Category: artist

Artists New to Crowdsourcing the Collective: Meet Jeannet Leendertse and Shoko Fukuda

Baskets by Jeannet Leendertse and Shoko Fukuda
Jeannet Leendertse, Drum-shaped Seaweed Vessel, coiled-and-stitched basket, rockweed [ascophyllum nodosum], waxed linen, beeswax, tree resin, 17″ x 9.5″ x 9.5″, 2022 and Shoko Fukuda, Loop with Corners, coiled ramie, monofilament, plastic, 12″ x 11.5″ x 5″, 2021. Photo by Tom Grotta

For our Spring exhibition, Crowdsourcing the Collective: a survey of textile and mixed media art (May 7 -15) browngrotta arts is delighted to introduce the work of two artists new to the gallery, Jennet Leenderste, Netherlands, US and Shoko Fukuda, Japan. Each of them creates sinuous and supple objects — Leenderste of seaweed and Fukuda of sisal, ramie and raffia. 

Portrait Jeannet Leendertse
Jeannet Leendertse portrait by David Grinnell

Jeannet Leenderste crafted with fabric as a child. She studied graphic design in the Netherlands and at 27 left for New York in search of an internship. After completing her degree cum laude, she moved to the Boston area and became an award-winning book designer. In recent years, has turned her focus again to textiles. Having grown up on the Dutch shore, her fiber work responds to the rugged coast of Maine, where she now lives and finds sculptural forms in the landscape and its creatures. As an immigrant, she says, her Dutch culture and heritage are always with her, while she continues to make this new environment her home. Exploring the concept of belonging, she develops work that feels at home in this marine environment. Adaptation and reflection are ongoing. Her fiber process brings these outer and inner worlds together.

Seaweed Vessels
Reclining Seaweed Vessel, Jeannet Leendertse, coiled-and-stitched basket rockweed [ascophyllum nodosum], waxed linen, beeswax, tree resin 8″ x 13″ x 7″, 2022; Seaweed Vessel with Stipe Handle, Jeannet Leendertse, coiled-and-stitched basket, rockweed [ascophyllum nodosum], sugar kelp [saccharina latissima] waxed linen, beeswax, tree resin, 11″ x 13″ x 5.5″, 2021. Photo by Tom Grotta

“My work grows from coastal impressions and material experimentation,” Leenderste explains. “It takes on a new life when moved out of the studio and placed back in its natural environment.” That feedback propels her process. “I feel a strong responsibility to consider my materials, and what my creative process will leave behind. She began foraging seaweed—in particular rockweed—to work with, and discovered the amazing benefits this natural resource provides. “Seaweed not only creates a habitat for countless species,” she says, “it sequesters carbon, and protects our beleaguered shoreline from erosion as our sea levels rise.  Rockweed vessels show the beauty of this ancient algae, while drawing attention to its environmental value.” Several examples of Leenderste’s seaweed works will be featured in Crowdsourcing the Collective.

Portrait Shoko Fukuda
Shoko Fukuda portrait by Makoto Yano

Shoko Fukuda is a basketmaker and Japanese artist who holds a Bachelor of Design from Kyoto University of Art and Design, and a Master’s degree from Osaka University of Art, where she focused on research in textile practice.  She has exhibited her work internationally for the past 10 years. Shoko Fukuda currently works as an instructor at Kobe Design University in the Fashion Design department.

At browngrotta arts, we were recommended to Fukuda’s work by noted basketmaker Hisako Sekijima. “I encountered Sekijima’s artworks about 20 years ago,” Fukuda says. “Lines made with expressive plant materials were woven into an abstract and three-dimensional shapes. I had never seen such small artworks, like architectural structures before. I have been fascinated by the structural visibility and the various characteristics of the constructive form consisting, of regular lines ever since then.” 

Fiber Sculptures by Shoko Fukuda
Vertical and Horizontal Helix, Shoko Fukuda, raffia, 5.125″ x 6″ x 7.5″, 2015; Traced Contour II, ramie, monofilament, plastic, 6.5″ x 17″ x 3.5″, 2022. Photo by Tom Grotta

In Loop With Corners, Fukuda considered how to create a multifaceted form from a flat surface. By making corners, shapes are formed based on intentional decisions that lead to unexpected tortuous and twisted shapes. By weaving and fastening as if making a corner, a rotating shape was created. The movement of coiling creates a rhythm, and the lines being woven together leave organic traces in the air. In Vertical and Cylindrical helix is made of cylindrical spirals stacked like layers. They were woven from different directions — up and down, left and right — to form a single piece. The work has a dense structure, dyed black and shaped like a tightly closed shell. 

Fukuda is interested in “distortion” as a characteristic of basket weaving. “As I coil the thread around the core and shape it while holding the layers together, I look for the cause of distortion in the nature of the material, the direction of work and the angle of layers to effectively incorporate these elements into my work. The elasticity and shape of the core significantly affect the weaving process, as the thread constantly holds back the force of the core trying to bounce back outward.” By selecting materials and methods for weaving with the natural distortion in mind, Fukuda saw the possibility of developing twists and turns. “I find it interesting to see my intentions and the laws of nature influencing each other to create forms.”

Fukuda’s work, like Leenderste’s, will be well represented at Crowdsourcing the Collective, our Spring 2022 exhibition. Join us at browngrotta arts May 7-15, 2022. Save your space here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/crowdsourcing-the-collective-a-survey-of-textiles-and-mixed-media-art-tickets-292520014237


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.


Artist Focus: Marianne Kemp

Marianne Kemp weaving
Marianne Kemp weaving her Vibrant Conversation tapestry, horsehair, cotton, linen in 2018. photo by Tom Grotta

Textile artist Marianne Kemp is a specialist in weaving with horsehair. She is passionate about exploring unconventional weaving techniques in her art. That passion, combined with her craftsmanship, is clearly visible in the work she creates. “I’m fascinated by the movement of the weavings, how the horsehair manifests in the net of the weaving technique,” she says. 

Tube Waves
Detail of Tube Waves, Marianne Kemp, horsehair and cotton warp, 78” x 63”, 2015, Photo by Tom Grotta

Some creations, almost-mathematically precise, challenge viewers to become introverted and still. Other work is more extroverted and playful, displaying an exuberant cheerfulness. In either case, her work attracts the eye and stimulates an urge to touch For Tube Waves, for example, Kemp found her inspiration  in the rhythm of the waves. “The flowing colors, going from light silver to aqua, dark purple/blue to deep green, are rendered in the three-dimensional weaving technique I’ve created,” she explains. The ‘tubes’ flow in and over each other, which makes them appear to dance off the surface, depending on your position. From a distance, it’s a dynamic piece; upon closer inspection, there are many different details to discover.”

Vibrant Conversation
Vibrant Conversation, Marianne Kemp, horsehair, cotton, linen, 49” x 70” x 6 “, 2018, Photo by Tom Grotta

Kemp has combined an interest in an architectural weaving process with an appreciation for organic material, creating objects with elements that change space but are experienced as one. In Vibrant Conversation, the top and the bottom layer are embraced in a knot, showing an array of different perceptions in cultural traditions. The work endeavors to tie different generations together via storytelling, confronting collective knowledge with new experiences, prompting new insights.

Orchid
Orchid, horsehair, gold lures thread, wooden frame, 2018, Photo by Tom Grotta

In the stitched and woven Orchid, dyed red horsehair woven in between a delicate herringbone background highlights Kemp’s supreme eye for detail. For Kemp weaving is a form of meditation. “It is the only time of day that I do one thing at the time and think (solely) about one thing,” Kemp says. Weaving allows Kemp to give her brain a rest and explore her creative intuition — a good outcome for us. 

Detail Red Body
Red Fody, Marianne Kemp, cotton, horsehair, acrylic, 56” x 19” x 8”, 2013, Photo by Tom Grotta

Kemp’s work will be included in browngrotta arts’ 2022 Art in the Barn exhibition, May 7 – May 15, 2022.


You make it possible! Thanks to our Artists, Clients and Fans!

Thanks are due all around this year!

Adaptation: Artists Respond to Change
Social-distanced viewing of our spring exhibition Adaptation: Artists Respond to Change, photo Ezco Productions

At browngrotta arts, we hosted two 2021 exhibitions, Adaptation: Artists Respond to Change and Japandí: shared aesthetics and influences.   Each featured exceptional artwork — more than 75 artists from 18 countries were included. Both were open to the public, with proper covid protocols. We got great press — from Art in America online, to Architectural Digest online to Gessato and ArteMorbida in Italy. Our teams from Juice Creative, State PR and Ezco Productions helped us get the word out through emails and social media. They are probably the reason we had more people attend than any year before. We published a full-color catalog for each exhibition. Tom’s had to head to the basement to print more copies of Japandí five times since the show closed. 

Polly Sutton Facing the Unexpected
Facing the Unexpected, Polly Adams Sutton, western red cedar bark, ash, spruce root, coated copper wire, 11.5” x 18” x 32”, 2013. Photo Tom Grotta

Our artists gathered accolades and awards all year. Just a small sampling – Polly Sutton, whose recently acquired work, Facing the Unexpected, will be included in the Renwick Gallery’s  50th Anniversary exhibition, This Present Moment: Crafting a Better World, which opens in May; Adela Akers whose recently acquired work, Compostela, is featured in the Minneapolis Institute of Art’s current exhibition, Parallel Lines: New Textile Masterworks Inspired by Geometry (through August 28, 2022); Simone Pheulpin, whose 80th birthday is being celebrated by the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris (Simone Pheulpin: Time Bender, through January 16, 2022) and the retrospective of Kay Sekimachi’s 70-year career at BAMPFA in Berkeley, California (Kay Sekimachi: Geometries).

Adela Akers Compostela
Compostela, Adela Akers, sisl, linen and wool, 60” x 180” x 6”, 1985. Photo by Adela Akers

Our charitable project for 2021 engaged hundreds of people. It involved our contribution of a early, accomplished work, Spatial Ikat 2, by Lia Cook, created in 1976. The work was the prize in a sweepstakes on the UncommonGood nonprofit platform. Hundreds of people entered the sweepstakes. The proceeds from their entries went to the Breast Cancer Alliance headquartered in Greenwich, Connecticut

Lia Cook Spatial Ikat III
Spatial Ikat III, Lia Cook, rayon, cotton; woven, 72″ x 48″, 1976.. Photo Tom Grotta

Great feedback was received from our clients, artists and fans: “Over these past years, I do not walk past any of the pieces you hung for us without appreciating how it enhances my life.” “We are so delighted with our sculpture.” “Thank you also for sharing all the rich documentation on the Japandi exhibition! It’s a real pleasure for us to discover this beautiful exhibition from afar.” “We so enjoyed seeing your fabulous show on display in your amazing home …. Thank you for sharing the art and your time.” “The new exhibition is such a thoughtful juxtaposition of the Japanese and Scandinavian.” “I am happy and proud to be a part of your family of artists.”

We have plenty of plans for 2022 — an exhibition April 29th to May 8th, a browngrotta arts produced book, scheduled for Spring 2022 publication. More on these to come in the next few months.

In sum, a heartfelt thanks to all of you for letting us live a life filled with art and to fill others’ lives with art, too!


Artist Focus: Mia Olsson

Mia Olsson portrait
Portrait of Mia Olsson by Kerstin Carlson

Agave sisalana, better known as sisal, is a cactus-like plant cultivated in Mexico and Central America. Known for its stiff fiber, most often used to make ropes, rugs and even construction materials, sisal fibers are yellow-white in their natural state. Through a kind of alchemy, Swedish fiber artist Mia Olsson manipulates the prickly sisal into airy, semi-transparent wall sculptures, dyed in richly saturated warm tones. “I am interested in exploring textile fibers, how they are, their properties and characteristics, and what I can do with them,” say Olsson. Sisal fiber is flat and shiny, reflecting light beautifully and strengthening the color. Olsson describes it as “so interesting to work with, especially when forming three-dimensional pieces. My work is experimental and I never know on which journeys the fibers will take me.”

Detail Pleated, Golden
Detail of 10mo Pleated, Golden, Mia Olsson, sisal fibers, 24″ x 20″ x 2.25″, 2020. Photo by Tom Grotta

Dyeing is an important part in the process. The last couple of years, Olsson has been working with natural dyestuffs to see if she can replace synthetic dyes with natural ones. “The most difficult fibers to dye natural is plantfibers. It´s hard, but I am working on it,” she says. “My goal is to have the same ‘paintbox’ with natural dyestuff as with my ordinary ones.”

Map of Warm Are by Mia Olsson
9mo Map of Warm Area, Mia Olsson, sisal, 24.75″x 19.75″, 2012. Photo by Tom Grotta

In creating her works, Olsson dyes the fibers, then organizes them into a kind of fiber cloth, making it possible for her to connect them on a sewing machine. “I save all fibers, even ones that are too short, fiberscraps and cut-off pieces,” she says. “They can lead me on to new exploring paths.” Even very short fibers can be formed into circles or other shapes that can be joined together and then formed to create bigger or smaller pieces. An example is the patchwork of sisal squares that make up Map of a Warm Area. The piece offers a textured topography mapped in a wanderlust hue of orange, red, yellow, rust and black. “When working with Map of a Warm Area I was thinking of a very hot place, hard to live in, too dry and sunny,” remembers the artist. “It was made 2012 and then I didn’t think about climate change in the same way as we do today, But it can absolutely be read as reflecting concerns about the environment.”

Blue/Purple Pleats by Mia Olsson
7mo Blue/Purple Pleats, Mia Olsson, sisal, 56″ x 47″ x 2″, 2008 8mo Orange Pleats, Mia Olsson, sisal, 55″ x 46″ x 4.5″, 2008. Photo by Tom Grotta

Olsson also works with larger sisal pieces, Her larger sisal banners, like  Blue/Purple Pleats and Orange Pleats, float effortlessly in space highlighting their dimensionality, bold color and tactile dynamics. She creates sculptural works from fiber as well, groupings of soft stones in jewel-colors. And, more recently, she created Together, a minimalist work,

5mo Traces 5 Relief, Mia Olsson, sisal and coconut fiber, acrylic glass, sisal on blastered acrylic glass, 14″ x 11.875″ x 1.25″, 2006

Other themes Olsson identifies in her work are clothes and their symbols, memory and time. and maps and game plans. Living part of her time close to nature also affects and inspires her work. She also credits Japan as an influence, “I am inspired by and fascinated of Japanese art and crafts. Their exquisite ways of using natural material, as well as synthetic material, their skilled dyeing techniques and the way traditions and innovations are combined in textile art is an inspiration,” she says.   


Material Matters: Repurposed Objects as an Art Medium

Repurposing found objects in art has a long history. Long before recycling was a “thing,” Robert Rauschenberg was created his Combine series, works in which he intermixed paintings with items he found on the streets of New York. The works incorporated newsprint, cardboard, sandpaper, ladders, bellows and fuse boxes among other items. With the Combine series, the Rauschenberg Foundation observes, the artist “endowed new significance to ordinary objects by placing them in the context of art.”

Several artists that browngrotta arts represents or follows prove Rauschenberg’s theory that nearly anything can be adapted for an artistic purpose. In their works, however, the unconventional material takes center stage — not just as an inclusion but reinvented as a primary material. For example, early on in his art career, 

John Garrett crocheted videotapes
John Garrett, Dark Curtain, crocheted videotapes, 50” x 52” x 8”, 2020. Photo by Tom Grotta

John Garrett began exploring alternatives to traditional fibers. Developing unique personal methods based on needlepoint and embroidery techniques, he created flexible components that he manipulated into dynamic forms. Materials he uses are found in thrift stores, flea markets, yard sales, dumpsters, curbside on trash days, roadside and in empty lots. Using the varied detritus of an affluent society, he creates artwork that presages less abundant times and focuses attention on the beauty of the discarded and overlooked. 

Lewis Knauss photo slides
Lewis Knauss, Old Technology Landscape, woven, knotted linen, paper twine, photo slides, 16″ x 16″x 4″, 2021. Photo by Tom Grotta

Most recently, he has turned to a surprising, and soon-to-be-scarce, material  — VHS videotape. “Once out of the plastic container,” he writes, “the reels of tape leave behind their previous use. In fact, their stories are lost. They are there but can no longer be accessed. In my thoughts, this leads to a sense of mystery and melancholy, like finding an old photo album in the trash.”  Lewis Knauss found a similar inspiration when he began to go through decades of slides he had taken of landscapes as he travelled. He had planned to simply discard them, instead decided to hold on to some to create a small piece, a “landscape of landscape images” that he had used as reference in his work.

Gyöngy Lakás Coffee Break
Gyöngy Laky, Coffee Break, coffee stirrers, steel wire, 16.5” x 17” x 17”, 2011. Photo by Tom Grotta

 “All artists repurposing and upcycling materials challenge preconceived notions. When the eye recognizes a found object, it changes the meaning and the value of that object in the work. Whereas it may have been thrown away by someone else, it is now living a new life, no longer destined for the landfill but now in a place of preservation created by the artist, “ write Lori Gipson and Brooke Garcia (Repurposing and Upcycling Found Objects in Art – #EarthDay50). Preconceptions are are surely challenged by Gyöngy Laky’s Coffee Break, constructed of coffee stirrers and Fissures III,  by Karyl Sisson, made of nearly unrecognizable vintage paper straws, coiled in intriguing patterns.

Karyl Sisson straws
Karyl Sisson, Fissueres III, vintage drinking straws, thread and polymer, 16.5” x 16.5” x 1.75”, 2019. Photo by Tom Grotta

Plastic and metal are ubiquitous in landfills and our own trash. In Real, John McQueen draws attention to the problem of plastic waste. “Though we are not all that conscious of it, plastic containers are everywhere in our daily lives,” McQueen writes. “We are burying ourselves in them without seeing them.” The vertical, flat landscape in the work comes reflects the Chinese tradition of painting huge mountains with extremely small inhabitants almost lost somewhere in the composition, a contrast, he says, to the way the West believes humans rule the world and we believe we can do what we please.

John McQueen plastic bottles
John McQueen, Real, sticks and cut up plastic bottles, etc 55.5” x 36.75” x 3.5”, 2018. Photo by Tom Grotta

Harriete Estel Berman pulls ordinary material — in this case pre-printed steel from recycled tin containers — from the waste stream of society and recycles it, examining value and identity in our consumer society in the process. In her series, the Deceiver and the Deceived, Berman riveted together pieces of tin food containers, including SlimFast cans. The material looks plaited, quilted, or in the case of Figures in Fine Print, pieced. Through the text on the cans, the artist makes a potent statement about food and body image and the role advertising plays in our attitudes about both. Berman’s work is featured in the most recent episode of Craft in America, Jewelry which you can view online.

Harriete Estel Berman


Figures in Fine Print, Harriete Estel Berman. Framed wall piece constructed from recycled materials specifically tin cans and vintage steel dollhouses, aluminum rivets. Pedestal for a Woman to Stand On, Harriete Estel Berman. Printed steel from vintage steel doll houses and recycled tin cans, the green surface is covered with custom decals of $1.00 and $20.00 dollar bills. The cube shape used in the series A Pedestal for a Woman to Stand On is both a square (the basic structure of quilts) and a feminist response to minimalist sculpture. Photos courtesy of the artist.


The Japandí Catalog (our 52nd) is Available

Birgit Birkkjaer and Kay Sekimachi spread
Birgit Birkkjaer and Kay Sekimachi spread from: Japandí: shared aesthetics and influences

For browngrotta arts, documentation of the field of contemporary art textiles is critically important. Like a tree falling in the forest, if we don’t document an exhibition we’ve curated it’s a bit like if it didn’t happen. Generally, our exhibitions include catalogs that feature individual images of each artwork included, and often, an artist’s statement for each work. In addition, we typically feature essays by curators and scholars who take a broader look at the work or the exhibition theme.

Japandí: shared aesthetics and influences catalog cover
Japandí: shared aesthetics and influences catalog cover

For our latest catalog, Japandí: shared aesthetics and influences https://store.browngrotta.com/catalogs/ (our 52nd), however, we took a slightly different approach. Japandi is a term that refers to the aesthetic kinship one sees between art and design of Japan and the Scandinavian countries. To illustrate affinities, we created spreads — room- or wall-sized groupings of works from each region, rather than highlighting individual artworks. We included the artists’ recollections about how they discovered another culture or how other cultures have influenced their work. We added statements from designers, architects and authors about the similarities they have observed. 

Japandí: shared aesthetics and influences catalog cover
Works by Merja Winqvist, Naoko Serino, Kari Lønning and Yasuhisa Kohyama from Japandí: shared aesthetics and influences

Instead of commissioning an essay, we shared with you what we discovered about Japandi as we researched this exhibition. The introductory text, Mapping Affinities, explains that the roots of Japanese/Nordic synergy extend to the 19th century. It also explains that the trendy term, Japandi, refers to four elements, which the introduction describes: appreciation for exquisite craftsmanship and natural and sustainable materials, minimalism and respect for the imperfect (wabi-sabi) and the comfortable (hygge). The introduction also describes how the artists included experience the Japandi elements differently — some through study, some through travel. Still others describe recognizing these parallels in ways as something they were always aware of and acted upon.

textile by Chiyoko Tanaka, basket by Kazue Honma and wood sculpture by Markku Kosonen
Textile by Chiyoko Tanaka, basket by Kazue Honma and wood sculpture by Markku Kosonen from Japandí: shared aesthetics and influences

Not all the work that is in the catalog appeared in the exhibition — we included these works to further illustrate our sense of the regions’ common approaches.

Åse Ljones wall hanging and Ceramic by Yasuhisa Kohyama spread
Åse Ljones wall hanging and Ceramic by Yasuhisa Kohyama spread from Japandí: shared aesthetics and influences

We hope you’ll get a copy of Japandí: shared aesthetics and influences https://store.browngrotta.com/catalogs/ and see for yourself. 


Artist Focus: Tamiko Kawata

TAmiko Kawata portrait
Tamiko Kawata at SOFA NY exhibition. Photo by Tom Grotta

At first glance, Tamiko Kawata’s work is elegant and engaging. On closer inspection, viewers grow more intrigued as they recognize the materials are unexpected — safety pins, rubber bands, used pantyhose and newspaper. She has created arresting jewelry, sculpture, “painting” on canvas and installations. “I like to use overlooked, indigenous objects from our daily life for my medium,” she explains. “Discarded materials are important to me not only for environmental issues but also to reflect my current life.” Kawata studied art in Japan, receiving her BFA in Sculpture at Tsukuba University.  She explains that she was influenced by Bauhaus and Dada, and then the emergence of the Gutai Group, a Japanese avant-garde movement that began in 1954. All three art philosophies were particularly interested in unconventional materials. “These philosophies became a foundation for my way of thinking and for my art-making direction,” she says. In 1962, when she was 26, she came to New York, where she continues to live. 

While Kawata has made large works of newpapers and pantyhose, she is perhaps best known for her works made of safety pins. On arriving in the US, Kawata needed them to make her American-sized clothes fit. She found the pins

Rain Forset Installation
Rain Forest Photo courtesy of the artist.

in abundance in a dime store and has explored their potential as an art material ever since. The extent of that potential is surprising. Kawata has used pins of different size and colors to create dramatic installation works, like Rain Forest in which chains of pins that end in circles on the floor recall a rippling pond in Kyoto and the victims of the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. “I wanted to connect this beauty of nature and the atomic bomb victims,”
 she has explained. She uses the pins to create standalone sculptures of all shapes that can be displayed indoors or out.  She uses them to “draw” on canvas, too.

Saftey pin canvas
19tk Stillness Within, Tamiko Kawata, saftey pins, acrylic on canvas, 42″ x 48″, 2002-2004. Photo by Tom Grotta

Works like Stillness Within, surprise viewers who think they are looking at a painting or drawing but as they draw nearer that the artist’s “marks” are actually intentionally placed safety pins.

safety pin canvas
36tk Permutation 7, Tamiko Kawata, Japanese safety pins, canvas on a wood board 32” x 29.5” x 2017. Photo by Tom Grotta

In Permutation 7, pins of different colors create a meditative mosaic. 

saftey pin sculpture
32tk Cactus, Tamiko Kawata , saftey pin, stainless steel wire, 16” x 18” x 17”, 2013. Photo by Tom Grotta

Kawata’s work is in numerous collections, including: Museum of Arts and Design, New York, New York; Honolulu Contemporary Art Museum, Hawaii; Ishiguro Art Collection, Tokyo, Japan; Lafcadio Hearn/Yakumo Koizumi Art Museum, Matsue, Japan; Racine Art Museum, Wisconsin; Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Canada; Williamsburg Art and Historical Center, Brooklyn, New York; Yusuke Aida Collection, Tokyo, Japan; Davis Brody & Bond Architects, New York, New York; Ishiguro Art Collection, Tokyo, Japan; LongHouse Reserve, East Hampton, New York; PREC Institute, Tokyo, Japan; Buenno Premesela Art Collection, Amsterdam, the Netherlands. She is the recipient of numerous grants and fellowships including the Ucross Art Residency; American Academy for Arts and Letters, 2015 Purchase Award; Meet Factory Art Foundation Award,Solo Show and Residency, Prague, Czechoslovokia; Pollock/Krasner Foundation Grant; McDowell Art Colony Residency and the Yaddo Art Colony, Louise Bourgeois Residency Award for Sculpture.

Safety pin installation
August Grove by Tamiko Kawata. Photo courtesy of the artist.

“My works are personal.” she says. “They are my visual diaries.”


We’ve been hard at work — come see the results. Japandí opens this week!

Our Japandí exhibition features 39 artists from Japan, Finland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden and over 150 individual works. Here are details about just a few of the artworks that the exhibition includes.

Ane Henrsen portrait
Ane Henriksen preparing the material for Reserve. Photo by Ole Gravesen

A striking wall work, Reserve, by Ane Henriksen of Denmark is featured in Japandí. Henriksen originally found the material covered with oil spots, washed up along the sea by the west coast of Denmark – fishermen use it, on the table in the galley, so the plates don’t slide of when they are on the high seas. The piece also incorporates webbed, rubber matting, colored with acrylic paint. The warp is silk glued together with viscose (from Japan). “Nature is threatened,” says Henriksen. “I hope this is expressed in my image, which at first glance can be seen as a peaceful, recognizable view of nature, but when you move closer and see the material, it might make you uneasy, and and spur thoughts of how human activity is a threat against nature. By framing the nature motif museum-like in a solid oak frame, I try to make you aware how we store small natural remains in reserves – in the same way we store exquisite objects from our past history in our museums.”

Birgit Birkkjaer portrait
Birgit Birkkjaer at work. Photo by Kræn Ole Birkkjær

Also included in the exhibition are baskets by Danish artist Birgit Birkkjaer. They are made of black linen and Japanese tatami paper yarn (black and hand dyed with rust). “The technique I used for the structure is rya,” she reports, “which was known in Scandinavia already in the Viking Age — and from the 1950s until the 1970s as a trend started by Danish/Finnish artist collectives. So, the baskets have roots in both Japan and Scandinavia.”

Norie Hatakeyama portrait
Norie Hatakeyama creating paper-plaited work. Photo by Ray Tanaka

Among the works on display from Japan are intricately plaited objects created by Norie Hatakeyama. The artist works with factory-made paper-packing tape to realize her geometric concerns. It is an experimental material that enables her to break free from traditional limitations.

“My work stems from an impulse to redefine both material and method,” says Hatakeyama. Her intricately plaited, three-dimensional works possess the energy of growing organisms. “The works ‘defy the viewer to imagine how they were accomplished,’”art critic and author Janet Koplos has observed.

Jiro Yonezawa at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Deer Isle, Maine. Photo by Tom Grotta

Jiro Yonezawa is also represented in Japandí with several works. Yonezawa is known for innovative bamboo basketry based on traditional techniques. He says that his recent baskets “represent a search for the beauty and precision in nature and a way to balance the chaos evident in these times.” The search for balance and harmony is one of the elements attributed to Japandi style.

Please join us!

The hours of the exhibtion are: 

Opening and Artist Reception: Saturday, September 25th: 11 to 6

Sunday, September 26th: 11 to 6

Monday, September 27th through Saturday October 2nd: 10 to 5

Sunday, October 3rd: 11 to 6

Advanced time reservations are mandatory; Appropriate Covid protocols will be followed. Masks will be required. There is a full-color catalog, Japandi: shared aesthetics and influences, prepared for the exhibition available at for pre-order at:  https://store.browngrotta.com/japandi-shared-aesthetics-and-influences/