Category: Obiturary

Lives Well Lived: Dorothy Gill Barnes (1927-2020)

We are heartbroken to report that innovative contemporary basketmaker and fiber sculptor Dorothy Gill Barnes, passed away peacefully on November 23, 2020 at age 93, after a short battle with COVID-19. Barnes was a revered member of the browngrotta arts community — she taught our son to harvest materials and mark trees when he was just three.

Portrait of Dorothy Gill Barnes in studio. Photo by Tom Grotta

Barnes was known for developing a distinct working process that included scarring trees that had been marked for eventual removal and returning years later, after the trees had been cut, to harvest the scarred and overgrown bark for use in her baskets. This process enabled her to create dendroglyphs—literally, “tree drawings” — in which tree and time became her collaborators. “The unique properties I find in bark, branches, roots, seaweed, and stone suggest a work process to me,” Barnes said. “I want this problem solving to be evident in the finished piece.”

Born in Iowa, and a longtime resident of the Columbus, Ohio area, Barnes studied at Coe College, Minneapolis School of Art and Cranbrook Academy, as well as at the University of Iowa, where she earned BA and MA degrees in art education. Barnes taught fibers as an adjunct faculty member at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, from 1966 until her retirement from university teaching in 1990. Throughout much of her career, Barnes was a sought-after teacher, participating in residencies and workshops in Denmark, New Zealand, Australia, Fiji and Canada, as well as throughout the United States. Barnes’ early influences were the artist and teacher Ruth Mary Papenthien, who taught at Ohio State University, and Dwight Stump, an Ohio-based traditional basketmaker. She also credited the works of John McQueen and Ed Rossbach as spurring her experiments using natural materials to make contemporary sculpture.

Portrait of Dorothy Gill Barnes. Photo by Tom Grotta

Barnes’ technical investigations placed her at the forefront of contemporary fiber art. She used electric tools to expand the scale, scope and complexity of her pieces and she credited power equipment as the source for ideas that handwork alone would not have suggested. She was comfortable incorporating nails, metal wire and staples along with traditional woven assembly methods. In all of her sculptures, Barnes sought to create structures that honored the growing things from which they came, her materials “respectfully harvested from nature.” Like Rossbach and McQueen, she prized experimentation, spontaneity, inventiveness. She continued to expand her artistic practice into her 90s, as a visiting artist working with students in glass in the Department of Art at Ohio State University until 2018.

Millcreek Willow, 1996. Photo by Tom Grotta

A Fellow of the American Craft Council, Barnes received lifetime achievement awards from the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC and the National Basketry Organization. Other awards include the Raymond J. Hanley Award, Outstanding/Artist Educator from Penland School of Crafts, an Individual Artist Governor’s Award for the Arts in Ohio, and four Ohio Arts Council Individual Artist Fellowships. Her work is in the collections of the Columbus Museum of Art; the de Young Museum of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; the Mint Museum, Charlotte North Carolina; Museum of Arts and Design, New York, New York; Racine Art Museum, Wisconsin; Longhouse Reserve, East Hampton, New York; Arkansas Arts Center, Little Rock; the Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian’s Museum of American Art, Washington, DC; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, among others. In Nature, a comprehensive retrospective, was held at the Mansfield Arts Center in 2018. The Ohio Craft Museum hosted From the Woods: Dorothy Gill Barnes, a major mid-career survey in 1999. 

Barnes’ work has been represented by browngrotta arts in Wilton, Connecticut since the 90s. “Barnes’ ability to showcase the natural materials with which she worked, yet enhancing them through weaving, plaiting, scarring, stacking and sflaying, placed her at the forefront of contemporary fiber art,” observes Tom Grotta, co-curator of browngrotta arts. 

“[Barnes] is attentive to the innate characteristics of a given wood in her aesthetic decision making and rarely forces a wood into an unnatural or artificial mold,” wrote Jeanne Fryer-Kohles in From the Woods: Dorothy Gill Barnes, the eponymous catalog for Barnes’ solo exhibition at the Ohio Craft Museum. “At the same time, she works intuitively with an experimental turn of mind and integrity of vision …. Barnes’ works are rarely preplanned; she prefers to wend her way toward and into a piece, accepting detours and possible pitfalls as a matter of course. Barnes takes raw nature as a starting point. Rather than subjugating it, as [John] McQueen does, with a ‘civilizing’ impress, Barnes guides and amplifies it – in a sense, keeping its ghost enshrined.”

Dendroglyph Band Mulberry, 2000. Photo by Tom Grotta

Barnes also had a long history of activism in the civil rights and anti-war movements. She could be found every Saturday for many years, on the Worthington Village Green with her friends from Central Ohioans for Peace, encouraging drivers to “Honk for Peace” as they passed. She encouraged others to think globally and have empathy for all, regardless of differences. She supported environmental conservation, Honduras Hope and Habitat for Humanity, where she was a longtime volunteer. 

Friends are invited to attend a virtual celebration of life to honor Dorothy Gill Barnes on Sunday, December 13th from 3-5 PM EST. Details are available at www.schoedinger.com. Donations in Barnes’ memory can be made to The Nature Conservancy (www.nature.org), Sierra Club (www.sierraclub.org), or to a charity of your choice. Please visit www.schoedinger.com to send online condolences.


Lives Well Lived: Glen Kaufman (1932 – 2020)

leaf, 48” x 24” x 1” 1990
13gk Pulguk-sa, Kyong-Ju, Glen Kaufman, silk damask, silver leaf; screenprint, impressed metal leaf, 48” x 24” x 1” 1990
12gk Yoshikawa, Noto, Glen Kaufman
silk damask, silver leaf; screenprint, impressed metal leaf, 48” x 24” x 1” 1990
13gk Pulguk-sa, Kyong-Ju, Glen Kaufman
silk damask, silver leaf; screenprint, impressed metal leaf, 48” x 24” x 1” 1990
photo by Tom Grotta

We were saddened to learn of the loss of talented artist and educator Glen Kaufman last month. Born in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin in 1932, Kaufman attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison on an Air Force ROTC scholarship, where he met his wife and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in 1954. Following his Air Force service, he enrolled at Cranbrook Academy of Art, earning an MFA degree in Weaving & Textiles in 1959. In 1960, he received a Fulbright Scholarship and attended the State School of Arts & Crafts in Copenhagen. Upon returning to the US, he worked as a designer for Dorothy Liebes in New York City. He returned to Cranbrook Academy as educator, heading the Fibers Department until 1967. In 1967, he was hired by Lamar Dodd as associate professor of Art at the University of Georgia, where taught for over 40 years. He was an honorary member of the Surface Design Association for life and elected into the American Craft Council College of Fellows in 1988. His papers, dated from 1957-2011, were donated to the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian in 2015. The papers primarily document his travels and student work through biographical material, journals, printed materials, and artwork. Included are 15 travel journals, two sketchbooks, biographical material, professional correspondence, teaching files, photographs of Kaufman and works of art, works of art including sketches and weaving samples, two handwoven knotted pile rug samples and printed material. An oral biography of Kaufman with curator Josephine Shea is found on the Smithsonian situate: https://www.aaa.si.edu/download_pdf_transcript/ajax?record_id=edanmdm-AAADCD_oh_366203.

anhattan/New Jersey View
Glen Kaufman, handwoven silk twill, silver leaf; screenprint, impressed metal leaf, 10” x 30” x 1”, 1997
8gk Manhattan/New Jersey View
Glen Kaufman, handwoven silk twill, silver leaf; screenprint, impressed metal leaf
10” x 30” x 1”, 1997
photo by Tom Grotta

From 1983 on, Kaufman divided his time between homes in Athens, Georgia and Kyoto, Japan.. “I have set about creating my work in a foreign place – Kyoto – for half of each year since 1983,” he wrote. “The images in my work can be seen as shadows cast on shoji screens or glimpses of a world seen through a personal window.

In these ‘window views’ I have struggled to achieve a synthesis of my two worlds – tile roofs in Asia; skylines of cities and towns in America. Images of architecture in gold or silver leaf float behind grids on silk panels both large and small,” Kaufman wrote. His work in the US and Japan involved photographs and gold leaf, which he used to capture the architecture of each locale and to reveal aspects of these differing worlds. A grid motif, present in most of these pieces, reflects the prevalence of the grid in Japanese architecture.”The grid fragments the image and at the same time provides a familiar framework, allowing the viewer to perceive the entire image, yet concentrate on the small square.

32gk SHIMOGAMO SCROLLS: STUDIO VIEW II, Glen Kaufman
photo collage, screen print and impressed silver leaf on handwoven kasuri silk, 70” x 17”, 2002
32gk SHIMOGAMO SCROLLS: STUDIO VIEW II
Glen Kaufman
photo collage, screen print and impressed silver leaf on handwoven kasuri silk
, 70” x 17”, 2002
photo by Tom Grotta


“The work evolves from my photographs, photographs that are transformed into strong black-and-white images that express the reality of the subject. These strongly contrasting images are printed onto a silk fabric by screening a special paste over a grid. Subsequently, gold or silver leaf is impressed into the cloth. When the excess leaf is removed, the grid is revealed and the image floats on a surface behind the window grid.The metal leaf I use has inherent reflective qualities that vary depending on the type, color, thickness, and weave of the ground cloth. The reflection of light on the leaf and silk – which changes depending on the light source and the time of day – give an inner life and dynamic visual energy to these works.”

Kaufman’s work appeared in more than 60 solo exhibitions in New York, Boston, Kyoto, Berkeley, Tokyo, Sapporo, Honolulu, San Francisco, Osaka, Nagoya, Seattle, Seoul, Busan, Atlanta and more than 130 group exhibitions in North America, Europe and Asia. His works are in the permanent collections of more than 20 museums, including the Museum of Art and Design, NY; The Art Institute of Chicago; Ba Tang Gol Art Center, Seoul; The Cleveland Museum of Art; Juraku Museum, Kyoto, Japan; Long House Foundation, San Francisco; H.M. de Young Museum, San Francisco; and the Smithsonian Institution, Renwick Gallery, Washington, DC.