Category: Basketry

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 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)


Check Out Our One-of-a-Kind Gift Guide: No Supply Chain Issues Here

2021 browngrotta Gift Guide

This year we’ve gathered our art selections into a clickable lookbook format. Whether you are gifting yourself, a friend or family member, a work of art makes a truly unique choice. Our curated collection includes art for every location, including crowdpleasing centerpieces (Rocking the Table) and coveted items to set on a bookshelf (Boosting a Bookshelf) or counter top (Counter Balancing)

Narrow wall art pieces

We’ve included art suggestions to fill special spots — including those often hard-to-fill narrow walls (On the Straight and Narrow). Our choices include a pleated fabric work by Caroline Bartlett of the UK and a hanging of hand-painted threads by Ulla-Maija Vikman, known as “Finland’s colorist.” Or have you got your eye on an empty space? The one that makes you think — “I wish I could find just the right piece of art for that spot.” We’ve got a batch of ideas for you there — from embellished photographs by Gyöngy Laky(US) to an intricate embroidery by Scott Rothstein(US) to a newsprint and lacquer collage by Toshio Sekiji of Japan.

Natural baskets

There are works at every price point, from the brightly colored abstract tapestry, Flow, by Jo Barker, a Cordis Prize winner from the UK to a basket sculpture of cottonwood by Christine Joy(US) to a new book about the innovative weaver Włodzimierz Cygan of Poland.

Take a look here: http://www.browngrotta.com/digitalfolios/HolidayFlipBook/Hoilday FlipBook 2021.html

The small print:

Order for the holidays by December 13th and we’ll ship by December 14th for domestic delivery by the holidays (though due to COVID and other delays, we can’t guaranteed the shippers’ schedule). If you’d like us to gift wrap your purchase, email us at art@browngrotta.com, as soon as you have placed your order. To ensure we know you want gift wrapping, don’t wait to contact us — we generally ship as soon as the orders are received. Quantities are limited.


Sailing Away: The Perpetual Artistic Appeal of Boats

Lawrence LaBianca's Boat installation
Lawrence LaBianca’s Boat installation, 2010: Skiff; Twenty Four Hours on the Roaring Fork River, Aspen CO. Day Two; Boat House; Trow. Photo by Tom Grotta

Boats and ships and time on the water are potent metaphors for the highs and lows of contemporary life.

As FineArt America says of “boat art”:”… whether you own a boat, grew up by the sea, or dream of sailing the wide-open ocean, boats have a way of making us feel a unique combination of calm and adventurous.”.

New York Bay 1884
Helena Hernmarck, New York Bay 1884, wool, 10’ x 13.5’, 1990. Photo by Tom Grotta

Artists at browngrotta arts explore the artistic potential of boats and boat shapes in widely divergent ways. 

Kayak Bundles
Chris Drury, Kayak Bundles, willow bark and cloth sea charts from Greenland and Outer Hebrides, 79″ x 55″ x 12″, 1994. Photo by Tom Grotta

Some, like Lawrence LaBianca, Helena Hernmarck, Chris Drury and Annette Bellamy, have referenced them literally in their work. Lawrence LaBianca creates experiences in which water is an integral part. In Skiff, an antique telephone receiver links viewers to sounds of a rushing river. Twenty-four Hours on the Roaring Fork River, Aspen, CO, is a print created by Drawing Boat, a vessel filled with river rocks that makes marks on paper when it is afloat. Annette Bellamy has lived in a small fishing village called Halibut Cove right across the bay from Homer, Alaska and worked as a commercial fisherwoman. Off season, she reflects on her day job, creating porcelain, earthenware, raku-fired ceramic and stoneware boats, buoys, sinkers and oars that float inches from the floor.

Floating installation at the Fuller Museum

Annette Bellamy, Floating installation at the Fuller Museum (detail), 2012. Stoneware, porcelain wood fired and reduction fired. Photo by Tom Grotta

Others, like Dona Anderson, Jane Balsgaard, Merja Winquist, Birgit Birkkjaer and Christine Joy, are moved to create more abstract versions. Boat is a part of new work of hers that is more angular, says Christine Joy. “The shape that occurs when I bend the willow reminds me of waves on choppy water, boats, and the movement of water.” Birgit Birkkjaer’s baskets contain precious amber that she has found washed up on the shore. The indigo-dyed baskets symbolize the sea that brings the amber to the shore – and a ship from ancient times, transporting the Nordic Gold to the rest of Europe. Boats and boat shapes conjure thoughts of water as a natural force, a spiritual source, or a resource for which humans are responsible — and not doing such a red hot job. 

Dona Anderson Boat
Crossing Over, Dona Anderson, bamboo kendo (martial art sticks); patterned paper; thread, 15″ x 94″ x 30″ , 2008. Photo by Tom Grotta
Nordic Gold comes from the Sea
Birgit Birkkjær, Nordic Gold comes from the Sea, linen, amber, plexi, 2.25” x 27.5” x 13”, 2016. Photo by Tom Grotta
Christine Joy willow boat
Boat Becoming River, Christine Joy, willow 14” x 31” x 10”, 2018. Photo by Tom Grotta

in each case the results are imaginative and intriguing. Enjoy these varied depictions and see more on our website.

Jane Balsgaard Boats
Paper Sculpture II-IV, Jane Balsgaard, bamboo, piassava, willow, fishing line, japaneese and handmade plant paper, 14” x 13.5 x 5“, 2020. Photo by Tom Grotta

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. 


Japandí: Shared Sensibilities, Side by Side

In curating and installing our current exhibition, Japandí: shared aesthetics and influences we paired works in which we saw similarities and parallels. Here are some examples of affinities we saw. Join us at Japandí through October 3rd and find your own.

Jiro Yonezawa, Ecdysis, bamboo, urushi lacquer, 27” x 8” x 5.75”, 2019; Mia Olsson, Together, relief, sisal fibers, acrylic, 17.75” x 15” x 3”, 2021. Photo by Tom Grotta

Minimalism is an aesthetic element appreciated by artists in Japan and the Nordic countries and listed as part of Japandi. Here, a minimalist work, Together, by Mia Olsson of Sweden sits aside an abstract bamboo sculpture, Ecdysis, 2019, by Jiro Yonezawa. Yonezawa uses bamboo strips to create a multitude of simple, nontraditional forms.  

Agneta Hobin Mica
Detail: Agneta Hobin, Claire De Lune II, Untitled, mica, steel, 18” x 27” x 2.5”, 2001-2

Meticulous craftsmanship is another Japandi element. Stainless steel fibers are masterfully incorporated into the work of three of the artists in this exhibition. Agneta Hobin of Finland weaves the fine threads into mesh, incorporating mica and folding the material into shapes — fans, strips and bridges. Jin-Sook So’s work is informed by time spent in Korea, Sweden and Japan. She uses transparent stainless steel mesh cloth, folded, stitched, painted and electroplated to create shimmering objects for the wall or tabletop. The past and present are referenced in So’s work in ways that are strikingly modern and original.  She has used steel mesh to create contemporary Korean pojagi and to re-envision common objects — chairs, boxes and bowls. Kyoko Kumai of Japan spins the fibers into ethereal, silver landscapes.

Kyoko Kumai Steel detail
32kk Memory, Kyoko Kumai, stainless steel filaments, 41” x 19” x 19”, 2017. Photo by Tom Grotta
Jin-Sook So steel mesh construction detail
Detail: Konstruktion B, Jin-Sook So, steel mesh, electroplated, silver, gold, paint and steel thread, 18.75″ x 19.75″ x 2.55″, 2007. Photo by Tom Grotta

Another aspect of the Japandi approach is an appreciation of natural and sustainable materials. Both Norwegian-American Kari Lønning and Japanese artists Kazue Honma work in akebia— a vine, harvested thousands of miles apart. Here are details of Lønning’s multicolored rendering of akebia and a plaited work of mulberry from Kazue Honma. Both artists highlight the wide variation of colors found in the material with which they work.

Detail: Kari Lønning, 74kl Akebia Tower, akebia, 10.5” x 4” x 4.5”, 2021
Kazue Honma Plaited basket
Detail: Kazue Honma, Capricious Plaiting, plaited paper, mulberry bark, 10.5″ x 18″ x 12.5″, 2016. Photo by Tom Grotta

Join us at our Fall Art in the Barn exhibition, Japandí: shared aesthetics and influences through October 3rd, see our parallel pairings and envision some of your own. 39 artists present more than 150 works. browngrotta arts, 276 Ridgefield Road, Wilton, CT 06897. 

We’ve expanded our hours during the week.

Wednesday, September 29th through Saturday, October 2nd: 10 to 6

Sunday, October 3rd: 11 to 6

Advanced time reservations are mandatory • Masks required • Covid protocols • No high heels please (barn floors). http://www.browngrotta.com/Pages/japandi.php

A full-color catalog, Japandi: shared aesthetics and influences, is available for order at: https://store.browngrotta.com/japandi-shared-aesthetics-and-influences/


Lives well lived: Sandra Grotta

Sandra Grotta at her 80th birthday party. Jewelry by David Watkins, Gerd Rothmann and Eva Eisler. Photo by Tom Grotta

browngrotta arts is devasted by the loss of Sandra Grotta, our extraordinary collector and patron and mother and grandmother. Sandy and her husband Lou have been pivotal in the growth of browngrotta arts through their advice and unerring support. Sandy graduated from the University of Michigan and the New York School of Interior Design. For four decades, she provided interior design assistance to dozens of clients — many through more than one home and office. She encouraged them to live with craft art, as she and Lou had done, placing works by Toshiko Takezu, Mariette Rousseau-Vermette, Helena Hernmarck, Gyöngy Laky, Markku Kosonen, Mary Merkel-Hess and many other artists in her clients’ homes. Among her greatest design talents was persuading people to de-accession pieces they had inherited, but never loved, to make way for art and furnishings that provided them joy. Sandy was a uniquely confident collector and she shared that conviction with her clients.  

Her own collecting journey began in the late 1950s, when she and Lou first stepped into the Museum of Contemporary Crafts in New York City after a visit to the Museum of Modern Art. “The Museum’s exhibitions, many of whose objects were for sale in its store, caused a case of love at first sight. It quickly became a founding source of many craft purchases to follow,” Sandy told Patricia Malarcher in 1982 (“Crafts,” The New York Times, Patricia Malarcher, October 24, 1982). It was a walnut table ”with heart” on view at MoCC that would irrevocably alter the collectors’ approach. The table was by Joyce and Edgar Anderson, also from New Jersey. The Grottas sought the artists out and commissioned the first of many works commissioned and acquired throughout the artists’ lifetimes, including a roll-top desk, maple server and a sofa-and-table unit that now live in browngrotta arts’ gallery space. She followed the advice she would give to others:  “When we saw the Andersons’ woodwork,” Sandy remembered, “we knew everything else had to go,” Sandy told Glenn Adamson. From the success of that first commission, the Grottas’ art exploration path was set. The Andersons introduced the Grottas to their friends, ceramists Toshiko Takaezu and William Wyman. “The Andersons were our bridge to other major makers in what we believe to have been the golden age of contemporary craft,” Sandy said, “and the impetus to my becoming our decorator.”  

Sandra Grotta in her Maplewood, NJ living room
Sandra Grotta in her Maplewood, NJ living room surrounded by works by Mariette Rousseau-Vermette, Peter Vouklos, William Wyman, Toshiko Takaezu, Rudy Autio, Joyce and Edgar Anderson and Charle Loloma. Photo by Tom Grotta

When Objects USA: the Johnson Wax Collection, opened in New York in 1972 at MoCC, by then renamed the American Craft Museum, the Grottas began discovering work further afield. ”Objects USA was my Bible,” Sandy told Malarcher describing how she would search out artists, ceramists, woodworkers and jewelers. A trip to Ariel, Washington, led the Grottas to commission an eight-foot-tall Kwakiutl totem pole for the front hall by Chief Don Lelooska. Sandy ordered a bracelet by Charles Loloma from a picture in a magazine. ”I always got a little nervous when the packages came, but I’ve never been disappointed,” Sandy told Malarcher. ”Craftsmen are a special breed.” Toshiko Takaezu, as an example, would require interested collectors like the Grottas to come by her studio in Princeton, NJ, a few times first to “interview” before she’d permit them to acquire special works. It took 15 years and several studio visits each year for the Grottas to convince the artist to part with the “moon pot” that anchors their formidable Takaezu collection. Jewelers Wendy Ramshaw and David Watkins in the UK also became dear friends as Sandy developed a world-class jewelry collection. At one point, in a relationship that included weekly transatlantic calls, Sandy told Wendy she needed “everyday earrings.” Wendy responded with earrings for every day – seven pairs in fact. “For me, the surprise was that they found me,” says John McQueen. “I lived in Western New York state far from the hubbub of the art world.” McQueen says that he discovered they the Grotta’s were completely open to any new aesthetic experience. “from that moment, we established a strong connection, that has led to a rapport that has continued through the years – a close personal and professional relationship.”

Sandy Grotta's bust by Norma Minkowitz
Norma Minkowitz’s portrait of Sandy Grotta sourounded by artwork’s by Alexander Lichtveld, Bodil Manz, Lenore Tawney, Ann Hollandale, Kay Sekimachi, Ed Rossbach, Toshiko Takaezu, Laurie Hall. Photo by Tom Grotta

Their accumulation of objects has grown to include more that 300 works of art and pieces of jewelry by dozens of artists, and with their Richard Meier home, has been the subject of two books. The most recent, The Grotta Home by Richard Meier: A Marriage of Architecture and Craft, was photographed and designed by Tom Grotta of bga. They don’t consider themselves collectors in the traditional sense, content to exhibit art on just walls and surfaces. Sandy and Lou’s efforts were aimed at creating a home. They filled every aspect of their lives with handcrafted objects from silver- and tableware to teapots to clothing to studio jewelry and commissioned pillows, throws and canes, a direction she also recommended for her interior design clients. The result, writes Glenn Adamson in The Grotta Home,”is a home that is at once totally livable and deeply aesthetic.” Among the additional artists whose work the Grottas acquired for their home were wood worker Thomas Hucker, textile and fiber artists Sheila Hicks, Lenore Tawney and Norma Minkowitz, ceramists Peter Voulkos, Ken Ferguson and William Wyman and jewelers Gijs Bakker, Giampaolo Babetto, Axel Russmeyer and Eva Eisler. They have traveled to Japan, the UK, Czechoslovakia, Germany and across the US to view art and architecture and meet with artists.

Perhaps their most ambitious commission was the Grotta House, by Richard Meier. Designed to house and highlight craft and completed in 1989, it is a source of constant delight for the couple, with its shifting light, showcased views of woodlands and wildlife and engaging spaces for object installation. The Grottas were far more collaborative clients than is typical for Meier. “From our very first discussions,” Meier has written,”it was clear that their vast collection of craft objects and Sandy’s extensive experience as an interior designer would be an important in the design of the house.“ The sensitivity with which the collection was integrated into Meier’s design produced “an enduring harmony between an ever-changing set of objects and they space they occupy.” The unique synergy between objects and architecture is evident decades later, even as the collection has evolved.  Despite his “distinct — and ornament-free — visual language, Meier created a building that lets decorative objects take a leading role on the architectural stage,” notes Osman Can Yerebakan in Introspective magazine (“Tour a Richard Meier–Designed House That Celebrates American Craft,” Osman Can Yerebakan, Introspective, February 23, 2020). The house project had an unexpected benefit — a professional partnership between Sandy and Grotta House project manager, David Ling, that would result in memorable art exhibition and living spaces designed for the homes and offices of many of Sandy’s design clients.

Sandy and Lou became patrons of the American Craft Museum in 1970s. As a member of the Associates committee she organized several annual fundraisers for the Museum, including Art for the Table, E.A.T. at McDonald’s and Art to Wear, sometimes with her close friend, Jack Lenor Larsen, another assured acquirer, as co-chair. At the openings, she would sport an artist-made piece of jewelry or clothing, sometimes both, and often it was an item that arrived or was finished literally hours before the event. “I wear all my jewelry,” she told Metalsmith Magazine in 1991 (Donald Freundlich and Judith Miller, “The State of Metalsmithing and Jewelry,” Metalsmith Magazine, Fall 1991) “I love to go to a party where everyone is wearing pearls and show up in a wild necklace …. I have a house brooch by Künzli – a big red house that you wear on your shoulder. I can go to a party in a wild paper necklace and feel as good about it as someone else does in diamonds.” Sandy served on the Board of the by-then-renamed Museum of Arts and Design, stepping down in 2019. 

Portrait of Sandy Grotta
Sandra Grotta Portrait in Florida Apartment in front of sculptures by Dawn MacNutt and a tapestry by Jun Tomita

From its inception, Sandy served as a trusted advisor, cheerleader and cherished client to browngrotta arts. She introduced us to artists, to her design clients and Museum colleagues. Questions of aesthetic judgment — are there too many works in this display? too much color? does this work feel unfinished? imitative? decorative? — were presented to her for review. (She was unerring on etiquette disputes, too.) The debt we owe her is enormous; the void she leaves is large indeed. We can only say thank you, we love you and your gifts will live on.

You can learn more about Sandy’s life and legacy on The Grotta House website: https://grottahouse.com and in the book, The Grotta Home by Richard Meier: A Marriage of Architecture and Craft available from browngrotta at: https://store.browngrotta.com/the-grotta-home-by-richard-meier-a-marriage-of-architecture-and-craft/.

The family appreciates memorial contributions to the Sandra and Louis Grotta Foundation, Inc., online at https://joingenerous.com/louis-and-sandra-grotta-foundation-inc-r5yelcd or by mail to The Louis and Sandra Grotta Foundation, Inc., P.O. Box 766, New Vernon, NJ 07976-0000.


Our 51st Catalog – Adaptation: Artists Respond to Change

The theme of our most recent exhibition, Adaptation: Artists Respond to Change was intentionally broad, to cover all sorts of external circumstances — besides the pandemic — that might influence an artists process. 

Adaptation: artists respond to change cover

Artists who work with browngrotta arts coped with the changes of the last year various ways — moving locations, taking up art photography, taking new inspiration from nature. But COVID and lockdowns are just some of the many reasons artists make changes in others include adapting when a material becomes unavailable (willow) or a new one suggests itself (fiber optic, bronze, copper, steel, kibisio, akebia), making a move in the US from the East to the South or from one country to another or from the city to the desert, facing a change in physical abilities (allergy, injury), an altered personal relationship, or a commission opportunity or an exhibition challenge. Our 51st catalog tells the stories of 47 artists from 14 countries, how their art has changed and why.

Adaptation: contents page

Replete with photos of work, installation and detail shots the catalog also includes an essay by Josephine Shea, Art Bridges Initiative, American Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. 

“Every year brings losses and change, but 2020 brought them on a global scale. In the US, election-year politics and racial injustice, were layered on top of the pandemic,” writes Shea. “Some of the artists in Adaption created work that responded to the challenges of moment, while others looked at long-term issues, like climate change.  Work by these artists also reveals the impacts of lockdown constraints, some imposed and some self-imposed, as studio space access was interrupted and available supplies a variable for experimentation …. And, that art aids resilience, providing artists a way to find calm, express emotional turmoil and turn adversity — like injury or a mudslide or trip on a vine — into opportunity.”

Jin-Sook So spread

The artists included in the exhibition and catalog are: Adela Akers (US), Polly Barton (US), James Bassler (US), Zofia Butrymowicz (Poland), Sara Brennan (UK), Pat Campbell (US), Włodzimierz Cygan (Poland), Neha Puri Dhir(India), Paul Furneaux (UK), John Garrett (US), Ane Henriksen (Denmark), Kazue Honma (Japan), Tim Johnson (UK), Lewis Knauss (US), Nancy Koenigsberg (US), Yasuhisa Kohyama  (Japan), Irina Kolesnikova(Russia/Germany), Lawrence LaBianca (US), Gyöngy Laky (US), Sue Lawty (UK), Jennifer Falck Linssen (US), Kari Lønning (US), Federica Luzzi (Italy), Rachel Max (UK), John McQueen (US), Mary Merkel-Hess (US),Norma Minkowitz (US), Laura Foster Nicholson (US), Keiji Nio (Japan), Gudrun Pagter (Denmark), Eduardo Portillo & Mariá Eugenia Dávila (Venezuela), Mariette Rousseau-Vermette (Canada), Heidrun Schimmel (Germany), Hisako Sekijima (Japan), Naoko Serino (Japan), Karyl Sisson (US), Jin-Sook So (Korea/Sweden), Polly Sutton (US), Noriko Takamiya (Japan), Chiyoko Tanaka (Japan), Blair Tate (US), Wendy Wahl (US), Gizella K Warburton (UK), Grethe Wittrock (Denmark) and Shin Young-ok (Korea), Carolina Yrarrázaval (Chile).

Lewis Knauss Spread

For a copy of Adaptation: Artists Respond to Change, visit our website: http://store.browngrotta.com/adaption-artist-respond-to-change/


Adaptation Opens Saturday at browngrotta arts, Wilton, CT

from left to right works by Paul Furneaux and Eduardo Portillo & Mariá Eugenia Dávila. Photo by Tom Grotta

This Saturday at 11 am, our Spring Art in the Barn exhibition: Adaption: Artists Respond to Change opens to the public. We can’t describe it better than ArteMorbida: the Textile Arts Magazine did. “This project is born from the reflection on how the world of art and its protagonists, the artists, had to rethink and redesign their action, when the pandemic, significantly affecting the global lifestyle, compelled everyone to a forced and repeated isolation,” the magazine wrote. “But the need to adapt their responses to change, generated by the complicated health situation, was only the beginning of a broader reflection that led the two curators [Rhonda Brown and Tom Grotta] to note that change itself is actually an evolutionary process immanent in human history, generative, full of opportunities and unexpected turns.”

Tapestries by Carolina Yrarrázaval. Photo by Tom Grotta

The 48 artists in Adaptation pose, and in some cases answer, a series of interesting questions about art. Does it offer solutions for dealing with daily stress? For facing larger social and global issues? How do artists use art to respond to unanticipated circumstances in their own lives. The work in the exhibition offers a wide variety of responses to these questions.

Several of artists wrote eloquently for the Adaptation catalog about how art has helped them manage the stress and upheaval of the past year. Ideally, for those who attend Adaptation: Artist’s Respond to Change that calming effect will be evident and even shared. 

pictured: works by Lawrence LaBianca, Włodzimierz Cygan, Chiyoko Tanaka, Gizella Warburton, Norma Minkowitz, Polly Adams Sutton

Wlodzimierz Cygan of Poland says the time of the pandemic allowed him to draw his attention to a “slightly different face of Everyday, the less grey one.”  He found that, “slowing down the pace of life, sometimes even eliminating some routine activities, helps one to taste each day separately and in the context of other days. Time seems to pass slower, I can stay focused longer.” Life has changed in Germany, Irina Kolesnikova told us. Before the pandemic, “we would travel a lot, often for a short time, a few days or a weekend. We got used to seeing the variety in the world, to visit different cities, to go to museums, to get acquainted with contemporary art. Suddenly, that life was put on pause, our social circle reduced to the size of our immediate environment.” Kolesnikova felt a need to dive deeper into herself and create a new series of small works, Letters from Quarantine, “to just work and enjoy the craft.”

clockwise: Adela Akers, Irina Kolesnikova, Ane Henriksen, Nancy Koenigsberg, Laura Foster Nicholson, Lawrence LaBianca, Gizella Warburton. Photo by Tom Grotta

Other artists were moved to create art that concerned larger social issues. Karyl Sisson’s Fractured III, makes use of vintage paper drinking straws to graphically represent in red and white the discontents seen and felt in America as the country grappled with police violence against Black Americans, polarized election politics and larger issues like climate change and the environment.  Climate change and the danger of floods and fire were reflected in the work of the several artists in Adaptation. New Yorker Nancy Koenigsberg created Approaching Storm, adding an even greater density of the grey, coated-copper wire that she generally works with to build a darkened image that serves as a warning for the gravity of current events.

High water appears in Laura Foster Nicholson’s view of Le Procuratie, which envisions a flooded Venice, metallic threads illustrating the rising waters. Works by Adela Akers and Neha Puri Dhir were influenced by wildfires in California and India, respectively.

left to right: Karyl Sisson, Jennifer Falck Linssen, Sue Lawty, Jin -Sook So

Still other artists found way to use their art as a meditative practice in order to face their sense of personal and public dislocation. For Jennifer Falck Linssen, the solution was to turn off all media, go outside and find inspiration in morning and evening light. For Paul Furneaux, initially cut off from his studio, the garden became an obsession as he undertook an extensive renovation.  Returning to art making, the spring colors, greens and yellows he had seen while gardening, created a new palette for his work.  Feeling the need for complete change, Hisako Sekijima turned away from basket finishing. Instead, immersing herself in the underlying processes of plaiting. Her explorations became both meditative and a process that led to new shapes. 

Experience these artists’ reflections on change in person. Schedule your appointment for Adaptation: Artists Respond to Change here:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/adaptation-artists-respond-to-change-tickets-148974728423

The full-color catalog(our 51st) for Adaptation: Artists Respond to Change is available Friday May 7th:

http://store.browngrotta.com/adaption-artist-respond-to-change/