Monthly archives: December, 2023

Art Assembled – New This Week in December

Welcome to the December edition of our Art Assembled series, where we unwrap a month filled with vibrant creations from talented artists. December is a unique time of year, marked by its own kind of magic and reflection. And in December, we had the pleasure of showcasing the incredible works of Dominic Di Mare, Lizzie Farey, Karyl Sisson, and Gizella Warburton. Each artist has brought their unique perspective and creative energy to our New This Week series.

As we approach the year’s end, we want to extend our heartfelt gratitude to you, our loyal supporters and art enthusiasts. Your passion for art fuels our mission, and we’re excited to continue sharing the beauty and creativity of contemporary art with you.

Read on to discover what new art we showcased throughout December!

Dominic Di Mare
29ddm Mourning Station #4, Dominic Di Mare, hawthorn, handmade paper, silk, bone, bird’s egg, feathers, gold and wood beads, 13″ x 7″ x 7″, 1981. Photo by Tom Grotta.

Our month began with a spotlight on Dominic Di Mare‘s exceptional body of work. Di Mare, a distinguished American artist and craftsperson, has left an indelible mark on the world of contemporary art through his diverse array of creative expressions. His artistic voyage has been a testament to his pioneering spirit, always pushing the boundaries of what art can be.

Dominic first garnered acclaim for his groundbreaking work in dimensional weaving in the 1960s, a period when he carved a distinctive niche for himself in the art world. His ability to weave together intricate patterns and textures in three-dimensional space was nothing short of revolutionary. In the 1970s, Di Mare embarked on a new artistic journey, venturing into the realm of cast paper art. This phase saw him seamlessly blend elements of paper, sculpture, and mixed media into a mesmerizing

Over the years, Di Mare’s artistic journey continued to evolve, exploring watercolor paintings and abstract mixed-media sculpture. His art often touches on themes of personal spirituality, inviting viewers to embark on their own introspective journeys through his creations.

Lizzie Farey
3lf.1 Willow Ball 2 Lizzie Farey, willow 18” x 18” x 18”, 2000

Up next in December, we turned out spotlight to Lizzie Farey, a remarkable artist residing in from Scotland. Farey’s work is a testament to her deep connection with the natural world, drawing inspiration from the inherent qualities of the materials found in her Scottish surroundings.

Using locally grown woods such as willow, birch, heather, and bog myrtle, Farey’s creations encompass a wide range, from traditional to organic sculptural forms. Her innovative approach often pushes the boundaries of traditional techniques, resulting in pieces that are both rooted in tradition and remarkably contemporary.

Farey’s art invites viewers to reconnect with the profound pleasures of nature, transporting them to a universal place and time. Her creations are a harmonious fusion of the tangible and the ethereal, showcasing the boundless beauty found in the world around us.

Karyl Sisson
100ks Fissueres III, Karyl Sisson, vintage drinking straws, thread and polymer, 16.5” x 16.5” x 1.75”, 2019

We then turned our attention to Karyl Sisson, a visionary artist based in Los Angeles. Sisson’s work is a testament to her extraordinary ability to weave together the fibers of everyday life, seamlessly blending elements of the past and the present into sculptural and textured forms that transcend traditional boundaries.

Drawing inspiration from a diverse array of sources, including the landscape of Los Angeles, microbiology, and fashion manufacturing, Sisson’s art is a captivating exploration of patterns, repetition, and structure. These themes are at the heart of her work, and she approaches them dimensionally, building upon her foundation in basketry and needlework.

One can’t help but be captivated by Sisson’s innovative use of materials, a practice that allows her to confront domesticity and challenge traditional gender roles. Her recent foray into working with paper straws, inspired by the intricate world of cells and organisms, has resulted in creations that appear to grow naturally and organically, inviting viewers to marvel at the wonders of the microscopic world.

Gizella Warburton
32gw Scirpi Xiii, Gizella Warburton, mixed media fiber sculpture, paint , thread, 13.75″ x 13.75″ x 13.75″, 2023

Last, but certainly not least, we turned our focus to Gizella Warburton, an artist whose abstract compositions take shape through the tactile and contemplative process of drawing with paper, cloth, and thread. Warburton’s artistic journey is deeply intertwined with the materiality of her chosen mediums—cloth, paper, thread, wood, and paint. Through these elements, she connects with an innate human desire to create marks, to decipher the meaning of our physical and emotional landscapes, and to explore the transient nature of the warp and weft of our lives.

The slow, tactile intimacy of stitching serves as a mantra in Warburton’s work, inviting viewers to join her in a contemplative journey. Her creations evoke a sense of meditation, as if each mark and stitch were carefully placed to guide us through the intricate labyrinth of emotions and experiences.

Warburton’s artistry has been showcased in exhibitions across the UK, Europe, and Australia, leaving an indelible mark on the global art scene. Her work invites us to pause, reflect, and unravel the layers of meaning woven into the fabric of our existence.

As we bid farewell to December and this year, we look ahead with great anticipation for what the new year will bring. Thank you for being a part of our art-loving community. We wish you a joyful holiday season and a new year filled with inspiration, creativity, and the boundless beauty of contemporary art. Cheers to the exciting adventures that await us in the year ahead!

Books Make Great Gifts 2023, Part 2

Here, as promised, a second batch of book recommendations from artists and browngrotta arts:

The Real Work On the Mystery of Mastery-Adam Gopnik

Wendy Wahl (US), writes that “Most mornings I find my spouse reading a book. It was clear that The Real Work: On the Mystery of Mastery by Adam Gopnik was speaking to his inner being as a furniture maker and writer. With each chapter he would share a quote or passage followed by, ‘I think you’re going to like this one.’ When he gave me the book it contained many dog-eared pages. I started with those, wondering what needed to be revisited. From start to finish Adam Gopnik reveals his trials, failures, and triumphs while trying to become proficient at something unfamiliar like drawing, magic, driving, baking, boxing, and overcoming fears. Through these short stories, he invites us to look at our own “mystery of mastery” that he suggests we all possess in some grand or compact form. His humor and skill at storytelling give us a glimpse into his approach as a novelist and critic.”

The Wave - In Pursuit of The Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of The Ocean

This year Wahl also herself immersed in Susan Casey’s The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean (Anchor, 2011). which documents enormous waves and the surfers who travel the globe in search of them. “Reading about this takes me to a place where I can imagine the incredibly heightened sensation of being while knowing it could be my last breath. I’m not called to the water in that way. However, Casey has also given us Voices in the Ocean: A Journey into the Wild and Haunting World of Dolphins (Anchor, 2016). She reveals the light and dark characteristics of these amazing cetaceans and the conditions created by human interaction. I read this during an expansive experience of swimming with dolphins in the wild on their terms and learning to think like one.”

The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean

In exhibition catalog recommendations, Wahl had two. “There are two exhibitions that I was unable to attend but grateful that one had a catalog and the other a monograph. The first exhibition was Encyclopedism from Pliny to Borges at the University of Chicago Library (Encyclopedism from Pliny to Borges, University of Chicago Library, 1990). The exhibition included 77 volumes from the Library’s rare book collection highlighting the different forms of encyclopedias. I stumbled across this exhibition doing research as an artist who uses discarded encyclopedias in their work. Viewing it through the online and physical catalogs has given me another perspective on these books. The second was the exhibition Gego: Measuring Infinity at the Guggenheim, in New York this year (Gego: Measuring InfinityGuggenheim Museum Publications).  A dear friend sent me the monograph after a conversation we had about missed exhibitions. She said, ‘As someone who makes, makes, makes, you need to have this book. I was moderately familiar with Gego’s work and this publication presents the breadth of her talent as a sculptor, painter, and printmaker.'”  

Life with Picasso by Francoise Gilot and Carlton Lake

“Going back in time a bit,” writes Lizzie Farey (UK) “I am currently gripped by Life with Picasso by Francoise Gilot and Carlton Lake (Virago Press, Ltd, 1990). “This memoir,” the publisher writes, “is both a vivid portrait of a monstrously difficult man and a brilliant depiction of a great artist at work.” When Picasso met the young painter Francoise Gilot in a Parisian Cafe he was 62 and already acknowledged as the greatest artist of his century. During the next 10 years they were lovers, worked closely together and she became the mother of two of his children, Claude and Paloma.  In an account filled with intimate revelations about the man, his work, his thoughts, his friends – Matisse, Braque, Gertrude Stein and Giacometti amongst others – Francoise Gilot paints a compelling portrait of her turbulent life with the temperamental genius that was Pablo Picasso. 

Persepolis: the story of a childhood

Carolina Yrarrázaval (CH) has been reading Persepolis: the story of a childhood (Pantheon Classics, 2004) by Marlane Satrapi. A “wonderful book,” she says of Satrapi’s depiction of her childhood in Tehran through it’s revolution

Four Seasons in Rome, Cloud Cuckoo Land, All the Light We Cannot See, These Truths: A History of the United States,  If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler

“I did an enjoyable deep dive into Andrew Doerr this year,” Blair Tate (US) writes, “I  started with Four Seasons in Rome (Scribner, 2008), while visiting there, then Cloud Cuckoo Land (Scribner, 2022) (a previous year’s recommendation) and All the Light We Cannot See (Scribner, 2017). Tate also recommends: These Truths: A History of the United States by Jill Lepore (W.W. Norton & Co., 2019) and If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino (Vintage Paperback, 2023). 

Fabric: The Hidden History of the Material World

Fabric: The Hidden History of the Material World (Pegasus Books, 2022) by Victoria Finlay is highly recommended by Gizella Warburton (UK). “It is a moving and informative read.” 

I Paint What I Want to See, Barbara Riboud/Aberto Giacometti: Standing Women, Craft, edited by Tanya Harrod

Stéphanie Jacques (BE) has three books on her list. First, I Paint What I Want to See, Philip Guston (Penguin Classics, 2022) “Thank God for yellow ochre, cadmium red medium, and permanent green light,” says the author. One of the most significant artists of the 20th century, he speaks about art with candor and commitment. Second on Jacques’ list is an exhibition catalog, Barbara Riboud/Aberto Giacometti: Standing Women (FAGE, 2021). Riboud is a sculptor, who, like Giacometti, has focused on the human body. In this catalog, she describes her work and Giacometti’s influence. Finally, Jacques recommends, Craftedited by Tanya Harrod (MIT 2018), billed as “[a] secret history of craft told through lost and overlooked texts that illuminate our understanding of current art practice.”

Radical Fiber: Threads Connecting Art and Science

At browngrotta arts, we’re hoping to use some of the quieter days between Christmas and New Year’s to delve deeper into some of the compelling art books that we’ve picked up this year. Radical Fiber: Threads Connecting Art and Scienceedited by Rebecca McNamara (DelMonico Books/Tang, 2023) celebrates the overlap between art, science, interdisciplinary creativity, and collaborative learning. It features artists at work in these areas, including Lia Cook. And, it explores engaging questions, such as: Can crochet explain the complexities of non-Euclidean geometry? How does the 1804 Jacquard loom relate to modern computing? Why do we respond differently to a woven photograph than a printed one?

Woven Histories: Textiles and Modern Abstraction

Chosen as one of the year’s best art book by The New York Times, Woven Histories: Textiles and Modern Abstraction, edited by Lynne Cook (University of the Chicago Press, 2023) is high on our list and sold on our list. “The sheer variety of work produced by more than 50 artists chosen by the book’s editor, Lynne Cooke, will knock your socks off,” writes Holland Carter.”(Just wait till you see what’s happening in the field of basketry alone.)” The exhibition on which the book is based, will travel to several venues, including LACMA in Los Angeles, the National Gallery in DC and then MoMA in New York City. It includes many browngrotta arts’ favorites: Kay Sekimachi, Dorothy Gill Barnes, Ed Rossbach, Katherine Westphal, Lenore Tawney and Sheila Hicks.

Another book that accompanies an exhibition is Making Their Mark: Art by Women Artists from the Shah Karg Collection (eds. Katy Siegel and Mark Godfrey, Gregory R.Miller & Co. 2023). This book explores the extensive collection of work by women artists compiled by Komal Shah and Gaurav Garg. There are essays, artists’ commentary, and more than 250 pages of plates of work by diverse group of artists that includes Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, Olga de Amaral, Kay Sekimachi, Rosemarie Trockel, Trude Guermonprez, Jennifer Bartlett, and Faith Ringgold.

We are big fans of Weaving Modernist Art: The Life and Work of Mariette Rousseau-Vermette by Anne Newlands (Firefly Books, 2023), available on our website, and not just because you’ll find Tom Grotta’s photos in the book. Born into a large French-Canadian family in 1926, Mariette Rousseau embraced her passion for creative expression through wool and weaving at an early age. She studied art and weaving at l’École des beaux-arts in Quebec City and then worked at the California studio of ground-breaking American textile designer Dorothy Liebes. Back in Canada after an art-inspired trip to Europe, she and her husband, artist and ceramist Claude Vermette, joined the growing movement of young French-Canadian artists in their embrace of abstraction and new forms of art. The book covers her work in Canada and abroad, her collaborations with architects, involvement in the Lausanne Biennial of International Tapestry and leadership of the fiber program at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity.

Vogue Magazine called Helen Molesworth, the Art World’s Most Beloved Provocateur.” The former curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (from which she was fired) she is also an art historian, a writer, a curator, a critic, and a podcaster. Her latest book, Open Questions: Thirty Years of Writing about Art (Phaidon 2023), includes 30 years’ of essays on artists as diverse as Ruth Asawa and Marcel Duchamp. 

Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933–1957

We’ve got a copy of Molesworth’s Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933–1957 (Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, 2015) to crack. A major incubator of midcentury American art, Black Mountain College in North Carolina was founded in 1933, as an experiment in making artistic experience central to learning. In just 24 years, this pioneering school played a significant role in fostering avant-garde art, music, dance, and poetry. An astonishing number of important artists taught or studied there. Among the instructors were Josef and Anni Albers, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Buckminster Fuller, Karen Karnes, M. C. Richards, and Willem de Kooning, and students included Ruth Asawa, Robert Rauschenberg, and Cy Twombly. The publisher says the book takes “a fresh approach” to convey the atmosphere of creativity and experimentation that was unique to Black Mountain, and served as an inspiration to so many.

We can’t wait … Happy Reading!

Books Make Great Gifts 2023, Part 1

This year we have a rash of suggestions for books, from artists and from browngrotta. It’s such a bumper crop that this post will be the first of two. In no particular order here are reviews and recommendations:

Gyöngy Laky(US) recommends a tiny book about a big idea: Poetry as Insurgent Art (New Directions, 2007) by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. In the early 2000s, Laky joined the Board of the non-profit, North Beach Citizens (NBC) in her neighborhood in San Francisco, addressing the needs of our homeless and low-income citizens.  “Founded by Francis Ford Coppola,” she writes, “he invited his friend, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, to join him – both having been longtime residents and businessmen in North Beach.  The 4” x 6.3” book I am writing about is by Ferlinghetti, poet, painter, art critic, activist, and co-founder of the famed City Lights Book Sellers and Publishers.  I got to know him a little in the years I was on the Board.  He was a lively participant in NBC’s spring Galas sometimes contributing a stirring and inspiring poem.

City Lights Booksellers & Publishers, San Francisco, Photographed by user Coolcaesar on August 6, 2023

“I began to read his modest, little book and heard his, now-silent, voice echoing in my head.  I found every line as if written directly to me, entreating me to greater boldness in my art even though his words were meant for poets.  I am not a poet though I often have said that I want my artwork to create a conversation with the viewer.  My sculptures, more and more over the years, led me to express my responses to the issues I find in the world around me. I sometimes refer to myself as an artist participant, an artist activist, a feminist, an environmentalist and, lately, even, an anti-militarist.  The translation for me as I read, became ‘Art as Insurgent Art’ urging and inspiring me to greater activism through the artworks I create. I found 15 examples in just the first 13 pages particularly and personally poignant!” Here are a few of them:

Be subversive, constantly questioning reality, and the status quo.

If you would be a poet [artist], discover a new way for mortals to inhabit the Earth.

Through art, create order out of the chaos of living.

Reinvent, America and the world.

Climb the Statue of Liberty.*

“Thank you, Ferlinghetti,” Laky writes, “for persuading me to never flinch, shrink or wince when an idea appears unexpectedly in my studio.”

* As a 5-year-old refugee arriving in New York Harbor I did dream of climbing the Statue of Liberty!

Patchwork: A Life Amongst Clothes by Claire Wilcox

Jo Barker( UK) recommends “a beautiful, sensitive, thought-provoking book,” Patch Work: A life amongst clothes by Claire Wilcox. Wilcox is the senior curator of fashion at the V&A Museum in London. Her book won the 2021 Pen Ackerley Prize. In Patch Work,” the publisher writes, “Wilcox deftly stitches together her dedicated study of fashion with the story of her own life lived in and through clothes. From her mother’s black wedding suit to the swirling patterns of her own silk kimono, her memoir unfolds in luminous prose the spellbinding power of the things we wear: their stories, their secrets, their power to transform and disguise and acts as portals to our pasts; the ways in which they measure out our lives, our gains and losses, and the ways we use them to write our stories.” Author Laura Cumming wrote that she was overwhelmed by this book: “It is an absolute masterpiece. A book of such beauty and profundity, of such poetry in its emotion and observation … I found my sense of life transformed by her writing as I often find it transformed after the exhibition of a great artist.”

The Sculpture of Ruth Asawa contours in the air

Like Laky, another Californian, who is always a thoughtful contributor to our annual book review post, is Nancy Moore Bess (US). She recommends The Sculptures of Ruth Asawa – contours in the air (Daniel Cornell, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and University of California Press,

2007; the University of California has released an expanded edition, The Sculpture of Ruth Asawa, Second Edition: Contours in the Air, Paperback, 2020 by Timothy Anglin Burgard (Editor), Daniel Cornell (Editor)). “I’ve recently begun rereading this (I reread a lot, including favorite mysteries),” says Bess, “using Asawa’s New York Times obituary notice as a bookmark. Yesterday, I finished the third Zoom presentation from the Whitney Museum, inspired by its current exhibition devoted to her works on paper. (I hope one of your artists adds that catalogue to your list.) In rereading this book, I no longer focused entirely on her amazing wire work but moved more widely into all of her art. It’s a big book. I’ll be busy for awhile, but I’m in no hurry.”

Bess writes that “When we lived in San Francisco, not so long ago, it was clear how beloved Asana is – present tense! She continues to be an integral, enriching part of the city. Her continued presence reminded me of how people in Honolulu respected/revered/honored Toshiko Takaezu when we lived there a long time ago. These creative women continue to have impact on us. And I am immensely grateful. Ruth cooked, carved, gardened, bent wire, designed installations, molded masks from friends, mothered, loved and drew, drew, drew. 

See if you can find a copy of this amazing book,” Bess says. “It will so much be worth the effort.” 

From Germany, Heidrun Schimmel (DE) also recommends an exhibition catalog

Inside other spaces. Environments by Women Artists 1956-1976 (the exhibition is at Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany through March 10, 2024). Many of the pioneers in environmental art were women, but their works were often ephemeral, destroyed once a show was over. The exhibition highlights women’s fundamental contributions to the history of environments and presents the work of 11 women artists across three generations from Asia, Europe as well as North and South America: Judy Chicago, Lygia Clark, Laura Grisi, Alexsanda Kasuba, Lea Lublin, Marta Minujin, Tania Mouraud, Martia Nordman, Nanda Vogo, Faith Wilding, Tsuruko Yamazaki. The curators have painstakingly recreated some of these artists’ works that were destroyed after being exhibited, bringing these artists back into the spotlight.

Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life

Polly Sutton (US) shared a favorite book of hers with us, Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life by Héctor Garćia and Francesc Miralles (Penguin, 2017).  

Caste The Origins of our Discontents

We have an update on a previous recommendation from Gyöngy Laky and Jim Bassler, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontentby Isabel Wilkerson (Random House, 2020): Caste has been made into a film by noted director Ava DuVernay. In the film, titled Origin, writer Isabel Wilkerson, grappling with tremendous personal tragedy, sets herself on a path of global investigation and discovery as she writes the book, Caste. Caste is also serving as inspiration for Jim Bassler’s work. “For months,” he writes, “I have been working out ideas mentioned in the book.  I am finally getting around to putting it together. It includes another flag hanging on a very dark brown background with suggestions of African mud cloth.”

More book notes to come in Part 2!

Presents With Presence – an artful gift guide

Jin-Sook So gold boxes
54jss Black 15 Boxes, Jin-Sook So, steel mesh, electroplated gold, gold leaf, painted acrylic and patinated thread, 43″ × 65″ × 3″, 2016. Photo by Tom Grotta.

Out of ideas for the ideal gift for a cherished friend or family member? Consider a work of art. It will make an indelible impression. In its Guide to Giving Art as a notes “Even for the person who has everything, a piece of artwork makes an amazing gift. It shows forethought, effort and a flair for gift giving. Art is a wonderful gift for any occasion, whether it is for Christmas or Hanukkah, a baby shower, a wedding or thank you gift.” 

Glass Hand by Dorothy Gill Barnes
83dgb In Hand, Dorothy Gill Barnes, cherry wood, cast glass (glass by Ohio State University department of art students), 7” x 7” x 3.5”, 2000s-2010s. Photo by Tom Grotta
Small Bamboo Vase
104jy Black Laybug, Jiro Yonezawa, bamboo, glass, kiribako box, 6.5″ x 4.75″ x 5″, 2021 (Box 7.25″ x 5.5″ x 5.5″). Photo by Tom Grotta
Small woven silk Glen Kaufman weaving
040gk Kyoto Kawara IV, Glen Kaufman, yarn-dyed woven silk, copper leaf, 15″ x 14″ x 2.5″, 1995. Photo by Tom Grotta.

The benefits of viewing art are well documented — looking at art stimulates the brain and puts our innate knack for organizing patterns and making sense of shapes to use. In addition, viewing art boosts our mood. Looking at a painting, sculpture, or other artwork increases blood flow to the brain by as much as 10% — the equivalent of looking at someone you love. Choosing an art gift is an effective way to say, “Your well-being matters to me.”

small Sue Lawty weaving
30sl Tacitum II, Sue Lawty, hemp and linen on cotton warp, 11.75” x 8.5” x 1″, 2022. Photo by Tom Grotta.

Here are some suggestions for one-of-kind items that may be just what you are looking for.

Jennifer Falck Linssen hand carved paper sculpture
9jl Arezzo, Jennifer Falck Linssen, Katagami-style handcarved archival cotton paper, aluminum, waxed linen, paint, and varnish, 6.5″ x 30″ x 9″, 2011. Photo by Tom Grotta.

Some come with their own boxes. We can wrap your gift if you order it this week.

Hideho Tanaka collage drawing
31ht Emerging 008, Hideho Tanaka, Japanese carbon ink drawing, inkjet print, collage cotton cloth, Japanese tissue paper, 14.5” x 18.325” x 1.25,” 2016. Photo by Tom Grotta.