for the film, Smoke Signals, based on a short story from his book, Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven.   In his novel, Alexie tells the heartbreaking, hilarious, and beautifully written story of a young Native American teen, Arnold, as he attempts to break free from the life he was destined to live.  Arnold’s drawings illustrate the book.”

Kate Hunt’s suggestion was a CD, rather than a book, Souvenirs, featuring opera star Anna Netrebko. The Independent says she is, “in a word, sensational . . . Netrebko’s strength is not just in the mobility of her voice and the razzle-dazzle of her upper register’s big-money notes – no, it’s the fullness and beauty of the middle voice that singles her out . . . properly overwhelming. For once, fullness of heart is truly matched in fullness of sound.”

Mutsumi Iwasaki enjoyed,「朝鮮陶磁図録」(tyousen toji zuroku), a book on ancient Korean pottery that accompanied last year’s exhibition of Korean Ceramics – 50 Years After the Death of Muneyoshi Yanagi at the Japan Folk Crafts Museum in Tokyo.

Lawrence LaBianca recommends The Last Place on Earth by Roland Huntford (Modern Library) and Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific by Raft (Simon & Schuster) by Thor Heyerdahl. Both are true accounts of heroism and determination and creative reasoning used to reach historic goals in exploration — Huntford in the South Pole and Heyerdahl in the South Seas..

Sue Lawty, wrote to us about Edward R. Tufte’s Envisioning Information (Graphics Press), a book I bought for Tom a few years ago.  Sue bought the book, which covers wide-ranging systems, patterns or logic for presenting information from mathematics to maps, a couple of weeks ago in London as a present for her nephew, but now she wants a copy of her own. “It stimulates thinking,” writes Sue.  “For example, in the micro/macro design of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, artist Maya Ying Lin had the vision of ordering names chronologically (resolutely resisting pressure for a more pedestrian telephone directory-type listing) thus, within the overwhelming density of 58,000 named dead, the unique loss of each individual is retained. I know I need this book on my shelves to dip into at sly moments and be informed by.”

“I read a good book called The Craftsman by Richard Sennett (Yale University Press),” Mary Merkel-Hess  wrote. “It is a broad-ranging analysis of what it means to do good work. His definition of a craftsman extends beyond those who work with their hands to include everyone who wants to do a job well. So many references to literature, sociology, society — it was fascinating.” Mary also enjoyed Architecture of Silence: Cistercian Abbeys of France, photographs by David Heald which contains marvelous photos of stone buildings and their simple but inspiring interiors and the catalog from Stimulus: art and its inception (browngrotta arts). “[S]peaking of inspiring, thanks for the Stimulus catalog! It’s great!”

For Lija Rage, her most-enjoyed book this year was Haroun and the Sea of Stories (Penguin), the first work by Salman Rushdie after The Satanic Verses (Random House Trade Paperbacks). She’s also been reading about Chinese culture in preparation for her next exhibition.

“The most important book this year is for me,” writes Heidrun Schimmel, “is the catalog of the Venice Biennial, 54.Esposizione Internazionale d´Arte Illuminations. I visited most of the exhibitions in Venice for three days and of course there are many ‘pros’ and ‘cons.’ But this year the catalog is very good and there is an English edition, The Venice Biennale. 12th International Architecture Exhibition. People meet in architecture (Marsilio Editions). In Munich now you can see two wonderful exhibitions with works of Ellsworth Kelly. In Pinakothek der Moderne you see 60 drawings of plants (through January 8th) http://www.pinakothek.de/en/kalender/2011-10-07/14412/ellsworth-kelly-plant-drawings. And the catalog is an inspirational artwork for itself! But there is only a German edition.”

Karyl Sisson reports that, “Sometimes I just need to laugh.  Tina Fey’s Bossypants (Reagan Arthur Books) did it for me.”

Wendy Wahl, writes that, “It is with pleasure I sing the praises for a book that is pure joy to consume in a vicarious living sort of way. Rosamond Bernier has written Some of My Lives, A Scrapbook Memoir (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). The author’s voice comes alive as she tells the stories of her amazing life’s experiences with leading personalities of the 20th century in the world of art and music. She has lead such a vivid and unique life; the book is fabulous armchair travel.” (Full disclosure: my day job is with this publisher’s parent.)

Sensual Relations by David Howes (University of Michigan) is Deborah Valoma’s recommendation.

Randy Walker  found Portraits of the Mind: Visualizing the Brain from Antiquity to the 21st Century by Carl Schoonover (Abrams) to be inspirational. His wife bought the book for her sister, who is a Doctoral student in Psychology, but when Randy saw the images in the book, he nabbed it and his wife had to buy another one for her sister.

Lena McGrath Welker loved Jane Urquhart’s  Sanctuary Line (MacAdam/Cage Publishers).