Pop Culture as an Art Influence

Pop culture is a potent inspiration for artists, from Andy Warhol’s portraits of Liz Taylor Marilyn Monroe and Superman. Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck for Roy Lichtenstein (On a Dare from His Son, Roy Lichtenstein Unwittingly Invented Pop Art, Alina Cohen, Artsy, October 1, 2018) and Pinocchio and Mao Tse-tung for Jim Dine. 

Ed Rossbach Sports Illustrated silk screened fabric
164r Sports Illustrated, detail, Ed Rossbach, commercial cotton fabric, dye, silk screen, heat transfer printed, 132” x 42”, 1980. Photo by Tom Grotta

Artists whose work is shown by browngrotta arts are not immune to the attractions of these images. Ed Rossbach, is one such artist — he created a printed textile based on images from Sports Illustrated — highlighting advertisements in particular. Other works featured John Travolta and US astronautsRossbach is best known for including Mickey Mouse in many examples of his work — woven in damask, painted on cedar baskets, illustrated in lace, featured in embroidered photographs. Rossbach’s The New Mickey basket features images of Mickey throughout. He reportedly co-opted the world’s famous rodent in response to snide remarks about his classes and occupation. The motif came to be included in some of his best-known works — including works in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the Cleveland Art Museum.

Ed Rossbach Mickey Mouse Basket
214r The New Mickey, Ed Rossbach, paper and various fibers, 12.5″ x 12.5″ x 12.5″, 1995. Photo by Tom Grotta

“If you’re doing knotless netting, you need an image, or I want an image,” Rossbach explained in an oral history prepared by Harriet Nathan in 1983. “What image do you put in nowadays? Sometimes the images were there for you, certain religious images, and now in our culture, what images do you put in? So you put in Mickey Mouse, and it’s a statement about that, too, I think. I like Mickey Mouse. I think it’s partly because it’s a defensive attitude on my part, that what people think very much is Mickey Mouse. They refer to the classes that you teach as Mickey Mouse classes, and everything is just dismissed as, ‘It’s Mickey Mouse.'” Rossbach found that very damaging. “So I put a Mickey Mouse on baskets and the most elaborate textile; I wove Mickey Mouse in double damask,” he said laughing. “I did him in ikats. I’ve done a lot of Mickey Mouses. And Mickey Mouses sell,” he added wryly.

Glen Kaufmann Mcdonalds logo Prayer Rug weaving
001gk Prayer Rug III, Glen Kaufman, cotton, silk, 18“ x 15“ x 2.5”, 1983. Photo by Tom Grotta

In our recent work with the estate of Glen Kaufman, we discovered pop culture themes interested him as well. In 1983, he created a series works that took the form of diminutive prayer rugs with McDonald’s arches replacing the traditional mihrabs — arch-shaped designs that indicate the direction of Mecca.

James Basslers Trader Joe's bag
8jb Shop, James Bassler, made of brown paper Trader Joe’s shopping bags, cut and twisted and with yellow and red waxed linen thread; 16” X 10” , 2009. Photo by Tom Grotta

James Bassler’s interest was in Trader Joe’s market — literally. He created a bag from their bags. He wanted to introduce his class to the technology of spinning. What materials do we have readily available, he asked. “I spotted a Trader Joe bag on a table, in which I had carried supplies to class,” he says. “At that point, much to my surprise, I had established my lesson plan for the day. I told them that their first assignment was to cut and spin yam from a T.J. bag. I then demonstrated what it takes to do this … I proceeded to weave, using the resulting brown paper ‘yarn.’ As I wove, my concept crystallized to create a Trader Joe Bag. It took approximately eight bags, a lot of spinning and 2-3 intermittent years to complete.”

Helena Hernmarcks Juicy Fruit tapestry Commission
54hh Juicy Fruit, Helena Hernmarck, Photo by Tom Grotta

Popular products often serve as graphic inspiration. Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Tomato Soup can prints and Brillo boxes are prime examples. For a commission, Helena Hernmack created a collage that incorporated a Juicy Fruit label, then wove the imagery into a tapestry.

For more information about our artists, visit browngrotta.com.


Art Assembled – New this Week in January

The first month of 2023 was busy and exciting at bga! Throughout the month we’ve introduced our followers to talented artists all over the globe that we’ve had the opportunity to work with over the years – including work from: Irina Kolesnikova, Sue Lawty, Naomi Kobayashi, Lia Cook, and Heidrun Schimmel. Read on to learn more about these accomplished artists!

23-25ik Limited Space 1-3, Irina Kolesnikova flax, silk, polyester, hand woven, 20″ x 16″ x 1.625″, each, 2022

To start off the month, we introduced you all to the work of skilled Russian artist, Irina Kolesnikova.  Kolesnikova has said that her works are often influenced by her daily life. She has said in her pieces you can often find aspects of her everyday life reflected in her work artwork. Kolesnikova state that these pieces often feature a glimpse into her alter ego, which she stated is “A slightly comic, clumsy human of an uncertain age (who is just a survivor struggling to keep his existence balanced.” 

However, when Kolesnikova emigrated from Russia to Germany in 2005, she says, “I got more air in my works. The combination of figurative elements with flying drawing lines or abstract spots of color has become more characteristic of my work. In the sketches I keep the principle of collage combined with freehand drawing.” We are fascinated by the evolution of her work!

 Sue Lawty
26-29sl Notes On Blue, Sue Lawty, block mounted woven linen and
hemp tapestry 6.3” x 4.75” (x4), 2022. Photo by Tom Grotta.

Next up, we have the work of brilliant UK artist, Sue Lawty. Lawty can is recognized internationally for her meticulous exploration of the mediums she works with. More in particular, her stone drawings and weavings of lead, and of linen, like the piece you see here.

She has previously charted the journey of her understated and abstract works – stating that they are strongly influenced by a comprehensive engagement with remote landscape, geology and the passage of time. Her work is rooted in the emotional, spiritual, and physical engagement with land through construction and repetitive structure, and she has been be featured in exhibitions all around the world because of it.

Naomi Kobayashi
65nk Works 115-116, Naomi Kobayashi, washi paper, koyori thread,
india ink, cotton, 26″ x 30″ x 3.5″. Photo by Tom Grotta.

Things got even more interesting in January with the introduction to Japanese textile and sculpture artist, Naomi Kobayashi. Kobayashi has been making strides in contemporary art for over 50 years. Along the way in her later years as a creator, she stated that she began to strive for pieces that have an airy feeling and incorporate air/wind within them. She said she strives for pieces that are so ephemeral, they feel as if they might disappear at any moment.

Her pieces are often carefully crafted from weavings of thread and strips of washi paper on which she has written calligraphy. Together, these pieces form to create installations that speak of cycles of life, regeneration and death.

Lia Cook
49lc Boophone, Lia Cook cotton, rayon woven, 21.75” x 16” x 2″, 2021

January included art by accomplished American fiber artist, Lia Cook. Cook is a California-based artist who has been recognized for her science-inspired art and her works created out of a fascination with nature. Cook has said that her garden is a continual source of renewal for her. In fact, Ferni Fronds Trip and Boophone Twin re-envision aspects of her early work with images of current plant fibers from her garden.

Cook’s practice explores the sensuality of the woven image and often, the emotional connections to memories of touch and cloth. Long recognized as an innovator, Cook’s work has been featured in dozens of group and solo exhibitions worldwide, and we’re honored that bgas’ are among them.

Heidrun Schimmel
Heidrun Schimmel‘s 30hsc Was du Weiß auf Schwarz Besitzt (text/textile/texture)
cotton and silk 47.5” x 49.5” each, 2009. Photo by Tom Grotta.

Last, but certainly not least, we featured the work of German artist, Heidrun Schimmel. Schimmel consistently impresses us with her detailed, hand-stitched artwork. Her ideas often stem from the soft, unstable and flexible qualities of the textile materials she works with.

When creating, Schimmel has stated that she aims to illustrate the connections between thread and time and thread and humanity, as they are interwoven into human existence.


Time and time again, we are amazed by the brilliant artists we have the opportunity to work with. We are excited for all that’s to come throughout the year of 2023. Keep following along to see what we have in store along the way!


Process Notes: Wendy Wahl

Wendy Wahl is one of 10 artists whose work will appear in Papertownwhich opens on February 4th at the Fitchburg Art Museum in Massachusetts. Wahl is intentional in her work. She takes a broad sociocultural view of the materials she uses and the meanings that can be advanced through art. Wahl has shared with us information about her process, which we, in turn, are sharing with you:

Detail of Re-Seeing by Wendy Wahl
Detail: 42ww Re-Seeing, Wendy Wahl, 1980 World Book pages, wood
40.75″ x 30″ x 2.5″, 2022. Photo by Tom Grotta

In general

“By accident or design, my work is about cycles and the rich layers of meaning that an awareness to these fluctuations provides. These pieces continue an idiosyncratic exploration into who we are and our place in time through the use of materials that belong to a collective consciousness. The purpose of paper has changed yet for over two millennia it has played a significant role in the identity of cultures and the relationship to their environments,” says Wahl. “At the turn of the 21st century I began to view printed paper, particularly encyclopedias, from an elemental standpoint and as a material for expressing the ephemeral and the everlasting. Deconstructing volumes of information to reconstruct the parts through embodied knowledge is cyclical in nature. 

Encyclopedia pages are used as a material in part because as we know the medium can be the message. If these works are considered landscapes they appear to have captured a moment in some metamorphosis the exact context of which is only suggested. Through movement, a meeting of subtle colors and textures, emotions and ideas emerge that seem to represent fundamental spiraling patterns of existence.”

Re-Seeing Encyclopædia page wall art by Wendy Wahl
42ww Re-Seeing, Wendy Wahl, 1980 World Book pages, wood, 40.75″ x 30″ x 2.5″, 2022, Photo by Tom Grotta

On Re-Seeing 

Re-seeing created in 2022 of World Book pages will be exhibited in Papertown at the Fitchburg MuseumIt also appeared in Crowdsourcing: a survey of textile and mixed media art at browngrotta arts in 2022. Wahl wrote the following about the work: 

“Crowdsourcing information is a relatively recent phenomenon. The Oxford English Dictionary was one of the first projects to make use of the technique 150 years ago. Today Wikipedia is the default digital encyclopedia. The arrival of the latter is one of the reasons why I began, 17 years ago, to transform the contents of original bound encyclopedias into other forms and meanings creating alternative perspectives. This diptych is composed of 1980 World Book pages. Light, dark, color, hidden text and images emerge from the patterned surface inviting a closer look. The work appears to change as the viewer moves toward and around it encouraging the mind and the senses to notice anew.  Each time I deconstruct a discarded encyclopedia book, I revisit that which has come before, bound in stillness, yet part of the present moment, asking me to re-see in ways that engage my mind, body and spirit.”

Bhavantu Encyclopædia page wall art by Wendy Wahl
40ww Bhavantu, Wendy Wahl, 1962 Encyclopædia Britannica pages, wood, 24″ x 24″ x 3″, 2020, Photo by Tom Grotta

On Bhavantu

Bhanvantu is intriguing in shape and color. Wahl writes about its impetus: Pushing the chair away and rising from the round table I walk past the open sliding door leading to an outdoor wonderland where my hidden seat awaits behind the banana tree near the fence. Reluctantly I take seven steps away from that view to arrive in front of the built-in shelves where the 1960 something set of Encyclopedia Britannica are held. A through Z ready to be laid open. Collected information, knowledge and experiences offered in printed form. All I could think was: Isn’t everything I need to learn outside? ‘Bring volumes 9 and 17,’ calls the voice from the adjoining room. Decades later, the deconstructed paper from similar volumes feels like home in my hands, or at least my memory of those moments. Removing the pages from their codex can be as jarring as cutting the limbs of a tree. An inward focus directs the spiral parts to be assembled anew as a reminder of the importance of our collective thoughts, words and actions.”  

Encyclopædia page sculptures by Rebound: Mixed Volumnes 3 by Wendy Wahl
20ww Rebound: Mixed Volumes 3, Wendy Wahl, discarded/deconstructed/restructured encylopedia pages, 40″ x 16″ x 17″ ; 50″ x 78″ x 17″ ; 60″ x 95″ x 17″, ; 101.5cm x 40.5cm x 43cm; 127cm x 198cm x 43cm; 152.5cm x 241cm x 43cm, 2009. Photo by Tom Grotta

She explains the title: The title comes from the last part of the Sanskrit sloka: ‘ Lokah Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu.’ It translates in English, too: may all beings be free and may my thoughts words and actions contribute to that freedom. Bhavantu translates more literally: ‘state of unified existence must be so.'”

Detail of Seeds(of knowledge) WB vol.18/19 Encyclopædia page wall art by Wendy Wahl
26ww Seeds(of knowledge) WB vol.18/19, Wendy Wahl, World Book encyclopedia pages on inked panel, 21.25” x 34.25” x 1.625”, 2011. Photo by Tom Grotta

To see more examples of Wendy Wahl’s work visit our website.


Material Matters: Kibiso Silk

Detail of Kiyomi Iwata's Southern Crossing Three
Detail: Kiyomi Iwata’s Southern Crossing Three, woven kibiso and paint, 55” x 108”, 2014. Photo by tom Grotta

Material Matters: Kibiso, Japanese Silk

This is another installment in our series of information on materials used by artists who work with browngrotta arts including horsehair, agave and today, kibiso silk.

Kibiso refers to silk drawn from the outer layer of the silk cocoon, considered “waste” in compared to the smooth filament that makes up the inner cocoon. This thick cocoon layer is also called choshi in Japan, frison in the USA, knubbs in Great Britain, sarnak in India, frissonette in France, and strusa in Italy. In the past, it had been discarded as too tough to loom.

Since 2008, NUNO, the innovative Japanese textile firm, has focused on the use of kibiso. Working with elderly women in Tsuruoka, one of Japan’s last silk-weaving towns, NUNO started a kibiso hand-weaving project. These women set up looms in their garages and kitchens for extra family income, and made woven bags out of the thick, stiff kibiso yarn, as well as handknit hats. NUNO has refined kibiso down to a thickness that allows automatic machine looming, resulting in a whole line of new fabrics, most of which have normal silk warps and kibiso wefts. As part of an effort to revitalize Japan’s once-booming silk trade, NUNO’s head designer, Reiko Sudo, also works with the Tsuruoka Fabric Industry Cooperative on a variety of products under the “kibiso” label.

The fiber is water repellent and UV resistant. Machine-made kibiso yarn was originally produced in Yokohama, writes the Cooper-Hewitt, the center of silk exportation in Japan between the 1860s until the 1920s. This silk waste was considered a high-quality material, and produced good quantities with little waste. However, the industrial process to obtain this fiber was not considered cost-effective and it progressively lost its appeal until Reiko Sudi and NUNO addressed revival of kibiso yarn production. Kibiso comes from about 2% of the silk cocoon, Slow Fiber Studio says. It contains an especially high amount of sericin protein, which means it takes dye very strongly and offers great opportunities to explore body and texture. It’s used in its original, more rigid state, to create sculptural forms, or degummed with soda ash to soften the fibers.

Detail: Fungus Three, Kiyomi Iwata
Detail: Fungus Three, Kiyomi Iwata, Ogara Choshi are gathered. The surface is embellished with gold leaf and French embroidery knots, 6.5″ x 8″ x 7.5″, 2018. Photo by Tom Grotta

Kiyomi Iwata is an artist who has explored the artistic opportunities that kibsio presents. Iwata was born in Kobe, Japan. She immigrated to the US in 1961. She studied at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond and the Penland School of Craft. In the 1970s, she and her family relocated to New York City, where she studied at the New School for Social Research and the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts. She returned to Richmond in 2010 and began working on a body of work using kibiso. She explained to Amanda Dalla Villa Adams in an interview for Sculpture Magazine (“Qualities of the Unsaid: A Coversation with Kiyomi Iwata,” Sculpture Magazine, Amanda Dalla Villa Adams, February 11, 2021) what apealed to her about the material. 

Southern Crossing Three, Kiyomi Iwata
Southern Crossing Three, Kiyomi Iwata, woven Kibiso and paint, 55″ x 108″, 2014. Photo by Tom Grotta

Kibiso has a very different attraction for me, contrary to my usual silk organza, which is woven from fine silk thread,” Iwata told Adams. The silkworms produce 3,000 meters of thread during their lifetime, and kibiso is the very first 10 meters. “By using kibiso,” the artist says, “I am using the silkworm’s whole life output, which is gratifying. I went back to the traditional manner of using thread to weave. Whatever the thread had from its previous life, such as the silkworm’s cocoon, I left it where it was and dyed the thread.” 

Iwata has made objects of kibiso and also grid-like tapestries which Adams described as apearing as fragments,… “there is an unfinished quality to them,” she writes. “Some are large and freeform, while others are intimate and marked off by a frame.” According to Iwata, the “complex nuance of North versus South” has influenced her work since she re-crossed the Mason-Dixon line. It’s been in the last decade, I that she has transformed woven kibiso made into tapestry-like hangings. “They are either dyed or embellished with gold leaf,” she explains, “and I enjoy the process as much as the results. The whole idea of working, using hands and mind, and letting the process lead me is an eternal moment of joy for me. Sometimes I use a frame to give the piece a limitation, and other times I let the wall space frame the piece. It really is a difference in how I like to present the piece.” In Iwata’s hands, kibiso leads to striking results.


Artist Focus: Lawrence LaBianca

Full Stop, Lawrence LaBianca
6ll Full Stop, Lawrence LaBianca, oak, modified trailer winch, cast glass, steel cable, 41″ x 40″ x 13″, 2007

The UN-declared International Year of Glass has just ended, but the many positive attributes of glass deserve to be recognized well into 2023. Among the attributes the UN cataloged are — glass’s role in communication at optical fiber, the fact that it is chemically resistant and used in creating and distributing Covid vaccines, that bioglass can stimulate bone growth and healing, and that glass sheets are used to create solar energy. Of most interest to browngrotta arts, the UN also noted that “Glass artists across the globe have given humankind an awareness of this wonderful material including its remarkable methods of fabrication, inherent beauty, and ability to capture and display nature’s full spectrum of color.”

Wayne Art Center installation of Timeline by Lawrence LaBianca
Wayne Art Center installation of 5ll Timeline by Lawrence LaBianca, walnut ladle, cast glass,steel, 10″ x 48″ x 10″ , 2000

Lawrence LaBianca is one of those artists. He creates glass elements for many of his works, in addition to creating elements of wood and wrought iron and photography. Six of LaBianca’s works are featured in Beyond Glass at the Wayne Art Center in Pennsylvania through January 21, 2023. Beyond Glass, curated by Josephine Shea, gathers artists who choose varied techniques and materials to create work that combines glass with other materials, such as metal, wood, or found objects. Invited from across the United States and beyond, the exhibit also provides a sliver of history, as glass migrated from the factory floor in the early 1960s and returned to the artist’s studio. 

3lb Camphor, Lawrence LaBianca, glass with photo, branch, steel, 12″ x 22″ x 7″, 1999

Among the works of LaBianca’s in Beyond Glass is Camphor. In it the artist has mounted a branch on an iron stand, topped with a piece of glass, into which has been embedded a photographic image of the branch, creating a tool through which the branch can be observed and understood in several different ways. “The tools we apply to nature—to contain it, shape it, understand it and categorize it—also have a profound affect upon it,” LaBianca explains. “It is this impetus to measure, understand, contain and manipulate nature that I enact through my work.”

LaBianca creates tool-forms that explore our relationship with nature through attention to craft, form, physicality, and the fluidity of the boundaries between these ideals. “His work is both abstract and narrative, as the materials with which he works assume new and idiosyncratic identities,” wrote the Virginia A. Groot Foundation in awarding the LaBianca a grant. LaBianca combines natural, organic materials such as wood with manufactured elements to create hybrids. Many of his pieces reference the human body to explore a variety of human emotions. For example, in Full Stop, tree branches and trunks are cut into discs and separated with blown pieces of glass to resemble vertebrae.  The natural sections of this structure appear to be supported and augmented by manufactured glass-like prosthetics.

7ll My Father’s Dream, Lawrence LaBianca, oak, green neon, transformer, cord, 24″ x 96″ x 10″, 2004. Photo by Tom Grotta.

In My Father’s Dream, LaBianca combines a large oak branch with green neon placed in a carved channel inside. This work references the dream world with its title and its night-green glow,” wrote Emily Raabe, “but it also implies the act of memory … the way that our memory allows us to hold our observations, emotions, dreams and stories in a state of restless simultaneity; a momentary abeyance that pulses under the force of our own imaginations.” LaBianca agrees about the role of memory.  “Memory leaves an imprint,” he says. “Through time these imprints become makers that provide us with insights of where we have been and once pieced together show us our path.”

The artist explains that My Father’s Dream was influenced by a memory of his fathers adaptation of our suburban home with the addition of a wood stove during the 70’s oil crisis. “During this time my dad would wake us up, very early, to collect wood that fell into our neighbors yards during ice storms. Our family station wagon could fit several limbs. These limbs needed to be of a certain length and of a certain wood which would optimize our outings. The limb used for My Father’s Dream is the optimal length, weight and fuel for such an outing.” 

For more examples of work by Lawrence LaBianca, a “blacksmith of the 21st century,” visit our website.


browngrotta arts Year in Review/Preview

Hi all!
We like to take a look back most Januarys. We make plans, and, more optimistically, resolutions for the New Year.

This year has been a busy one for us and next year is shaping up to be busier still! 

Below, a look back and  a look ahead for browngrotta arts. Hope you’ll add some of our upcoming activities to your schedule.

Exhibitions

Opening reception for crowdsourcing the Collective
Crowdsourcing the Collective exhibition. Photo by Ezco Productions

2022 
• More than 500 people attended our 2022 Exhibitions, Crowdsourcing the Collective: a survey of textiles and mixed media and Allies for Art: Art from NATO-related countries.

• After the in-person exhibitions ended, we posted the work on Artsy as exclusive on-line collections.

• We curated a Viewing Room in March. Featuring works in frames, it was entitled Art With an Edge: The Case for Frames.

Tom installing The Station/Kuala Lampur for our Upcoming Glen Kaufman Viewing Room exhibition. Photo by Rhonda Brown

2023
• We’ll host two in-person exhibitions next year, one in the Spring and one in the Fall. Add the Spring exhibition dates to your calendar now: April 29 – May 7, 2023

• We’ll be involved with three exhibitions at public spaces. We’ve loaned work to Norma Minkowitz: Body to Soul at the Fairfield University Art Museum in Connecticut, which opens January 27th and will loan several indigo works to the Denver Botanic Garden in Colorado for an exhibition that opens July 1st and we’ve partnered with the Flinn Gallery, Greenwich Public Library, Connecticut for Wordplay: Messages in Branches and Bark, which opens on March 30th. 

• We’ll present an online exhibition of the late Glen Kaufman’s work, Glen Kaufman: 1960-2010  in our Viewing Room on our new website.

• We will curate at least one other 2023 on-line exclusive exhibition in the View Room on the new website. Topic TBD.

Outreach

James Bassler Two Flags video

2022 Social Media:
• We have continued to post regularly on our social channels, FacebookTwitterYouTubeInstagram and our blog, arttextstyle. We’ve upped the amount of information we provide on Instagram and you’ve responded by engaging with us more.

• Our Instagram impressions are up 13.5%, engagements 12.6% and Instagram video views up 16.9%

• Our Facebook Engagements are up 32.1%  

• Page views on arttextstyle increased by 15%

• Our Instagram Net Follower Growth has grown 90.5%

• Our Total Net Audience has Grown 46%

2023 Social Media and Live Programs:
• We’ll continue our social media postings on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and arttextstyle, which will move to our new website when it launches.

• Gyöngy Laky and John McQueen will each speak on different dates at the Flinn Gallery in Greenwich in April in conjunction with the Wordplay: Messages in Bark and Branches exhibition that features their work. Tom will also speak at the Flinn during the Wordplay exhibition. More on dates and times to come.

• Tom will speak at the Ridgefield Library on Contemporary Art Textiles and Fiber Art on Sunday, April 16, at 2 pm and also at the Appraisers Association of America meeting in NYC in June.

Publications

Gyöngy Laky: Screwing with Order, assembled art, actions and creative practice; Allies for Art: Work from NATO-related countries; Crowdsourcing the Collective: a survey of textiles and mixed media art
Gyöngy Laky: Screwing with Order, assembled art, actions and creative practice; Allies for Art: Work from NATO-related countries; Crowdsourcing the Collective: a survey of textiles and mixed media art catalogs

2022
• We were pleased at the publication of Gyöngy Laky: Screwing with Order, assembled art, actions and creative practicethis Spring. It was designed by Tom features text by Jim Melchert, Mija Reidel and David M. Roth. You can buy it on our website and in the MoMA book store, among other outlets.

• We published a 148-page, color catalog for our Crowdsourcing the Collective exhibition.

• We published a 148-page, color catalog for our Allies for Art exhibition.

2023
• In early 2023, we will make available our fifth monograph, Glen Kaufman: 1960 – 2010.

• On March 15th Anne Newlands authoritative book on noted Canadian artist Mariette Rousseau-Vermette, Weaving Modernist Art: The Life and Work of Mariette Rousseau-Vermette will be published. It features many of Tom’s photos of Mariette’s work. We hope to make it available in the browngrotta arts’ site.

• We will publish a color catalog for our Spring “Art in the Barn” exhibition in April 2024.

• We will publish a color catalog for our Fall “Art in the Barn” exhibition in September-October 2023.

External Platforms

Artsy viewing room and 1stdibs browngrotta arts page
Artsy and 1stdibs

2022
• Art from browngrotta arts could be found on 1stDibs and Artsy in 2022. We created our first Artsy Viewing Room to showcase the work of Wendy Wahl and Norma Minkowitz, then-included in the Westport Museum of Contemporary Art Exhibition, Women Pulling at the Threads of Social Discourse, in Connecticut. Artsy included Yasuhisa Kohyama in its article: 5 Artists on Our Radar in June.

2023
• Art from browngrotta arts will again be found on 1stDibs and Artsy in 2023. We’ll be adding videos on Artsy to give viewers even more information about available works.

Please join us. We’d love to see our views grow in 2023.


Art Assembled – New this Week in December

We end 2022 with an exciting international grouping of works from artists located in Venezuela, Korea/Sweden, Japan and Spain, which were featured in New This Week this December.

Maria Dávila and Eduardo Portillo triple weave
21pd Cimbreante, Maria Dávila and Eduardo Portillo, silk , moriche, alpaca, metallic yarns, copper leaf, 54.5″ x 22″, 2018

First up, Cimebreante by the talented couple, Maria Dávila and Eduardo Portillo. The pair take an experimental approach to all aspects of their artwork — sourcing, technique and materials. They have spearheaded the techniques of rearing silk worms in Venezuela, weaving with locally sourced fibers and dyeing with natural dyes. They were inspired to include natural indigo in their innovative works by visits to Orinoco and the Amazon. They are recipients of Smithsonian Art Research Fellowship and Josef and Anni Albers Foundation Residencies.

Blue Jin-Sook So
65jss Blue/Gold Untitled 2021, Jin-Sook So steel mesh, painted, electroplated silver and gold leaf 31.5” x 31.5” x 4.5”, 2021

In the 80s, Jin-Sook So who has spent time in Korea, Sweden and Japan, began treating metals, such as stainless steel mesh, like textiles; bleaching, braiding, twisting, and oxidizing them, burnishing them with gold, silver and copper nitrate, using brushes, blow torches and wax. In her work for the Lausanne Biennial in 1989, she worked directly with flat steel mesh, developing volume by pleating it manually, repeating and twisting the form and then coloring it with a blow torch. Works like the effervescent Blue/Gold-Untitled 2021 have been shown extensively in Europe, Asia and the US to considerable acclaim.

Chiyoko Tanaka Grinden fabric weaving
72cht Permeated Black-Three Squares * Black and Black Gradation #912 • S, Chiyoko Tanaka, Handwoven ramie, 20″ x 45.125″ x 2.125″, 1990

Chiyoko Tanaka’s Permeated Black-Three Squares * Black and Black Gradation #912 is an example of her intensely rendered textiles. After creating exquisite fabrics on an obi loom, she abrades them with mud, rocks, clay, etc. Portions of the work are deliberately worn away as an actual and metaphorical representation of time. What results are works that have the graphic appeal of a contemporary painting and the tactile sensibility of an artifact.

Mercedes Vicente white sculpture
1mv Babela, Mercedes Vicente, canvas, 9.5″ x 11.5″ x 9.5″, 2022

Mecedes Vicente is based in Spain. Her sculptures are made of canvas strips using an intensely manual process. She loves the elastic, organic, flexible and translucent properties of the fabric with which she works.


We wish you all a full year of art and enjoyment!


Dispatches: An Art Install in Nantucket in December

Whale Sculpture in front of Nantucket store
Nantucket. Photo by Tom Grotta.

Who wants to visit Nantucket for the first time in December? Turns out we do — well Rhonda, anyway (Tom had been there years ago in warm weather). Installing an exciting commission was our reason for going. Even though it was chilly and the ferries were touch and go for the two days we were there, the island was still hopping. 

Main Street Nantucket Holiday decor
Shopping in Nantucket. Photo by Tom Grotta.

Retailers seriously gear up for the holidays here — decorating small trees in front of each store. Lights and imaginative window displays abound. The week before we went was their traditional Holiday Stroll — but there was still plenty of seasonal spirit by the time we arrived.

Tom installing Jennifer Linssen template
Tom installing a commission by Jennifer Falck Linssen. Photo by Rhonda Brown.

The commission was prepared by Jennifer Falck Linssen for a beautiful, contemporary beach-y home. The artist sent us a full-size and detailed template to work from. There were 23 components for Tom to hang. The result was dramatic and ideal for the space. 

Aeolian by Jennifer Falck Linssen installed. Photo by Tom Grotta.

Loved our stay at The Brass Lantern Inn within walking distance of the main shopping area.

Brass Lantern Inn Nantucket
Sea Grill In
The Seagrille, Nantucket. Photo by Tom Grotta.

We enjoyed walking down the cobblestone streets and exploring the island’s many unique and quaint shops.

Day and night wreath
Nantucket. Photo by Tom Grotta.

Ended our single night there with a great dinner at the Seagrille — oysters, cranberries, scallops — all local delicacies. We’ll be happy to come back some day in the summer!


Books Make Great Gifts, Part II

More great book reading ahead. This week, fiction and philosophy and recommendations from browngrotta arts and our artists.

Cloud Cuckoo Land Black Water
Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr and Black Water by Kerstin Ekman

In Cloud Cuckoo Land, Wendy Wahl writes, “Anthony Doer takes the reader on a kaleidoscopic ride that is expansive and intimate. His characters include those from the past, present, future, and multi-species beings bound together on a journey about the love of books in general and one in particular. I was drawn in from the beginning by the thought of young girls tied to needle and thread embroidering liturgical garments. Each of the storylines brought up unexpected emotions. I will return to this novel again and again. Learn more about this amazing tale from this NPR review: https://www.npr.org/2021/09/28/1041004908/anthony-doerr-cloud-cuckoo-land-review

Both Gjertrud Hals and Jane Balsgaard are fans of Swedish writer Kerstin Ekman. Hals says Ekman is her favorite autjor. She just read Löpa Varg, (only in Swedish, for now) and her big book about the woods Herrarna i slogan, from 2007. The Free Online Library says of Herrarna i slogan, “Appropriately, the title is ambiguous. Ekman is writing about the forest (skogen); more precisely, about the vast Swedish acreage of forested land, a forest paradigm as good as any. The first word in the title (herrarna) means either “the men/ gentlemen” or “the masters/lords.” These are the men, real or fictional, who have lived with the forest and known it and turned it into what it is today, be they masterful industrial foresters or crouching botanists, lumberjacks or poets, Sir Olof in a sad medieval folksong or Dr. Astrov in Chekhov’s Uncle Vanja.”  Balsgaard read Blackwater (in English) a thriller by Ekman that gave her“the feeling of the soul from old Sweden.” 

Things I don’t want to Know by Deborah Levy and Power of Gentleness; Meditations on the Risk of Living by Anne Dufourmantelle

A few of the recommendations are more philosophical. Things I Don’t Want to Know, by Deborah Levy is recommended by Stéphanie Jacques, who read it in French, and also the other two volumes in her Cost of Living series. “Great books,” says Jacques. “I loved her voice, her writing, the way she looks at life. She talks about creation and how to continue but not only that.” Jacques also recommends Power of Gentleness; Meditations on the Risk of Living by Anne Dufourmantelle. “Also a great author, and a book that helps us through life.” Yeonsoon Chang is rereading the Asian classic, Book of Changes (The I Ching). “This book inspires me,” she says.

Book of Changes (The I Ching) and Forest Breathing: How Trees Can Bring You Health and Happiness

Nancy Moore Bess has been pursuing an interest in Shinrin Yoku, or Forest Breathing. “It was formulated by a Japanese government agency in the early 1980s,” she writes, “but I feel there’s a strong connection to Shintoism and its respect for and connection with nature. Practicing Shinrin Yoku is a form of meditation that draws calmness from being in nature. I have often experienced this sense of peace and calm when alone in a bamboo grove. I guess this is a good time in my life to remember those moments. Wish I could capture them again.” Want to know more? Amazon lists Forest Breathing: How Trees Can Bring You Health and Happiness as having 4.5 stars from 777 reviewers. 

At browngrotta arts we also have a group of recommendations — all of which are found on our website. First, our most recent book, Gyöngy Laky: Screwing with Order — assorted art, actions and creative practice with text by Mija Reidel, David M. Roth, and design by Tom Grotta. At 328 pages, it is the first comprehensive monograph on the work of this exceptional artist. It looks at her life from three perspectives: “Laky’s personal story of immigration and education is narrated by arts and culture writer, Mija Reidel. An assessment of the evolution and impetus for Laky’s work is given by David M. Roth, editor and publisher of Squarecylinder, a San Francisco Bay Area online visual art magazine. Finally, images of forms, vessels, and wall works provide insight into Laky’s studio practice, activism, and philosophy of sustainable art and design, original thinking, and the value of the unexpected.” (“Celebrating Gyöngy Laky,” Selvedge Magazine, July 17, 2022).

Gyöngy Laky: Screwing with Order — assorted art, actions and creative practice and Ferne Jacobs: Building the Essentials

An expansive catalog was also created in conjunction with the retrospective of Ferne Jacob’s work at the Craft in Americagallery in Los Angeles. You can obtain a copy of Ferne Jacobs: Building the Essentials on our website. Jacobs has been at the forefront of the revolution in fiber art since the 1960s, She has pioneered ways to create a new category of sculpture. Transforming materials and pushing boundaries, she builds solid structures with coiled, twined, and knotted thread. This exhibition was the first to survey more than 50 years of Jacobs’ pivotal and timeless work through the present. Jacobs’ intimate drawings and collage diaries, which had never been publicly displayed, were included providing an additional lens into her vision, inspiration, and philosophical perspective. 

Crowdsourcing the Collective. a survey of textile and multimedia art and Allies for Art: work from NATO-related countries

Two of our 2023 exhibition catalogs are available from our store. Crowdsourcing the Collective. a survey of textile and multimedia art (148 pages) features 42 international artists whose work illustrates the vitality of art textiles, ceramics and mixed media. The artists come from four continents and work in a wide varity of materials and techniques: tapestries of silk and agave, sculptures of seaweed, seagrass and willow, wall works made of sandpaper, hemp and horsehair, and ceramics of Shigaraki clay. Our most recent catalog, published in October is Allies for Art: work from NATO-related countries (148 pages). It showcases work by nearly 50 artists from 21 countries made from the 1960s through the present. The diverse fiber works and sculpture in the exhibition were created by artists who fled repressive regimes, who have worked under and around government restrictions and who have been influenced by current political instability in Europe. The catlog includes 132 photos and an essay by Kate Bonansinga, Director, School of Art, College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning at the University of Cincinnati, Ohio. 

Good gifting and good reading!!


Books Make Great Gifts, Part 1

Another year, another interesting and eclectic round up of reading recommendations. There are so many good choices from our artists this year that we are dividing them into two posts. This week, a plethora of art books. Next week, a mix of fiction, nonfiction and browngrotta arts’ suggestions.

Garden, by Derek Jarman, Art Forms in the Plant World by Karl Blossfeldt, and  Champs D’Oeuvre by Frank Stella
Garden, by Derek Jarman, Art Forms in the Plant World by Karl Blossfeldt, and  Champs d’Oeuvre by Frank Stella

Art books always make up a good portion of our list, and this year is no exception. Shoko Fukuda told us about three books: Garden, by Derek Jarman, Art Forms in the Plant World by Karl Blossfeldt, and  Champs d’Oeuvre by Frank Stella. Heidrun Schimmel says that “in spite of all the trouble and problems with the documenta fifteen exhibition in Kassel, Germany this year,  it was an important exhibition event with a good catalog: Documenta Fifteen: Handbook, (English ed., Hatje Cantz, Stuttgart, Germany, 2022). 

Documenta Fifteen: Handbook, Lee Bontecou
Documenta Fifteen: Handbook and Lee Bontecou

Stéphanie Jacques discovered an artist that she did not know this year and a catalog about her, Lee Bontecou, that was “a good door to go inside her world.” Jacques says she was “overwhelmed by her sculptures and her engravings, her drawings. And how she always continued to invent and manufacture her unusual materials.”

Conversations Avec Denise René and Was ist ein Künstler? by Verena Kreiger
Conversations Avec Denise René and Was ist ein Künstler? by Verena Kreiger

From Korea, Young-ok Shin read the following book “with great interest” this year: 5000 Years of Korean Textiles: An Illustrated History and Technical Survey by Yeon-ok Sim (available in libraries). She also recommends Conversations Avec Denise René (in French). Denise René was a gallerist in France who specialized in kinetic and op art. And, another look at art (in German), Was ist ein Künstler? by Verena Kreiger.

Artist Begins Her Life's Work at 72, by Molly Peacock and Last Light, How 6 great artists made old age a time of triumph by Richard Lacayo
The Paper Garden: An Artist Begins Her Life’s Work at 72, by Molly Peacock and Last Light, How 6 great artists made old age a time of triumph by Richard Lacayo

This year, Polly Barton “loved” The Paper Garden: An Artist Begins Her Life’s Work at 72, by Molly Peacock. “Mary Delaney’s work with color, dyes and flowers through collage, as well as her life story was deeply inspiring to me,” Barton writes. “In the contemplation of each flower as a product of a period in the artist’s life, I found myself reflecting on my own forty years of work in woven ikat. It is a quiet, absorbing, book. The images a treat for the eyes.” She highly recommends it. Polly Sutton found the stories of older artists of interest, too. She has been reading Last Light, How 6 Great Artists Made Old Age a Time of Triumph by Richard Lacayo. “The book is heavy in more ways than one, while reading myself to sleep!” she writes. “But it is compelling to understand these artists’ productive later years.” Gertrud Hals also recommended 

Simone Pheulpin: Cercle d’art and  Kiki Smith, Camille Morineau, SilvanaEditoriale
Simone Pheulpin: Cercle d’art and  Kiki Smith, Camille Morineau, Silvana Editoriale

Simone Pheulpin: Cercle d’art (available from browngrotta arts) about the 81-year old French artists’ unique works of cotton tapes and stainless steel pins and the monograph from Kiki Smith’s major exhibition in France in 2019 and 2020, Kiki Smith, Camille Morineau, Silvana Editoriale.

Ninth Street Women by Mary Gabriel and What Artists Wear by Charlie Porter
Ninth Street Women by Mary Gabriel and What Artists Wear by Charlie Porter
How Art Can Be Thought by Allan deSouza and Cy Twombly: The Sculpture by Hatje Kantz
How Art Can Be Thought by Allan deSouza and Cy Twombly: The Sculpture by Hatje Kantz

Aby Mackie tells us that her “all-time favorite art book” is Ninth Street Women by Mary Gabriel. The publisher describes the book as, “Set amid the most turbulent social and political period of modern times, Ninth Street Women is the impassioned, wild, sometimes tragic, always exhilarating chronicle of five women who dared to enter the male-dominated world of 20th-century abstract painting — not as muses but as artists. From their cold-water lofts, where they worked, drank, fought, and loved, these pioneers burst open the door to the art world for themselves and countless others to come.” Aby has been reading this year, and recommends, an additional group of art books: What Artists Wear by Charlie Porter and How Art Can Be Thought by Allan deSouza; and Cy Twombly: The Sculpture by Hatje Kantz. 

Teresa Lanceta Weaving as Open Source by MACBA and Louise Bourgeois: The Woven Child by Hatje Kantz
Teresa Lanceta Weaving as Open Source by MACBA and Louise Bourgeois: The Woven Child by Hatje Kantz

Two of the recommended books reference weaving:  Teresa Lanceta Weaving as Open Source by MACBA and Louise Bourgeois: The Woven Child by Hatje Kantz, which documents that artist’s fiber works from the last two decades of her life.

The Story of Art Without Men by Katy Hessel
The Story of Art Without Men by Katy Hessel

Her last recommendation is a book that redresses an historic imbalance: The Story of Art Without Men by Katy Hessel which promises you will have “your sense of art history overturned and your eyes opened to many artforms often ignored or dismissed,” through 300 works of art from the Renaissance to the present day.

Chunghi Choo and Her Students: Contemporary Art and New Forms in Metal and Magdalena Abakanowicz, Writings and Conversations
Chunghi Choo and Her Students: Contemporary Art and New Forms in Metal and Magdalena Abakanowicz, Writings and Conversations

Just out this past fall, Chunghi Choo and Her Students: Contemporary Art and New Forms in Metal, a large-sized book of lush photographs of Choo’s work in fiber and metal, is recommended by Mary Merkel-Hess (and browngrotta arts). “Jane C. Milosch, the editor, has written a fascinating biography of Choo’s life from her childhood in South Korea through her study at Cranbrook, her teaching at the University of Iowa and her rise as a world-famous artist,” she writes. The book also includes short sections and photographs of work by 30 of her students, including Mary Merkel-Hess, Sun-Kyung Sun, Jocelyn Chateauvert and Sam Gassman. The students’ works show how techniques learnt in a metal program are impressively transferred to other fields of art.

Last, but certainly not least, Rachel Max calls out a “amazing” book: Magdalena Abakanowicz, Writings and Conversations, which she is reading after seeing the brilliant Abakanowicz show at the Tate in London. “It’s an incredible compendium of archival material and a fascinating insight into Abakanowicz’s creative mind,” Rachel says. “She talks of her necessity to create and of soft materials and weaving as something which enabled her to realize her ideas. She also talks of her pieces as compositions in space, of their scale and sense of movement and ours as we walk through her installations. Her Abakans, she says, are ‘shelters’, objects of protection, a second skin and even to some extent mobile homes, giant pockets of interior and exterior spaces. Hardly surprising given that Abakanowicz’s whole life was in her own words, ‘formed and deformed by wars and revolutions of various kinds’.  Art, she says, tells about reality because it springs from the reality from which it develops.” Rachel wishes to some extent that she’d started reading this book before visiting the exhibition, that artist’s “voice feels so present and strong and her words and thoughts so insightful.”

So many books, so little time!

Good gifting and great reading.