Category: Art

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.


The Human Figure in Abstract

The human figure in art is the most direct means by which art can address the human condition, says The Roland Collection of films on art, architecture and authors. “In early societies its significance was supernatural, a rendering of gods or spirits in human form. Later, in the Renaissance, although Christianity provided the dominant social belief system, Western art’s obsession with the figure reflected an increasingly humanist outlook, with humankind at the center of the universe. The distortions of Modernist art, meanwhile, may be interpreted as reflecting human alienation, isolation and anguish.” 

Dawn MacNutt, Testimony 1 & 2, woven willow 51” x 24” x 24”, 1980s 42” x 22” x 22”, 1980s. Photo by Tom Grotta

Among the artists represented in the browngrotta arts’ collection are several who recreate the human figure in three-dimensions with provocative results. Dawn MacNutt of Canada is known for her nearly life-size figures of willow and seagrass. The sculpture and architecture of ancient Greece has been a major influence on her vision. “I first experienced pre-classical Greek sculpture in the hallways of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York as a teenager in the 1950s.” she says. “When I visited Greece 40 years later, the marble human forms resonated even more strongly.  The posture and attitude of ancient Greek sculpture reflects forms as fresh and iconic as today… sometimes formal … sometimes relaxed. Her works, like Praise North and Praise South, reflect the marble human forms, columns, caryatids …  sometimes truncated… found outdoors as well as in museums in Greece. They were inspired by two study and work trips to Greece just before and after the millennium, 1995 and 2000.

Stéphanie Jacques sculpture installation
Stéphanie Jacques sculpture installation. Photo by Tom Grotta

Figures created by Stéphanie Jacques of Belgium are clearly humanoid, but less literal. “For a long time I have been trying to create a figure that stands upright,” Jacques explain. “…all of this is related to the questions I ask myself about femininity and sexual identity. My driving forces are the emotions, the wants and the impossibilities that are particular to me. Once all this comes out, I seek to make it resonate in others. My work is not a lament, but a place where I can transform things to go on.”

Lead Relief, Mary Giles
Detail: Lead Relief, Mary Giles, lead, iron, wood, 23.75” x 56 .75” x 2”, 2011. Photo by Tom Grotta

As Artsy has chronicled, drawn, painted, and sculpted images of human beings can be found in Han Dynasty tombs in China, in Mayan art, and even in the nearly 30,000-year-old wall drawings of the Chauvet Caves in southern France. In incorporating the figure into her work, Mary Giles responded to the graphic power of the male image in early art, such as the petroglyphs of the Southwest, aerial views of prehistoric land art, and the rudimentary figures of Native American baskets. She used similar representations of men on her baskets. Her husband, architect, Jim Harris, told the Racine Art Museum, “Sometimes they were made with the bodies of the men created as part of the coiling process but with the arms and legs added as three-dimensional elements, Some baskets were supported by the legs of the figures. Later, this idea evolved into totems with coiled bodies, the legs as part of a supporting armature, and the arms as free elements. She made over 50 totems! They were small and large, singular and in pairs. They were embellished with everything from puka shells gathered at the beach, to all sorts of metal elements both found and individually made by Mary.”

In 2007, Giles made a piece with individual male figures made of wrapped wire placed directly into the wall. It was composed of hundreds of torched copper wire men arranged outwardly from dense to sparse. She continued this work by placing the figures onto panels. These dealt with Giles’ concerns about population. “They are not baskets,” she explained , “but the men they incorporate have been on my vessels for nearly 30 years. I am still working with these ideas of overpopulation, density and boundaries,” she said in 2013 in her remarks on being awarded the Master of the Medium Award for Fiber from the James Renwick Alliance.

Its a Small World Isn't it?, Judy Mulford
Detail: Its a Small World Isn’t it?, Judy Mulford gourd, waxed linen, fine silver, antique buttons, Japanese coins, beads and antique necklace from Kyoto flea market, pearls from Komodo Island, photo transfers, pounded tin can lids, Peruvian beads, paper, dye, paint; knotting and looping 13″ x 13″ x 16.5″, 2003. Photo by Tom Grotta

Where Mary Giles featured male figures in her works, Judy Mulford’s figures were nearly always women — mothers, sisters, daughters. “My work is autobiographical, personal, graphic and narrative,” she said. “And always, a feeling of being in touch with my female ancestral beginnings.

John McQueen Man with dress willow sculpture
43jm Guise, John McQueen, willow, 48″ x 18″ x 18″

The humans that John McQueen creates of bark often answer questions. McQueen received a Gold Medal from the American Craft Council this year. He has “revolutionized the conventional definition of a basket by raising issues of containment and isolation, security and control, and connections between humans and nature through his work” in the view of the Council, “creating highly original forms.” In Centered, that connection is front and center as a figure emerges from leaves. In Guise, a male figure wears a skirt to help his balance, the artist says. Tilting at Windmills, speaks for itself — a human figure tips sidewise on one leg — holding its own for the moment, but capable of toppling over at any time.

 

Norma Minkowitz Collected
Collected by Norma Minkowitz, mixed media, fiber, wire, shell, paint and resin, 2004. Photo by Tom Grotta

Norma Minkowitz also began her explorations with vessels, sculptural and crocheted, adding depictions of human figures later in her career. “As I exhausted the possibilities of the many enclosed vessel forms that I had created,” Minkowitz told Zone Arts, “I turned to my interest in the human form.  My earliest drawings in pen and ink were always about the human form as well as the human condition. I now returned to the idea of using the figure in my sculptures which was a difficult transition to create –making them transparent and at the same time structured. These where at once much larger and more complicated than the vessel forms. These veiled figurative sculptures were mostly created in the 1990s to the mid- 2000’s. I have also created multi-figure sculptures that illustrate the passage of time and other kinds of transitions, I call these installations sequential as I often use several juxtaposed and related figures together.”

Magdalena Abakanowicz portrait and work
Magdalena Abakanowicz in her art room and Klatka i plecy, Wikimedia Commons

The best-known human figures of fiber are perhaps those by Magdalena Abakanowicz, made of burlap (and later of steel).  “Abakanowicz drew from the human lot of the 20th century, the lot of a man destroyed by the disasters of that century, a man who wants to be born anew,” said Andrzej Szczerski, head of the National Museum in Krakow when the sculptor died in 2017. (https://www.latimes.com/local/obituaries/la-me-magdalena-abakanowicz-20170424-story.html). She had begun her art work as a painter, then created enormous woven tapestries, Abakans, in the earlier ’60s, which heralded the contemporary fiber movement. These works led to burlap backs, then standing figures then legions of figures of metal, like those in Chicago’s Millennium Park. Like other artists promoted by browngrotta arts, Abakanowicz, “… showed that sculpture does not need to be in one block,” art critic Monika Branicka said, “that it can be a situation in space and that it can be made of fabrics.”


Art for a Cause to Benefit World Affairs Forum this Saturday, October 15th, 4 pm to 7 pm

3jh Wings, Jan Hladik, wool, 1973; 4jh Der Rote Gobelin, Jan Hladik, wool, 1966. Photo by Tom Grotta

Join browngrotta arts for a private Tour and Reception in Saturday, October 15th from 4 pm to 7 pm to benefit World Affairs Forum. The event will be our Fall 2022 Art for a Cause.

The Details
At 4PM, Tom Grotta will host a Private Tour of the exhibition Allies For Art: Work from NATO-related Countries. From 5 to 7PM, there will be brief Remarks by speakers from WAF and browngrotta arts will host a Reception, with exhibition-themed canapés and a curated cocktail where guests can socialize, view and learn more about the exhibition’s works of art.

The Speakers

Two experts on art and culture will speak briefly about making and protecting art in conflict zones. Cindy Maguire, PhD is a researcher and professor, and co-author of the book “Arts and Culture in Global Development Practice,” also with Ann Holt, PhD. Rob McCallum, PhD is both a practicing artist who has exhibited his work at numerous international solo and group shows, as well as a global educator with a PhD in Art Education. 

left to right:
82mk, Markku Kosonen, Curly Birch 5.2,  2001; 69mk, Markku Kosonen, Object No. II, birch, metal, 2000, 17ak Anda Klančič, Human Presence, 2019; 40sp Simone Pheulpin, Ondes, 2016. Photo by Tom Grotta. 

Register Here to attend.


The Cause/World Affairs Forum
In addition to 100% of the proceeds from public ticket sales, 10% of the proceeds from all sales of art, books, or catalogs at this Art for a Cause event will be donated to World Affairs Forum, an independent, nonpartisan organization dedicated to engaging the public and leading voices to better understand the world. Since 1946, World Affairs Forum in Stamford, CT has been providing top-level and thought-provoking presentations, debates, and discussions of foreign policy and global affairs featuring world leaders, economists, diplomats, scholars, business luminaries, corporate change-makers, authors, journalists, and Nobel laureates. Its mission is to create conversations in our community about global affairs, foreign policy, and America’s role in the world.

19sj Carapace, Stéphanie Jacques, wood, wool 46” x 12” x 6.5”, 2010-2011. Photo by Tom Grotta

The Exhibition:
Allies for Art: Work from NATO-related countries (October 8 – 16) features over 130 pieces from nearly 50 artists, and will highlight work from 21 countries in Eastern and Western Europe made from the 1960s to 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 conditions. 

Signing Up
Public registration for the general reception, from 5pm to 7pm, is $25. Public registration for the 4pm private tour + general reception from 5pm to 7pm is $50.
Click to register: Art for a Cause.


Note:
We will be closing registration when the gallery venue reaches capacity, so please register as soon as possible to secure your tickets.

Our Art for a Cause mixologist and master chef, Max Fanwick and expert assistant Suzanne.

Address:
276 Ridgefield Road Wilton, CT 06897

Safety protocols:
Eventbrite reservations strongly encouraged • We will follow current state and federal guidelines surrounding COVID-19 • As of October 1, 2022, masks are not required • No narrow heels please (barn floors.)


Material Matters: Horsehair

The works of art in our last exhibition, Crowdsourcing the Collective: a survey of textile and mixed media art utilized a abundance of unusual materials — hog gut, kibiso silk, seaweed and agave among them. Over the next several months, we’ll take a closer look at less-than-common materials and the artists who use them. This week: horsehair.

Marian Bijlenga, 33mb Korean Bojagi, horsehair and fabric , 22″ x 20″, 2017. photo by Tom Grotta

In the early 1990s, Dutch artist Marian Bijlenga’s drawing tool narrowed to a single material: horsehair. (Jessica Hemmings, Embroidery magazine, March/April 2008, pp. 22-27). The fiber provides Bijlenga the necessary strength and flexibility to construct embroidered compositions of lines and dots. Bijlenga uses textiles in her work, but textile application is not her real interest. She secures the horsehair in her works with embroidery, but she has said “for me it is not real embroidery. Sometimes my work is in an embroidery exhibition, but it could also be in a sculpture exhibition. For me it is not so important.” 

Marian Bijlenga working with horsehair

Bijlenga studied textile design but for her, weaving was too slow. “It takes a lot of time before you could start,” she says, “and I did not like the technique. I was looking for a more direct way of working.” Bijlenga took the threads held by the loom and began instead to make drawings, stiffening the fiber by dipping it in glue. ” I work with thread, fabric and horsehair, fishscales and parchment, materials which are soft, light, flexible and open to endless development.”

Marianne Kemp weaving horsehair. Photo by Tom Grotta

Marianne Kemp has developed a unique specialty in weaving with horsehair. She uses techniques that she has developed which enable her to mold, knot, curl, and loop the material — which she interweaves with linen, cotton, silk, or wool — in unconventional ways. “Through the different properties and qualities like texture, color, and the shining of horsehair, the end result can be shiny and smooth – organic and wild – flexible and stiff,” wrote Sam at TextileArtist.Org (https://www.textileartist.org/ marianne-kemp-horsehair-weaving/).

2mk Red Fody, Marianne Kemp, cotton, horsehair, acrylic, 56” x 19” x 8”, 2013. Photos by Tom Grotta

Some of her works are meditative in their repeat of patterns, others boisterous in their choice of bright colors. In 2001, Kemp created a small collection of designs based on her hand weavings with John Boyd Textiles, professional weavers of horsehair in the UK. She was excited to discover that it was possible to weave her design mechanically. Kemp spent three-and-a-half years in London, then traveled to Cape Town South Africa. With just one tail of horsehair and a loom borrowed from the local Weavers Guild of Cape Town, Kemp designed many interesting new weavings, including a large wall hanging, called Africa. “It was a great time, learning from local weavers and giving them workshops too, helping them discover new techniques,” Kemp told Sam at textileArtist.Org.

60aa Night Curtain, linen, horsehair, paint & metal. 38” x 36”, 2018. Photo by Tom Grotta

A third artist who works in horsehair is Adela Akers. Before Akers devoted her life to the arts, she completed studies to be a pharmacist, which influences her artwork. “There is a mathematical discipline in the way the work is constructed,” ​says Akers. “This mathematical sequence is in strong contrast to the organic process — handweaving — and materials — linen and horsehair — that bring the work to fruition.” In the 1970s, Adela Akers lived on the East Coast teaching at Temple University, but she has been creating art as a resident of Califonia for the last 25+ years. Drawing inspiration from African and South American textiles, Akers creates woven compositions of simple geometric shapes, bands, zigzags and checks. She incorporates horsehair into many of her weavings, adding texture and dimensionality. She also cuts metal strips —  from recycled California wine bottle caps — and stitches them into the woven linen strips that make up these works. Her techniques and materials produce images that change under different lighting conditions. In Night Curtain, the horsehair becomes a veil through which metal can shine through, reminiscent of stars peeping through a thin curtain of clouds in the night sky.

An butterfly of horsehair from Chile. Photo by Tom Grotta.

Finally, we were introduced this month to crin, a unique traditional form of horsehair art making from Chile by Caroline Yrarrázaval. When the artist visited bga in June, she brought us a beautiful example of that work. Artisans from a remote rural area of Chile create miniature flowers, animals, butterflies, birds, angels, and witches, woven out of crin de caballo, dyed or natural-colored horsehair. Their delicate creations are unique to this part of the world, largely due to their geographic and historical isolation. The horsehair weaving in Chile uses strands from the horses’ tails — thicker, longer and sturdier than that of their manes — combined with the imported vegetable fiber ixtle to keep the structure more firm and durable. The decorative pieces come almost exclusively from two neighboring rural villages, Rari and Panimavida, located 22 kilometers east of the town of Linares in the Andean foothills, roughly 300 kilometers south of Santiago. “Sitting in their doorways or under a tree, during the evening or between domestic tasks, some 150 women carry out the intricate labor of weaving the horsehair, a tradition that has been passed down for over two hundred years, using only their hands and a needle to finish off their creations,” wrote Maria Vallejos, for AARP International (Mariela Vallejos, “Tightly Woven Community,” AARP International, https://www.aarpinternational.org/the-journal/current-edition/tightly-woven-community). The horsehair used by Kemp and Akers, by contrast, comes from live horses overseas, mainly from the Far East, China and Mongolia.


Exhibitions of Interest — here and abroad

A list of engaging exhibitions in the East, South, the Midwest and abroad. Add them to your summer must-see list.

New York, New York 
Ernesto Neto: Between Earth and Sky
Tanya Bonakdar Gallery
Through June 
521 West 21st Street New York, NY 10011
t: 212 414 4144

https://www.tanyabonakdargallery.com/exhibitions/639-ernesto-neto-between-earth-and-sky-tanya-bonakdar-gallery-new-york/

Tanya Bonakdar Gallery Ernesto Neto's Earth Tree Life Love
Tanya Bonakdar Gallery Ernesto Neto’s Earth Tree Life Love, courtesy of Tanya Bonakdar Gallery

Ernesto Neto has become known for his immersive environments of vibrant color, fragrance and sound, and for his use of natural materials. This expansive exhibition features major installations. In the downstairs gallery is the culmination of Ernesto Neto’s ongoing exploration of the relationship between humans and the environment as inseparable entities. The cotton crochet carpet is made with spiral formations that represent the earth and the ocean, and the top of the sculpture represents the sky and leaves falling from a tree nd the ocean, and the top of the sculpture represents the sky and leaves falling from a tree, highlighting the cycle of nature. Viewers are able to take off their shoes, lie down on the carpet and gaze up to experience a moment of meditation and contemplate their connection with the natural world. On the second floor, Ernesto Neto has created a sculptural garden beneath the skylight that is comprised of spices, mulch, pebbles, soil, and plants. Neto will invite the public to plant the garden in a special presentation, where visitors can connect with the natural environment and one another.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Fiberarts International 2022

Various locations
Through August 20, 2022
5645 Butler Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15201
412-261-7003

At the End of My Rope, Adrienne Sloane
At the End of My Rope, Adrienne Sloane, 2019, knit cotton, rope, 57″ (top of the noose) x 14.5″
Photo by the artist.

The 24th juried exhibition at Fiberart International 2022 seeks to exhibit the best of contemporary art and invites submissions that ­­­reflect a wide range of works related to the fiber medium. Previous Fiberart Internationals have featured Yeonsoon Chang, Heidrun Schimmel and Simone Pheulpin. The jurors for this year’s exhibition are Jessica Hemmings, Argentinian artists Chiachio & Giannone and artist Nnenna Okore, who works the US and Nigeria. Among the works selected for this are At the End of My Rope, by Adrienne Sloane a fav of browngrotta arts.

New York, New York
Japan Society
Kazoko Miyamoto: To perform a line
Through July 10, 2022
333 47th Street
New York, NY 10017

Kazuko Miyamoto_Press_image_credits.docx Yoshiko Chuma in Kazuko Miyamoto: A Girl on Trail Dinosaur, 1979. © Kazuko Miyamoto. Courtesy of the artist and EXILE, Vienna

The Japan Society presents a solo exhibition Kazuko Miyamoto: To perform a line between through July 10, 2022. The exhibition is the first institutional survey of Miyamoto (b.1942, Tokyo), a relatively little-known but significant artist. The exhibition provides an overview of the artist’s work, moving from her contributions to the Minimalism movement through early paintings and drawings from the 1960s, and her increasingly spatial string constructions in the 1970s, to her conceptual experiments in performance, culminating in her kimono series from 1987 through the 1990s. There is a 3D tour on the Japan Society website that features more images of Miyamoto’s work: https://www.japansociety.org/arts-and-culture/exhibitions/kazuko-miyamoto

Tarrytown, New York
The Woman’s Work Exhibition
Lyndhurst Museum
Through September 26, 2022
635 South Broadway
Tarrytown, New York 10591

Sabrina Gschwandtner Quilt
Sabrina Gschwandtner Quilt, Shoshana Wayne Gallery. Women’s Work Exhibition catalog cover

This groundbreaking exhibition tracks the deep, pervasive, and continuing influence of the historic female domestic craft tradition in the practice of contemporary women artists and invites new investigations into the position of women in the contemporary art world. Historic works and contemporary pieces displaying their influence are placed side-by-side throughout the Lyndhurst mansion in the domestic setting and the exhibition gallery. This allows the Museum to establish the pervasiveness of the traditional influence among contemporary artists and show the broad diversity of traditional handcraft mediums employed. The exhibition is also a mini-retrospective of the emergence of women artists in the 1960s and 1970s including important early examples of works by some of the feminist pioneers of the time. These include objects and works by Judy Chicago, Faith Ringgold, Yoko Ono, Miriam Schapiro, Harmony Hammond, Sheila Hicks, Idelle Weber, Louise Bourgeois, Valerie Hammond, Kiki Smith, Elaine Reichek, and Jenny Holzer.

Jyväskyla, Finland
Artapestry 6
Central Museum of Finland
Through September
Alvar Aallon katu 7, 40600 
Jyväskylä, Finland

https://www.jyvaskyla.fi/en/museum-central-finland/current-exhibitions

hat’s it, Gudrun Pagter
That’s it, Gudrun Pagter, 2020, 228 x 252, cm, Photo: Atelier Egtved 

After stops in Sweden and Denmark, Artapestry 6 has arrived in Finland. The exhibition showcases works by 40 artists from 16 different countries., including Gudrun Pagter, Wlodmiericz Cygan, Nancy Koenigsberg and Helena Hernmarck. The exhibition is produced by the European Tapestry Forum (ETF). 

Durham, North Carolina
Beyond the Surface: Collage, Mixed Media and Textile Works from the Collection
Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University
From June 16 – February 23, 2023
2001 Campus Drive
Durham, North Carolina 27705
https://nasher.duke.edu

Silvia Heyden, Hurricane, 20th century. Silk and linen, 80 3/4 × 94 1/4 inches (205.1 × 239.4 cm). Collection of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. Gift of Mary D.B.T. Semans and James H. Semans, M.D.; 1976.101.1. © Silvia Heyden Estate. Photo by Peter Paul Geoffrion.

Since opening in 2005, the Nasher Museum has been dedicated to building a groundbreaking collection of contemporary art centered on diversity and inclusion. The museum’s emphasis is on artists historically underrepresented, overlooked or excluded from art institutions, with a particular focus on artists of African descent. In this effort, the museum supports global artists of extraordinary vision, whose works spark opportunities for thoughtful engagement. Beyond the Surface includes approximately 40 works, primarily from the Nasher Museum’s collection. With a focus on collage, mixed media and textile works, Beyond the Surface explores how artists bring together disparate materials and ideas to create artworks that engage with all audiences.

Enjoy — in person or online!


Scenes from an Exhibition: Crowdsourcing the Collective this Week

Photo by Juan Pabon/Ezco Production

Despite some Covid cancellations, we’re enjoying good attendance to our Spring Art in the Barn exhibition, Crowdsourcing the Collective; a survey of textile and mixed media art this week. We had visitors in line on Sunday morning. We have had artists stop by, including Dawn MacNutt, Norma Minkowitz, Wendy Wahl, Nancy Koenigsberg, Jeannet Lennderste and Kari Lønning. We are hoping to see Blair Tate and Christine Joy later in the week.

We’ve had visits from groups from the Wilton Encore Club and Westport MoCA and a curator from the Flinn Gallery at the Greenwich Public Library. We are expecting more curators yet this week. 

The inspiration for the works in Crowdsourcing is of great interest to those attending. Lia Cook’s tapestries incorporate images of ferns from her California garden. Blair Tate experiments in visual layering based on frescoes interrupted by superimposed paintings and incised niches that she saw throughout Bologna. She rearranged separately woven strips to create windows on the wall — intentionally splintered, fragmented, unsettled as a reflection of our times. Dawn MacNutt’s works of seagrass and copper wire, The Last One Standing and Interconnected, are the last two works remaining from her earlier series, Kindred Spirits.

Dawn MacNutt and Norma Minkowitz
Dawn MacNutt and Norma Minkowitz. Photo by Tom Grotta

There are five days remaining — hope you can join us.

Schedule Your Visit Here: 

Remainder of the exhibition
Thru – Saturday, May 14th: 10AM to 5PM (40 visitors/hour)

Final Day
Sunday, May 15th: 11AM to 6PM (40 visitors/ hour)

Address
276 Ridgefield Road Wilton, CT 06897
(203)834-0623

Safety protocols
Eventbrite reservations strongly encouraged • We will follow current state and federal guidelines surrounding COVID-19 • As of March 1, 2022, masks are not required • We encourage you to wear a mask if your are not vaccinated or if you feel more comfortable doing so. • No narrow heels please (barn floors)

Art for a Cause: A portion of browngrotta arts’ profits for the months of May and June will benefit Sunflower of Peace, a non-profit group that provides medical and humanitarian aid for paramedics and doctors in areas that are affected by the violence in Ukraine. browngrotta arts will also match donations collected during the exhibition as part of browngrotta arts’ 2022 “Art for a Cause” initiative. A portion of the artists’ proceeds for certain works will also go to Sunflower of Peace: https://www.sunflowerofpeace.com/


Artist Focus: Rachel Max

Rachel Max portrait
Rachel Max in her studio, Photo by Tom Grotta

Rachel Max’s interest in basketry grew out of experiments with the tactile and the textile properties of metals. The UK artist’s work will be included in browngrotta arts’ upcoming exhibition Crowdsourcing the Collective: a survey of textile and mixed media art.  A background in metal work that informs her work, while the materials and techniques used in basketry enable her to create a “fabric” with which to shape sculptural forms. The fabric is a delicate grid structure forming an intricate network of lines that are interlinked. Her pieces are often inspired by natural shapes. The unique shapes that result are endlessly engaging — each takes on a different appearance when viewed from varying vantage points.

The weave creates the foundation of all Max’s work. “I have developed a technique of layering to form structures that explore the relationship between lines and shadows and space,” she explains. The relationships between containment and concealment and movement and space are the constant rudiments in her works. “The materials used may vary; however, I have a particular penchant for fine cane, which has a delicacy that is pliable, with wire-like characteristics that suit the open weave compositions that I have been exploring. The contrast of very regular patterns with looser weaves is a recurring theme.” This weave has become her vocabulary, “a way of drawing in space that enables me to explore patterns and form through the interplay of lines, or light and shadow through density and color.”

Rachel Max wall basket
6rm Tonal Fifths, Rachel Max, dyed cane, plaited and twined, 25″ x 21″ x 7.5″, 2017. Photo by Tom Grotta

Music is a large part of Max’s life and an important artistic influence. She has been exploring the ways in which musical terms, structure and composition can be translated into woven form. Both Endless and Tonal Fifths use, as a starting point, the fugue, a musical composition based upon one, two or more themes, which are gradually built up and intricately interwoven into a complex imitative form. “Elements of weaving are comparable to notes in music, a measure of time, a beat or a pulse. Rhythm is everywhere, in the movement of my hands as I weave, in the tension and spaces between each stitch, in the beat of our hearts and in the pace of our footsteps,” says Max.

Rachel Max,  blue basket
8rm Continuum, Rachel Max, dyed cane, plaited and twined, 15.5″x 17″ x 17″, 2018. Photo by Tom Grotta

Color, the final stage in Max’s work, does not appear as an afterthought, but as an integral element. Color is “a necessary ingredient that unifies the process; it is paramount in my work,” she says. Works like Continuum explore the temporal and spatial elements associated with color. The color blue Max describes, for example, as an “ambiguous” color — cold yet often warm and comforting. “It is a color of depth and distance,” in Max’s view,  “of darkness and light and of dawn and dusk. It is a color linked closely to the sky and sea, both of which seem infinite and finite. Blue is paradoxically continuous, yet like the sky and sea, has a beginning and an end. Our lives, too, are structured around the continuous cycle of beginning and end. Our perception of color constantly shifts as the light changes. My aim was to translate these seemingly abstract ideas into something concrete. Continuum is a piece about such contrasts and opposites. It is both infinite and finite. A Mobius strip forms the inner core of the piece and the structure gradually shifts, forming a piece with two very different aspects.”

Rachel Max, Red basket
12rm Balance, Rachel Max, plaited and twined cane, 12″ x 16″ x 9″, 2022. Photo by Tom Grotta

Max was eager to participate in Crowdsourcing. “The way in which we are all currently living is one of the biggest adjustments I have ever had to make and one none of us could ever have imagined,” she wrote. “I would like to make something in response to the situation. At the moment it all feels uncontrollable, weighty and fragile. But the words ‘ together and apart’ keep coming to mind and I remember writing them down back in March. There is a huge sense of solidarity and compassion. We’re looking out for each other, we’re closer than we ever were but we cannot touch, hug or meet up. Our spatial awareness and of sense touch has become heightened as the air between us and the surfaces we touch have become dangerous. I would like to make piece which reflects this.” The result is Balance, which explores notions of infinity and time. “My aim was to distort the form, but still create something that is both finite and infinite. It’s rare that the title of a piece comes to me during the making process but as I was weaving this I became aware of its changing weight and stability, forcing me to rethink how I originally intended it to be seen. It became a subconscious reflection on the world we are in now: Everything seems to be in the balance.”

See Max’s work at Crowdsourcing the Collective: a survey of textile and mixed media art (browngrotta arts, May 7 -15, 2021). https://www.eventbrite.com/e/crowdsourcing-the-collective-a-survey-of-textiles-and-mixed-media-art-tickets-292520014237


Art + Science + Textile

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Art in the Barn at browngrotta arts this May – Crowdsourcing the Collective: a survey of textile and mixed media art

Włodzimierz Cygan, Stéphanie Jacques
On the wall Włodzimierz Cygan, sculptures by Stéphanie Jacques. photo by Tom Grotta

This May, browngrotta arts presents their Spring 2021 Art in the Barn exhibition, Crowdsourcing the Collective: survey of textile and mixed media art  (May 7 – 15, 2021). It will be accompanied by our 53rd catalog, available on browngrotta.com after May 6th.

Chang Yeonsoon, Naomi Kobayashi
Chang Yeonsoon, The Path which leads to the center GR-202101, teflon mesh, pure gold leaf, eco-friendly resin, 8″ x 8″ x 4.25″, 2021; ITO Naomi Kobayashi, Coma, cotton thread, 20″ x 20″ x 2.25″, 1982. photo by Tom Grotta

The 40 artists in Crowdsourcing the Collective: a survey of textile and mixed media art illustrate the vitality of art textiles, ceramics and mixed media. The growing prominence of these art forms finds them the subject of exhibitions in major museums, intermixed with paintings and traditional sculpture in ways unthinkable a decade ago. The journey of the artists in Crowdsourcing the Collective tells us much about where craft and fiber art are now, and about how they got here. Some of the artists began working during craft and fiber art’s less popular period in the ’80s and ‘90s; some have been working since fiber art’s first heyday in the ’70s. Their education, experience and inspiration vary. They differ in material and approach. They come from more than a dozen countries around the world and the influence of those places is often evident in their work.

works by Polly Sutton
Works by Polly Sutton: Quatro, cedar bark, cane, 5” x 8.375” x 8.125”, 2022; Wila, cedar bark, ash, spruce root, 6.875” x 10.75” x 9.75”, 2022. Photo by Tom Grotta

This exhibition reflects the astonishing range of materials and techniques that make this work so well regarded. Tapestries of silk and agave, sculptures of seaweed, seagrass and willow, wall works made of sandpaper, hemp and horsehair and ceramics of Shigaraki clay will all be included. The scope of these artists’ preoccupations are on view here, too — from environmental concerns, to questions of the cosmos and identity, to explorations of material and process. It includes new work, work from earlier periods and work from artists we have invited specifically for this exhibition. Come and see what we have compiled!

Reserve a space on Eventbrite:
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/crowdsourcing-the-collective-a-survey-of-textiles-and-mixed-media-art-tickets-292520014237

Exhibition Dates/Hours

Opening & Artists Reception
Saturday, May 7th: 11AM to 6PM (300 Visitor Cap)

Remainder of the exhibition
Sunday, May 8th: 11AM to 6 PM (40 visitors/hour)
Monday, May 9th – Saturday, May 14th: 10AM to 5PM (40 visitors/hour)

Final Day
Sunday, May 15th: 11AM to 6PM (40 visitors/ hour)

Address
276 Ridgefield Road Wilton, CT 06897

Safety protocols
Eventbrite reservations strongly encouraged • We will follow current state and federal guidelines surrounding COVID-19 • As of March 1, 2022, masks are not required • No narrow heels please (barn floors)


New Viewing Room: Art With an Edge – the case for frames

68-69bb Mini Basket Symphony in Black & White, Birgit Birkkjær ashes, glued, horsehair/cotton yarn, linen, paper yarn, polyamide, viscose, 19.25″ x 19.25″ x 2” each, 2019. Gessoed Poplar floater frames. Photo by Tom Grotta

Contemporary textile works are often installed effectively right on the wall. Dimensional textiles in particular rarely need an edge. Yet, there are some works that can manage the counterpoint of an artful frame. There are works given more emhasis by the addition of a shadow box or an edge. A frame can also protect a textile from touching and from dust and, with UV glass, even from sunlight to some degree. In our current Viewing Room, Art With an Edge: the case for framing, we are sharing a number of works that feature frames.

Mary Luke of browngrotta arts planning Maple for multiple frames

Many artists are content to let galleries or museums or collectors handle frames. Other artists are intentional about frames, often going so far as making frames themselves. Members of the Ashcan School (late 19th-early 20th century) wanted frames that reflected “the raw, unsentimental spirit of their work, not that of an Old-World cathedral,” notes Eleanor Cummins. (Is It Time to Recognize Frames as an Independent Art Form?, Smithsonian Magazine, June 29, 2020). Georgia O’Keeffe wanted viewers to consider the way the shapes, colors, line and composition worked, without distractions, explains Dale Kronkright, head of conservation at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe. To ensure her vision was realized, O’Keeffe worked with Of, the New York City frame maker, to develop eight distinct frames that precisely suited her paintings. Scott Rothstein, whose works are available at browngrotta arts, says he thinks of the frame as a part of the work itself. “The black matte and the frame tightly control how the work is seen,” he says, “which is something I have done with intent. My work can’t be seen any other way.”

Scott Rothstein
25sr #47, Scott Rothstein, hand stiched silk thread on silk ground, in black wood frame with denglass, 13″ x 25″ , 1993. Photo by Tom Grotta

An unabashed fan of frames, Matthew Jones, managing director of the framers and conservationists firm, John Jones London argues that, it’s really about harmony. “A good frame can completely change a work. I very much want the outcome of the project to offer what I call ‘the three wows’. When you first see a work that’s been framed, you should be drawn immediately to the image itself. We then like the eye to cast out to the frame, and — finally — to make a connection with the object in its entirety. If you’ve got a slight imperfection on the frame, or a slight imbalance in colour, it’s going to distract you from your enjoyment of the image.” (“How to choose the right frame for your picture,” Christie’s online, https://www.christies.com/features/How-to-choose-the-right-frame-for-your-picture-10005-1.aspx).

Barnscape by Susie Gillespie, hand spun and machine-spun linen yarn, cotton, nettle, raffia, gesso, earth pigments, 27.5″ x 27.5″ x 1″, 2011. White-washed maple frame with museum glass. Photo by Tom Grotta

At browngrotta arts, we rely on the expertise of Mary Luke https://www.maryluke.com, our Gallery Associate. Luke is a painter, stylist and designer — but also an experienced framer. “Artwork that would otherwise be lost on a wall can be given a strong, powerful voice with a simple mat and frame.” Material and color offer options, Luke says. “Material and color can be used to contrast or blend with the artwork — either way, though, the artwork should always remain the focal point.”

More Framed work from the exhibition

Check out more of Mary Luke’s Framing Q&A in the Art With an Edge Viewing Room. You’ll find 50+ works of art with various frames — shadow boxes, natural edges, perspex, plexiboxes, frames with mats — illustrating their possibility and potential.

“Art is limitation; the essence of every picture is the frame.” G.K. Chesterton