Monthly archives: July, 2023

More Art Out and About — exhibitions in the US and abroad

It’s busy summer for fans of fiber art. We have more must-see exhibitions to bring to your attention, from the long-awaited (at least by us!)  A Dark, A Light, A Bright: The Designs of Dorothy Liebes  in New York to Beauty and The Unexpected in Stockholm, Sweden and some additional images from Denver, Riga and Portneuf.

Mariette Rousseau-Vermette
634mr Hommage á Dorothy Liebes, 1948-49 I, Mariette Rousseau-Vermette, silk leather, aluminum, fluorescent tubing (some materials obtained from Dorothy Liebes) , 54″ x 15″ x 15″, 2001. Photo by Tom Grotta.

New York, NY
A Dark, A Light, A Bright: The Designs of Dorothy Liebes
through February 4, 2024
Cooper Hewitt
2 East 91st Street
New York, NY 10128

From the 1930s through the 1960s, American textile designer, weaver, and color authority Dorothy Liebes (1897–1972) collaborated with some of the most prominent architects and designers of the time, including Frank Lloyd Wright, Henry Dreyfuss, Donald Deskey, Raymond Loewy, and Samuel Marx. Fashion designers, including Pauline Trigère, Adrian, and Bonnie Cashin, also used her fabrics, yielding some of the most distinctively American fashions of the mid-20th century. Artist Glen Kaufman and Mariette Rousseau-Vermette worked in her studios in New York and San Francisco. The “Liebes Look”—which combined vivid color, lush texture, and often a glint of metallic—became inextricably linked with the American modern aesthetic. This exhibition features more than 175 works—including textiles, textile samples, fashion, furniture, documents, and photographs — to highlight the powerful — but largely unacknowledged impact she has had on 20th-century design. 

Tawney, Laky, Knauss, Seelig details
clockwise: Lenore Tawney, Ioannes Fridericus, 1983, Collage, 8″ x 12.5,”, Photo by Inlån Dru
Gyongy Laky, Incident, natural, commercial wood, paint, bullets for building, 50″ x 50″ x 4.5″, 2012. Photo by Tom Grotta
Warren Seelig, Stone Carpet/ Shadowfield, 2005. Photo by Inlån Dru. Lewis Knauss, Tinder Dry Year: 2010, woven, knotted linen, hemp, paper twine, bamboo, 25″ x 25″ x 8.5″, 2010. Photo by Inlån Dru. 

Stockholm, Sweden
Beauty in the Unexpected: Modern and Contemporary Crafts
through January 21, 2024
Södra Blasieholmshamnen 2
Stockholm, Sweden

Nationalmuseum has invited Helen W. Drutt English, pioneering craft educator and gallerist of American Modern and Contemporary Crafts since the 1960s, to assemble a collection of objects drawn from the field of “American Crafts”. The selection of 81 works from the 1950s until today will in future enrich Nationalmuseum’s collections and will provide a possibility to look at American Crafts in the Nordic context. Fiber artists have a good representation – Lenore Tawney,Lewis KnaussWarren SeeligGyöngy Laky, Yvonne Bobroowicz, Deborah Rappoport, Nancy Worden, Rise Nagin, and Ted Hallman are all included in the collection.

Washington, DC
Shared Honors and Burdens: Renwick Invitational
through March 31, 2024
Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum
1661 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC

The Renwick Invitational 2023 features artists Joe Feddersen (Arrow Lakes/Okanagan), Lily Hope (Tlingit), Ursala Hudson (Tlingit), Erica Lord (Athabaskan/Iñupiat), Geo Neptune (Passamaquoddy), and Maggie Thompson (Fond du Lac Ojibwe). Together, these artists present a fresh and nuanced vision of Native American art. The artists were selected for their work that expresses the honors and burdens that Native artists balance as they carry forward their cultural traditions. These artists highlight principles of respect, reciprocity, and responsibility through their work that addresses themes of environmentalism, displacement, and cultural connectedness.

Blair Tate
Work by Baiba Osite, Exodus, Riga, Latvia. Photo by Irina Versalyeva.

Riga, Latvia
Exodus: Baiba Osite
7th Riga International Textile and Fiber Art Triennial
through September 19, 2023
Dubulti Art Station
Riga, Latvia

Baiba Osīte‘s wide-scope solo exhibition Exodus is part of the 7th Riga International Textile and Fiber Art Triennial QUO VADIS? The curator, Inga Šteimane, writes about Osite’s “paintings” made of pieces of wood washed out of the sea – “both landscape and abstract in conjunction, as well as archaic and modern ecological. The personal exhibition Exodus was created in a similar synthesis – the historical and the philosophically abstract are together, just like the experienced, felt and imagined.” For the artist, exodus [leaving] is a biblical theme that tells the story of the people of Israel coming out of slavery in Egypt, passing through the sea, escaping their persecutors and gaining their land and freedom. Osite says she has always been interested in this topic from the perspective of an individual’s life, but currently it is particularly relevant to the fate of one nation and humanity globally.” She sees parallels with what’s happening in Ukraine right now. “[T]hey’re fighting for their freedom,” she notes, “for their independence, for their respect among other nations. They’re just fighting it out in a very hard fight. And I think it doesn’t leave anyone indifferent.”

Gizella K Warburton installation
Works by Gizella K Warburton at the Natural (Re)Sources exhibition in Wales. Photo by the artist.

Denbighshire, UK
Natural (Re)Sources
through September 24, 2023
Ruthin Gallery
Gallery 1
Denbighshire, UK
through September 24, 2023

Natural (Re)Sources looks at the origin of an artist’s chosen materials. This doesn’t mean that the finished work looks as if it has just been collected from a forest floor, or dug from the ground without intervention, but rather that the material basis for work that is “of the earth” in various forms. The exhibition is curated by Gregory Parsons and includes work by Laura Bacon and  Gizella K Warburton.

Karen Hassinger sculpture
installation by Maren Hassinger. Photos courtesy of LongHouse Reserve.

East Hampton NY
Maren Hassinger: Monuments
through December 31, 2023
LongHouse Reserve
133 Hands Creek Road
East Hampton NY 
Artist: Maren Hassinger

A native of Los Angeles, Maren Hassinger (b.1947) is a multimedia artist whose practice bridges fiber arts, installation, performance, and sculpture. Incorporating everyday materials such as wire, rope, newspapers, plastic bags, petals, and dirt, Hassinger’s art explores the subjects of movement, family, love, nature, the environment, consumerism, identity, and race.

East Hampton NY
A Summer Arrangement: Object & Thing
weekends through December 31, 2023
LongHouse Reserve
133 Hands Creek Road
East Hampton NY
Exhibition: A Summer Arrangement

While you are at LongHouse, visit A Summer Arrangement: Object & Thing at LongHouse features works by several artists and designers, including works from the collection of LongHouse founder Jack Lenor Larsen (1927-2020).

Stéphanie Jacques sculpture
Works by Stéphanie Jacques at the Biennial du Lin in Quebec. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Quebec, Canada
International Linen Biennial in Portneuf (BILP)
through October 1, 2023
Heritage sites throughout Deschambault-Grondines 
Quebec, Canada

Anneke Klein (the Netherlands) Blair Tate (United States of America) Stéphanie Jacques (Belgium), Carole Frève (Québec) are all participants in the international Biennial of Linen in Portneuf, Canada now on view. The BILP is a cultural event showcasing works of professional artists exploring new ideas inspired by linen and flax, covering both technical and conceptual aspects. The subject of flax and linen is addressed through themes as varied as contemporary visual arts, crafts and design. The event takes place in different heritage sites of Deschambault-Grondines every odd year, since 2005.

indigo installation
Photos: Denver Botanic Gardens © Scott Dressel-Martin.

Denver, Colorado
Denver Botanic Garden
York Street Location
Denver, Colorado
through November 5, 2023

Open now, the Indigo exhibition at the Denver Botanic Garden features work by Polly BartonEduardo Portillo and Mariá DávilaChiyoko TanakaHiroyuki Shindo, and Yeonsoon Chang, as well as other artists from across the globe. 

Kyoko Kumai sculpture
Memory by Kyoko Kumai in the Toshiba Gallery at the Victoria & Albert Gallery in London. Phots courtesy of the artist.

London, UK
Japanese Contemporary Craft
Victoria & Albert Museum
Japan, Room 45, The Toshiba Gallery
Cromwell Road
London SW7 2RL
through July 2025

The V&A’s spectacular Japan collections feature ceramics, lacquer, arms and armour, woodwork, metalwork, textiles and dress, prints, paintings, sculpture and modern and contemporary studio crafts. Currently on display, Memory by Kyoko Kumai.


Artist Focus: Judy Mulford

The late Judy Mulford was an artist known for her deeply personal and autobiographical approach to the creative process. This is reflected in her artwork, which serves as a testament to her life experiences, and the love she had for family. Mulford’s studio was located in Carpinteria, California, and acted as somewhat of a museum. The space was decorated with artifacts, baskets, and dolls from all over the world, which greatly influenced her artistic journey. Her artwork is a reflection of the unique storytelling ability that she possessed, manifested through a combination of various mediums and techniques and influenced by African and New Guinean artists.

31jm Bird Memory Chair, Judy Mulford, mixed media, 18″ x 9″ x 9″, 2016. Photos by Tom Grotta

Mulford’s compulsion to create was deeply rooted in her identity, as she explained, “I have to create. I cannot not create.” For her, art was a force that completed her being, and kept her calm and centered. She considered her art to be an autobiographical scrapbook, celebrating the essence of family, which she cited as the primary influence in her life. This influence was clearly visible in her studio space, which was adorned with pictures of her loved ones, serving as a constant inspiration for her work. “My work is personal, graphic, and narrative. Each piece I create becomes a container of conscious and unconscious thoughts and feelings, one that references my female ancestral beginnings.”

Mulford’s work was initially informed by her studies of the basketmaking culture of Micronesia, particularly on the islands of Truk and Ulithi. She was the author of Decorative Marshallese Baskets (1991) and other books about Micronesian material culture. Her array of artifacts, baskets, and dolls, displayed the cultural diversity that impacted her perspective as an artist. Her collection of over 200 dolls also served as a reflection of her emotional connection to motherhood and grandmotherhood. For Mulford, each doll carried its own story, and represented a “rescue” from being forgotten.

32jm Simple Abundances, Judy Mulford, gourd, waxed linen, photo transfers, antique buttons, hematite beads, beads, fine silver, polymer, 9” x 13” x 13”, 1998. Photo by Tom Grotta (Text: gratitude, simplicity, order, harmony, beauty, peace, balance, serenity, contentment, joy)

Mulford created natural material basketry, including pine needle baskets, in the 1970s. From there, her artistic practice evolved, and she expanded her repertoire to include clay, script, animals, and people. Eventually, Mulford settled on knotless netting (looping) as her signature technique, which she described as an obsession that pushed her passion to create even further. 

Dinner Party
The Dinner Party Acknowledgement Panel, The Brooklyn Museum of Art

Mulford embedded meaningful content in her pieces with each element. She was active in California in the years that feminist art was on the rise. Mulford was one of a group of women to work on Judy Chicago’s seminal work, The Dinner Party, in the 70s. Several of Mulford’s works offer an explicit take on women’s rights and family issues. In Help, Mulford included bullet casings, to make a statement about the plight of mothers in war zones. In Plan Your Parenthood/Overpopulation she referenced the old woman in the shoe to reflect her concerns about population and choice. Beaded babies burst from every room and even the roof of the tall thin house she built and embellished with wooden dollhouse chairs, a knitting needle and a rock. “I have one choice and it is pro-choice,” she said.

Another significant influence on Mulford’s artwork was her location on the California Coast. Living in a rustic beachside cottage in Carpinteria, the ocean and coastal surroundings inspired many of the materials visible in her work. The connection between her artwork and the environment is apparent in the themes of much of her work, including her mixed media piece, Aging By the Sea. Made up of materials such as shells, waxed linen, silver, beads, pearls, sand, and more, this captivating piece reflects the very environment it was created in.

Judy Mulford By the Sea
22jm Aging By the Sea, shell, waxed linen, waxed linen, silver, beads, pearls, silver spoon, sand, plexiglas
11 x 11 x 10 in, 2004. Photos by Tom Grotta

In her later years, her focus shifted to chairs as containers for people, covered in looping, and accompanied by dolls, artifacts, and buttons. She saw chairs as containers for people at meals, work, celebrations, for visiting, or just reading. These chairs celebrated lost loved ones, while simultaneously allowing viewers to reflect on their own stories and memories. Bird Memory Chair, for example, evokes the memory of a loved one who has passed on. It includes a handwritten journal with notes on the piece and process, as Mulford’s works often do. In this case, the journal is left blank in part, so the person who acquires the work can add notes of his or her own. In celebration of her 80th birthday, Mulford completed 80 Empty Chairs, accompanied by a book about them.

Judy Mulford exhibited widely, including at the Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum of Arts and Design, New York, the Mint Museum of Craft + Design, Charlotte, North Carolina, the Textile Museum, in Washington, D.C. and abroad, including the 12th International Biennial of Tapestry in Szombathely, Hungary.  Much of her work was housed in her studio, a private space that she shared with few people. She viewed this space as a sanctuary where she could immerse herself in her creative process. Her artwork is best described as a visual narration of her life experiences, inviting viewers to connect with her stories and relate them to their own. Mulford hoped that others would find resonance through her art and come away with their own narratives.

Mulford is one of the artists that will be included in browngrotta arts’ 2023 Art in the Barn exhibition, Vignettes: one venue, three exhibitions, October 6 – 15, 2023.

by Michael Propersi

Dispatches: The Bruce Museum, Greenwich, CT

Bruce Museum
The Bruce Museum. Photo by Tom Grotta

We had a chance to visit the newly expanded Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT last month. The art galleries are well sized and provided intimate views of several interesting exhibitions. We were initially taken by the intricate Plexus installation by Gabriel Dawe, in which thousands of multicolored sewing threads are harnessed to create the full color spectrum of light. Each of the artist’s installations is meticulously constructed: individual strands of thread are interwoven through a series of hooks to create a unified network—or plexus. 

Elie Nadelman Thread Installation
Gabriel Dawes, Plexus installation. Photo by Tom Grotta

There are several exhibitions installed at the Museum which run through September or October including Material Matters: The Sculpture of Elie Nadelman (through September 24, 2023); The William L. Richter Collection (through April 21, 2024) and; Collection Installation: Connecticut Impressionism (through June 30, 2024). 

We most appreciated the dynamic Collection Installation: American Modernism (through October 15, 2023) and the eye-opening Then Is Now: Contemporary Black Art in America (through October 15, 2023).

Alexander Calder installation
Alexander Calder installation. Photo by Tom Grotta

American Modernism showcases varying artistic approaches including those of Alexander Calder, Suzy Frelinghuysen, George L.K. Morris, Theodore Roszak, Edward Hopper and Andrew Wyeth. The exhibition tells a broader story about the development of abstraction in the United States in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, concurrent trends in figuration and themes pertaining to the alienation of modern life.

Bette Saar The Weight of Color
Betye Saar’s assemblage, The Weight of Color; in the background Emma Amos, The Mississippi Wagon, 1937, 2020. Photo by Tom Grotta

A selection of exciting works, made between 1968 and 2021, comprises Then Is Now: Contemporary Black Art in America. The exhibition explores how black artists of our time critically engage with the past and present. Betye Saar’s The Weight of Color (2007), for example, grapples with the complex relationship between racial violence and visual and material culture. In the multi-media sculpture, each element — a rusted antique scale, a stuffed crow awkwardly placed in a cage too small for its body, and a mammy figure — is a metaphor. The crow references Jim Crow laws that enforced racial hierarchy in the US South during the early 20th century, while the mammy figurine is an example of racist memorabilia envisioning African Americans content in their subservient societal roles. Here, the Museum label notes, “the artist’s totemic assemblage considers not only the burdensome weight of racism but also its refusal to be contained.”

Kehinde Wiley The Gypsy Fortune-Teller
Kehinde Wiley, The Gypsy Fortune-Teller. Photo by Tom Grotta

In The Gypsy Fortune-Teller (2007), Kehinde Wiley (American b. 1977) upends tradition, by rendering contemporary in a formal tapestry.

The Museum’s labels state that, “Wiley is perhaps best known for reimagining Old Master portraits by replacing their original European subjects with images or contemporary people of color. Wiley based this work on a tapestry by Francois Boucher, one of a series depicting aristocratic subjects posed in idyllic, pastoral environments. Wiley updates Boucher’s version to include five black men, a radical gesture that that interrogates both representations of black masculinity and the exclusion of black figures from art history … These works exemplify an ongoing effort among artists to encourage a more expansive and inclusive artist art history.”

The Museum has a cafe and a store, too. It’s well worth a visit! 

Process Notes (Part II) Eduardo Portillo and Maria Dávila

Below, the second installment of Eduardo Portillo’s and Maria Dávila’s textile travels. In this post, they share their inspirations and plans for future work, in which they will continue to combine colors and textures “to conceive moments in which everything is possible, that moment capable of creating imagined worlds and impossible journeys.” At the end of Part I, the artists were creating works that reflected the hours of the day — from sunrise to dusk, night and dawn — and exploring their interest in the intensity of blue depending on the light at various times. Here, in additional remarks adapted from their European Textile Network Conference presentation in March, they speak of more experiments.

bronze sculpture
Detail: 6pd Venus, Eduardo Portillo and Maria Dávila, bronze, 39” x 6.75” x 5”, 2014. Photo by Tom Grotta

“We began to experiment in a bronze foundry to imagine the passage of time in our textiles — how these would look like many years in the future or as archaeological remains. We experimented with the textiles to recreate shapes, folds and wrinkles. We used textiles to prepare molds for bronze cast. We also explored the patina process in cooper ribbons to mix them with metallic threads and we have woven stainless steel using silk and moriche palm fiber as support.

Map of Portillos Mountain travels
Eduardo Portillo and Maria Dávila, observations for their mountain travels, 2014. Photo curtesy of Eduardo Portillo and Maria Dávila

At a certain moment, due to the growing political conflict in our country, we sought refuge in the mountains and began to travel to places further and further away from our home but still within our region. We visited many remote places with rugged landscapes, places where people continue to live resiliently, understanding the geographic and cultural space in which they live. We tried to see carefully and looked for moments of harmony in mountaineer communities that meet for a common purpose, beyond their differences, especially during the traditional festivals.

White Dwarf
Detail of 20pd White Dwarf, Eduardo-Portillo-&-Mariá-Eugenia-Dávila, silk, moriche fiber, alpaca , metallic yarns and completely dyed with Indigo and other natural dyes, 72″ x 48″, 2016. Permanent collection of the The Art Institute of Chicago. Photo by Tom Grotta

During one of those trips, looking for meanings, we found a very long line in the mountains, like a human drawing on the topography and we wondered what could be this? These are called pit fences. This fantastic and laborious idea of ​​using the void as a border surprised us. The pit fences are made up of hundreds of consecutive deep holes measuring 1m x 2m x 1m, they divide spaces and prevent cattle from falling off cliffs. We were impressed by the capacity of these people to give solutions to a problem in a place where no stones or wood was available.

Detail of Océano Cósmico
Detail: 22pd Océano Cósmico, Eduardo Portillo & Mariá Eugenia Dávila, silk, cotton, alpaca, indigo and copper leaf, 59” x 31”, 2022. Photo by Tom Grotta

We got excited about the idea and hope of going through these pits like portals and reaching the universe to find imaginary celestial bodies that exist in the interstellar space like cosmic dust and gases  which we have tried to weave and developed Nebulae, White Dwarfs, Stellar Remnants, Moon Codes and Cosmic Oceans, built by spaces of colors and textures to conceive moments in which everything is possible, that moment capable to create imagined worlds and impossible journeys.

Naked Mountains
Naked Mountains at the Southern Town of Mérida, Venezuela. Photo curtesy of Eduardo Portillo and Maria Dávila

On another trip to the highland communities, that are about 3000 meters above sea level, we found imagined evidences of giant’s existence in the Venezuelan Andes, a new trace for reflection and work in the future.

We continue working, traveling and interacting with the people that surround us. Our world is here, in these mountains, in small spaces, they are safe territories which help us to create, to build deep interconnections with life, family, friends and nature giving us the guidelines to follow in the midst of turbulence and changes.”