Category: Sculpture

Acquisition News – Part I, US

We last reported on museum acquisitions of works by artists from browngrotta arts in 2019. There has been continued interest in acquiring work by these artists in the two years since by museums and art programs in the US and abroad. browngrotta arts has placed several works and acquisitions have occurred through the efforts of other galleries, artists and donors. As a result, we have a long list of aquisitions to report. In this, Part I, acquisitions in the Untied States:

Polly Adams Sutton
Polly Adams Sutton, Facing the Unexpected, 2013. Photo by Tom Grotta

Polly Adams Sutton

Polly Adams Sutton’s work Facing the Unexpected has been acquired by the Smithsonian American Art Musuem. It’s going to be part of the Renwick’s 50th anniversary exhibition in 2022.

Norma Minkowitz
Norma Minkowitz’s, Goodbye My Friend, 2017. Photo by Tom Grotta

Norma Minkowitz

Goodbye My Friend by Norma Minkowitz was gifted to the Renwick, Smithsonian American Art Museum, in memory of noted fiber art collector, Camille Cook.

Kiyomi Iwata
Kiyomi Iwata’s Red Aperture, 2009 and Fungus Three, 2018. Photos By Tom Grotta

Kiyomi Iwata 

Two works, Red Aperture and Fungus Three by Kiyomi Iwata were acquired by The Warehouse, MKE in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Two works by Iwata, Grey Orchid Fold V made in 1988, and Auric Grid Fold made in 1995 were donated to the Philadelphia Art Museum.

Adela Akers
Adela Akers, Traced Memories, 2007. Photo by Tom Grotta

Adela Akers

Adela Akers‘ work, Traced Memories from 2007 was acquired by the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco, California in 2020.

Dawn MacNutt
Dawn MacNutt’s, Larger Than Life, 2021.

Dawn MacNutt  

Dawn MacNutt’s 9 foot-high willow sculpture, Larger Than Life, was acquired by Longhouse Reserve in East Hampton, New York in 2021.

Naoko Serino
Naoko Serino’s Existing-2-D, 2017 and Generating Mutsuki, 2021. Photos by Tom Grotta

Naoko Serino

Two works by Naoko SerinoGenerating Mutsuki and Existing 2-D, were acquired by The Warehouse, MKE in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Ferne Jacobs

A work by Ferne JacobsSlipper, made in 1994, was donated to the Philadelphia Art Museum. Another, Centric Spaces, from 2000, was donated to Houston Museum of Fine Art.

Presence Absence Tunnel Four, 1990, by Lia Cook

Lia Cook

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) purchased Presence Absence Tunnel Four, 1990, by Lia Cook, in 2019.

Gyöngy Laky
Gyöngy Laky’s, Noise at Noon, 1996. Photo by Gyöngy Laky

Gyöngy Laky   

The Oakland Museum of California in California acquired Noise at Noon by Gyöngy Laky this year. In 2019, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California Historical Society, added That Word to its collection and the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, California, added Ex Claim!  The Art in Embassies program of the US Department of State, acquired Seek, for the US embassy in Pristina, Kosovo.

Congratulations to the artists and acquiring organizations!


Basket, Vessel, Object, Sculpture … the Challenge of Reinvention

Experimentation can fuel creativity and spark unexpected results. At browngrotta arts, we are continually impressed by our object-making artists’ ability — and willingness — to reinvent themselves rather than remain in a successful, but predictable, lane.

Ed Rossbachs
Ed Rossbach’s Open Structure, 1982 and Cedar: Export Bundle, 1993. Photos by Tom Grotta

Foremost among the experimenters was perhaps Ed Rossbach who tried unexpected materials and symbols in his baskets, vessels, and assemblages including plastic, cotton balls, cardboard and Mickey Mouse. When plaiting, weaving and lace-making had been thoroughly explored, he taught himself cedar basketmaking and turned to images of bison and Native Americans.

John McQueens
John McQueen’s Deer Head, 2010 and Untitled, 1983. Photos by Tom Grotta

John McQueen has also made deviations. Most of his sculptures are made of sticks and bark, but he sometimes veers from that path, incorporating cardboard, plastic and found objects.

Dorothy Gill Barnes
Dorothy Gill Barnes, Summer Pine, 1997, and Bark and Glass Triptych, 2010. Photos by Tom Grotta

The late Dorothy Gill Barnes was a weaver and manipulator of twigs and bark, as well, but later in her career, she changed her approach after collaborating with woodturners and glass makers. In Bark and Glass Triptych, for example, the rustic bark is still a primary component, but echoed by sleek glass interior.

Mary Merkel-Hess
Mary Merkel-Hess’s Rose Tipped Basket. 1992; Green-Tipped Basket, 1992 and Umbel, 1996. Photos by Tom Grotta

One of our first exhibitions at browngrotta arts featured Mary Merkel-Hess‘ jewel-toned vessels of reed and paper in blues and reds and even purple. The works were very popular and we sold nearly every one. Two years later, we asked Merkel-Hess to create work for another two-person exhibition. Rather than recreate her first successful show, however, she sculpted works of no color — new shapes, made of translucent gampi paper. They were wildly different, but equally well-received, inspiring collectors to acquire multiple works by Merkel-Hess, accompanying her on her artistic journey. Since then she has continued to work in color — but in larger scale and different forms. She still makes room for the minimal, however, like Among the Trees, II, her 2020 wall work of gampi and pencil.

Nancy Moore Bess
Nancy Moore Bess’s From Biwa to Tahoe, 2001 and Shiro Katach i-White Form, 2008, Photos by Tom Grotta

A difficulty with her hands and the movement required to make her small, twined basket forms, led Nancy Moore Bess to invent a new process involving carved foam shapes. Still working with variations of twining and knots, the carved forms allow her to rest her hands as she worked. The result was a completely new body of work that built on previous efforts.

Stépahnie Jacques
Séphanie Jacques’s Paniers-liens II & III, 2011 and Wall / Mur, 2013. Photos by Tom Grotta

Stéphanie Jacques is another relentless reinventer. Her basket-like sculptures have incorporated yarn and woodworking and clay. She has added performance, video and still photography to the mix as well.

Kari Lønning’s Bridge to Blue, 1995 and With a Flash of Blue, 2021. Photos by Tom Grotta

Kari Lønning invented the double-walled basket of smooth, round rattan, then reinvented her baskets with fine and variegated akebia vines.

Other artists at browngrotta arts have also made changes in materials and approach. Contact us at art@browngrotta.com if you want to know more about the specific path for any artist whose work we represent. Their predisposition to change and exploration keeps viewers engaged.


Process Notes: On Making Variant by Gyöngy Laky – Material

Gyöngy Laky tells us more about the making of her recent work, Variant. Specifically she answers, Why golf tees?

Detail: Variant by Gyöngy Laky
Detail: Variant, ash, huge ripstixx Mustang Red, 30” x 20” x 4” 2021. Photo by Tom Grotta

“My current interest in use of golf tees in my sculptures arose during the Trump presidency.  He had criticized President Obama for spending time playing golf. Trump, however, spent much more time on the golf course than Obama had – another of Trump’s hypocrisies. Golf tees became emblematic representation of Trump for me, as were his ubiquitous red neckties.  I searched for red golf tees to suggest a connection to Trump in some of my artwork.  

Golf Tease by Gyöngy Laky
Golf Tease, wooden, red golf tees, 16” x 25” x 2” , 2019. Photo by Gyöngy Laky

Having been glued to the news during all of 2020, by the beginning of 2021, I was convinced that the pandemic in the U.S. could have been far less damaging and deadly had Trump not dismantled the government’s infectious disease unit, undermined the CDC, pulled out of the WHO.  If early in 2020 Americans had been urged to wear masks numerous deaths and illnesses could have been avoided.  A number of experts believe that 80-85% mask wearing during the first few weeks/months of the appearance of the virus would have avoided the pandemic levels in the U.S. and saved many lives. The virus would not have had a field day to grow and spread in millions of noses.  I felt a strong urge to create an artwork that addressed the virus and its association with Trump’s trivializing of the danger of Covid-19.  

Fifth Avenue 1/23/16 by Gyöngy Laky
Fifth Avenue 1/23/16, AK-T Tequila MX bottle, golf tees, golf ball, 23″ x 9.5″ x 3.75”, 2019. Photo by Gyöngy Laky

The golf tees heads looked like the graphic representations of the virus in the daily news. I had used golf tees in my art work, but I had never used them as a structuring element.  As I handled the golf tees I realized that they were much like pins or nails or toothpicks (another small wooden wonder) or could even provide the kind of joining that the screws I use to structure sculptures did. The ones I found are 3 1/4″ HUGE Ripstixx Mustang Red extra long. 

Variant by Gyöngy Laky
Variant, ash, huge ripstixx Mustang Red 30” x 20” x 4”, 2021, Photo by Tom Grotta

Had it not been for the virus I would not have discovered how effective and beautiful golf tee connectors could be.  Not only do the tees hint to Trump, using twigs connects to nature and the climate crisis’s role in the pandemic as well.  Painting the branches white suggests bones – a nod to the avoidable deaths of so many.”


Artist Focus: Włodzimierz Cygan

Detail: Cycle Tapping: May, Włodzimierz Cygan, viscose, linen and fiber optic, 117” x 34”, 2014

In a recent catalog of Włodzimierz Cygan’s work, Dariusz Lesnikowski, writes that commenting on Cygan’s work is both easy and hard. “Easy because his works fascinate, stimulate imagination, and trigger a variety of associations and inspirations.” Difficult because his work has been analyzed often and “[h]e is one of those artists who have significantly reshape the art of weaving, daring to overcome the traditionally guaranteed limitations of his field of art.” According to Lesnikowski, fibers in Cygan’s work are constantly used in new ways, meeting the warp in successive places for interlacing and each time providing unpredictable surprises. (“Woven on the bright side of imagination,” Dariusz Lesnikowski, Włodzimierz Cygan: Unique Fiber, Gallery Amcor, Lodz, Poland, 2020).

Traps, wool, viscose, linen, sisal, fiber optic installation 92” x 106”, 2019

Cygan’s work has been exhibited in Europe, Asia and Latin America, including the Jean Lurcat Museum in France, the Kyoto Art Center in Japan and the National Gallery in San Jose, Costa Rica. He was awarded a Bronze Medal at the 6th International Fiber Art BiennialFrom Lausanne to Beijingand the Grand Prix, 12th International Triennial of Tapestry. Cygan is reknown for his textile innovations. “When trying to determine why the means of artistic expression in tapestry was becoming archaic,” he has written, “I realized that one of the reasons might have to do with the custom of treating the threads of the weft as the chief medium of the visual message. . . . These observations led me to wonder how the artistic language of textiles might benefit from a warp whose strands would not be parallel and flat but convergent, curved or three dimensional … .” As a result of these explorations, in some of Cygan’s works, the warp changes direction, enabling the weaving of circles or arcs. 

Detail of Miracle, Włodzimierz Cygan linen, wool and sisal, 56.5” x 47” x 6.5” 2006

For more than 10 years, Cygan has been teaching at Gdańsk Academy and Architecture of Textiles’ Institute at Łódź Technical University. Miracle, which won the Bronze medal at the 6th From Lausanne to Beijing, features a hypnotic curve, that draws the viewer into the heart of the work. “The artist shapes the rhythm of the composition, consciously interfering with the structure of the fabric. Like a calligrapher, he builds the form by weaving the thread of the weft through the framework of the warp,” writes Lesnikowski. “Regularity (the general rule) confronts irregularity (modifications) of the warp.”

Blue/Green Weaving, Włodzimierz Cygan, polyester, linen, sisal, fiber optic, 41” x 41” x 15”, 2018

In 2004, during the 11th Lodz Triennial, Cygan met Danish artist Astrid Krogh

who worked with optical fibers. She gave a lecture for Cygan’s students and provided him the optical material that was not available in

Poland at the time and gave him another opportunity to experiment. He created a work entitled, Dear Astrid as a thank you. He has created several works since using optical fibers, including Blue/Green Weaving in 2018 and Traps in 2019. You can see more examples of Cygan’s work on our website: http://www.browngrotta.com/Pages/cygan.php.


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/


Earth Day Flashback – Green from the Get Go: International Contemporary Basketmakers

Barkbåden by Jane Balsgaard
32jb Barkbåden, Jane Balsgaard, peeled willow twigs and paper morbæbark, 17″ x 29″ x 14″, 2008-2009. Photo by Tom Grotta

At browngrotta arts, many of the artists we represent work with natural materials and express care and concern for the environment in their work. A few years ago, we worked worked with Jane Milosch, now Visiting Professorial Fellow, Provenance & Curatorial Studies, School of Culture & Creative Arts, University of Glasgow, to curate an exhibition of basketmakers working in natural materials. The exhibition, Green from the Get Go: International Contemporary Basketmakers, began at the Wayne Art Center in Pennsylvania then traveled to the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House in Michigan and the Morris Museum in New Jersey and was the subject of our 40th catalog http://store.browngrotta.com/green-from-the-get-go-international-contemporary-basketmakers/.

The exhibition featured 75 works by 33 artists from Canada, Europe, Scandinavia, Japan, UK and the US, all of whom took inspiration from Nature and the history of basketry. Some were early innovators of 20th-century art basketry, and others emerging talents. Below are some works by artists that were part of Green from the Get Go.

Wall / Mur by Stéphanie Jacques
8sj Wall / Mur, Stéphanie Jacques, willow, 59” x 90.5” x 13.75”, 2013. Photo by Tom Grotta

As Milosch wrote in her essay for the catalog, The Entanglement of Nature and Man, “The artists in this exhibition have a strong connection to the land, whether cultivated fields or wild prairies, marshes or forests. Several cultivate, harvest, and prepare the materials from which they construct their work. They have a respectful awareness of the origin of things, and of the interconnected aspects of nature and ecosystems, which are both fragile and resilient.” 

The Basket for the Crows  by Chris Drury
4cd The Basket for the Crows, Chris Drury, crow feathers, willow and hazel, 118″ x 12″ x 1.5″, 1986. Photo by Tom Grotta

Chris Drury’s work has taken him to seven continents, where he makes site-specific sculptures with indigenous flora and fauna he collects and employs in both a hunter-gatherer and scientist-like fashion, often with the help of regional communities. His Basket for Crows, 1986, a basket-like vessel made from crow feathers, accompanies a ladder or totem-like form. The shamanistic qualities of this particular combination recall universal symbols and myths about the here-and-now and the afterlife.

From the Old Haystack by Dorothy Gill Barnes
26dgb From the Old Haystack, Dorothy Gill Barnes, 2005. Photo by Tom Grotta

The late Ohio basketmaker and wood sculptor Dorothy Gill Barnes explained her use of materials as “respectfully harvested from nature” and that “the unique properties I find in bark, branches, roots, seaweed and stone suggest a work process to me. I want this problem solving to be evident in the finished piece.” Her Dendroglyph series began as experimental drawings on trees soon to be logged. While the sap is flowing up the trees, she carves into the bark, so that the drawings change organically. When she was satisfied with these “drawings,” she carefully removed the bark. Her White Pine Dendroglyph, 1995-99, combined these raw drawings with traditional woven basketry techniques, and the result is a kind of sculpted drawing, created in concert with a living tree.

Same Difference by John McQueen
21jm Same Difference, John McQueen, wood, sticks, bonsai, 54” x 60” x 24”, 2013. Photo by Tom Grotta

John McQueen’s Same Difference, 2013 draws attention to the cosmos and the relationship between the divine, man and Nature. He connects three seemingly disparate objects through something that is not visible but present in all: water, a necessary, life-nurturing resource for animals, plants and humans. These objects are displayed side-by-side, atop see-through basket-like pedestals, suggesting a kind of tenuous underpinning in their relationship to each other. All three draw water, but have their own history and function: the first is a hybrid human/elephant, which draws water through its trunk and recalls the Hindu god Ganesh, known as the patron of arts and sciences and the diva of intellect and wisdom; the second is a dead, but intact, bonsai tree with its stunted root structure that once drew water; and, the third is a manmade tool, a sump pump, engineered by humans to aid them in drawing water. McQueen comments, “Each piece is on its own stand, and they’re arranged in a line, like words. I’m trying to tell a story using what seem to be unrelated objects. I hope the viewer will say, ‘Why are these next to each other?’ and try to figure out a relationship.” 

The works in Green from the Get Go, compel the viewer to think of Nature in new ways,” wrote Milosch, —”sustaining us, providing mediums for art, acted on by man, and influencing us in return. It’s a sensual and spiritual journey that takes time and reason.” A journey with Nature that’s worth taking often. Happy Earth Day!


Artist Focus: Naoko Serino

Naoko Serino portrait
Naoko Serino, 2021

Japanese artist, Naoko Serino, our focus this week, works in jute, a remarkably adaptable material that provokes references to other biological structures. Jute’s golden sheen and sinuous strands “yield a most spectacular softness and luminosity,” notes author Moon Lee (http://thecreatorsproject.vice.com/blog/naoko-serino-spins-vegetable-fiber-into-golden-sculptures). In Serino’s work, “the natural fibers are spun densely or pulled thin, making for infinite gradations of densities. Irregular shapes in varying degrees of transparency provoke an effect that is strongly biological. Spheres, tubes, tubes contained within spheres, spheres contained within cubes, and rows of coiled strands evoke thoughts of phospholipid bilayers of cell membranes, veins, sea sponges, and so forth.” 

Existing -2-D
13ns Existing -2-D, Naoko Serino, jute, 56″ x 56″ x 11″, 2006

Serino creates her sculptures by first covering molds with jute fibers, which she removes when they have dried, creating a final work combining individual fiber elements. Some of the works that Serino creates are small individual pieces, while others are installations that are large enough to fill an entire room. Despite the fragile appearance of the jute fibers, the works have an imposing presence. 

Existing II
12ns Existing II, Naoko Serino, jute 7.375” x 8.5” x 8.5”, 2016. Photo by Tom Grotta

“I moved to a seaside town 30 years ago. I felt the light and wind there and my feelings were stirred by my proximity to Nature,” Serino says. “I began to see with new eyes and I discovered a material, jute. I think the discovery was inevitable. In and through my hands, a dignified hemp produces a shape that contains both light and air. I am grateful that I came across this material. It is a joy for me to express things with jute that stir deep emotions in me. I see myself continuing to express my feelings in this form.”

Generating outside
Generating Outside, Naoko Serino, jute, 39.5″ x 24″ x 4″, 2020. Photo by Naoko Serino

Serino’s work was included in the Fiber Futures: Japan’s Textile Pioneers exhibition which traveled from Japan to New York, Milan, Copenhagen and other venues. She was awarded the Silver Prize in the 10th Kajima Sculpture Competition and the Encouragement Award in the 16th Kajima Sculpture Award in 2020. She was a awarded the first prize in the Collection Arte & Arte alla Torre delle Arti di Bellagio, Como, Italy in 2014, the Silver Prize in the 10th Kajima Sculpture Competition and the Encouragement Award in the 16th Kajima Sculpture Award in 2020.

Generating Mutsuki
17ns Generating Mutsuki, Naoko Serino, jute, 9.5″ x 8″ 8″, 2021. Photo by Tom Grotta

Serino is one of the artists whose work is included in browngrotta arts’ next Art in the Barn exhibition, Adaptation: Artists Respond to Change (May 8th – May 16th) http://www.browngrotta.com/Pages/calendar.php. Her work for the exhibition, Generating-Mutsuki, came out of her desire to create a work along the lines of the large-scale sculpture she created for Kajima Sculpture competition in a smaller size.


A Whiter Shade of Pale

Bow-W-98.2, Masakazu Kobayashi; Petites-ailes-de-glacé-blanc, Micheline Beauchemin
Bow-W-98.2, Masakazu Kobayashi, rayon, aluminum, 30″ x 33″ x 3.75″, 1998; Petites-ailes-de-glacé-blanc, Micheline Beauchemin, nylon, silk and silver aluminum wire, lead wire, 30″ x 32.25″ x 7″, 1980’s. Beauchemin used white to evoke the icy rivers of Quebec. Photo by Tom Grotta

As American Songwriter opined, “who could have possibly predicted the success of “A Whiter Shade Of Pale,” which went to #1 in the UK in 1967, #5 in the US, and has outlasted so many other flower-power and psychedelic-flavored tracks from that era to be one of the most enduring songs of the 60’s?” 

Traverser, Gyöngy Laky
Traverser, Gyöngy Laky, ash, paint, “bullet for buildings” (trim screws), 22” x 22” x 22”, 2016, Photo by Tom Grotta
paper sculpture, Naomi Kobayashi
Untitled, Naomi Kobayashi, , Naomi Kobayashi, kayori thread, paper, 99″ x 54″ x 5″ (x2), 2006. Photo by Tom Grotta
Ondes, Simone Pheulpin
Ondes, Simone Pheulpin, cotton, 26” x 49.5”, 2016, Photo by Tom Grotta. Pheulpin creates her wall- and free-standing sculptures exclusively of white cotton tape.

It’s an unforgettable lyric that often comes to mind when we view works by artists who work with browngrotta arts. Many of of them work in white, to evoke clouds or an icy river or purity or to explore the absence of color or a dichotomy with black. 

Second Cousin, Grethe Wittrock
The Second Cousin, Grethe Wittrock, white paper yarn knotted on steel plate, 67” x 78.75”, 2006. Photo by Tom Grotta
Sara Brennan tapestry
Detail of Sara Brennan tapestry, wools, linens and silk. Brennan incorporates dozens of shades of white in her tapestries. Photo by Tom Grotta
White Paper Shell, Federica Luzzi
White Paper Shell, Federica Luzzi, paper cord, 12.875″ x 12.875″, 2016. Photo by Tom Grotta
Plan Your Parenthood-Population, Judy Mulford
waxed linen, polyform, antique mother of pearl buttons, beads, pins, gesso, knitting needle, gourds, rock, wooden doll chairs, 22″ x 7.5″ x 8″, 2009 . Photo by Tom Grotta
Blanc de Blanc, Mariette Rousseau-Vermette
Blanc de Blanc, Mariette Rousseau-Vermette, wool, 4’6″ x 10′, 1980. Photo by Tom Grotta

“In many cultures, white is seen as the color of innocence and virginity, purity, loyalty and peace,” noted the Textile Museum in Tilburg, the Netherlands in its materials for its 2019 exhibition, Black & White | Symbolic Meaning in Art & Design. In the West, white clothing and decoration are symbolic of the joy around births, baptisms and weddings, the Museum notes, while in many African and Asian cultures, as well as in medieval Europe, white is the traditional color of death and mourning. 


Artist Focus: Laura Bacon

Laura Ellen Bacon is a sculptor who works in natural materials en masse. She uses dicky meadows, one of the most popular and desirable basket willows, a variety that is widely distributed throughout Britain and Ireland. Her work has been described as ‘monumental,’ ‘compelling’ and ‘uncanny’.

Portrait of Laura Bacon
Laura Bacon entering her UK studio. Photo by Tom Grotta

Her large-scale works have been created in landscape, interior and gallery settings including Saatchi Gallery, Chatsworth, New Art Centre, Somerset House, Sudeley Castle (for Sotheby’s) and Blackwell – The Arts and Crafts House in Cumbria. Bacon describes her organic, site-specific woven sculptures for buildings as “muscular forms” that “nuzzle up to the glass and their gripping weave locks onto the strength of the walls.” “In a truly baroque manner, her monumental installations include curvaceous forms and woven willow forms that resemble a kind of sculpted fabric, which springs from garden walls, hangs on the façade of a building, or billows out from a window ledge,” wrote Jane Milosch, Office of the Under Secretary for History, Art and Culture, Smithsonian, in the exhibition catalog of Green From the Get Go: International Contemporary Basketmakers. Yet, when browngrotta arts visited her studio in the UK we were taken aback by how small it was in contrast to largeness of her works. You can see her here, barely able to fit one of her smaller works through her studio door. 

Detail of Surface Form stripped willow from Somerset, UK 30” x 45” x 28”, 2010

Her goal in creating her evocative work is to bring intrigue into both natural and built environments, creating work that might serve to remind  viewers that nature can still surprise. “The ambition in my work is to generate a kind of intrigue and an appeal that touches a powerful nerve (perhaps ancient in its origin) that we cannot precisely locate,” Bacon says. Her work has been driven by a personal and solitary desire to build and shape form with her hands. “The thrill of making an internal space by turning and tying the material into position provokes a strong desire in me to make. My work responds primarily to the structural features of a particular site, in much same way as the questing foot of a Weaver bird might regard the flex of a bough or a colony of wasps might collaborate within the rafters,” she says. “I also respond to the feeling of the site and the opportunity to give the work (and in some way, the host structure) a sense of movement, of slow growth, as if the work will continue to grow when the viewer’s back is turned.”

Poise by Laura Ellen Bacon
Poise, Laura Ellen Bacon, willow, dicky meadows, 19” x 37” x 22”, 2016. Photo by Tom Grotta

Poise, 2016, for example, is an enormous basket form that Milosch observes “seems incapable of sitting still. Instead, it is an energetic, woven structure that twists and turns with such energy that is recalls a robust, fleshy Rubenesque female torso.” Surface Form,  which was featured in browngrotta arts last exhibition, Volume 50: Chronicling Fiber Art for Three Decades, was originally created for Jerwood Contemporary Makers, a prestigious award, of which she was one of winners who shared the prize. The brief, to all the exhibitors, was to create a work that had to be no more than a meter, and sat upon, or involved itself with, a specific square plinth. In response, Surface Form seems to swallow the edge of the surface.

Surface Form Basket by Laura Bacon
Surface Form, Laura Ellen Bacon
stripped willow from Somerset, UK, 30” x 45” x 28”, 2010. Photo by Tom Grotta

Bacon’s work has been exhibited or collected by the Holburn Museum, Bath, UK; Ruthin Craft Centre, Wales, UK; The Gallery, Winchester Discovery Center, UK; Blackwell, The Arts and Crafts House, Cumbria;; Derby Museum and Art Gallery; FUMI Gallery, Sardinia, Greece; Sainsbury Centre, Norwich, UK; Solomon Gallery, Dublin, Ireland; Hall Place, Kent, UK; Crafts Council, London, UK; Chatsworth Garden, Derbyshire, UK; Victoria & Albert Museum, London, UK; and the Morris Museum, Morristown, New Jersey.


When Words Aren’t Enough: Artists and Politics, Part I

Art often has a point of view. Artists shine a light on society’s ills, chide fellow citizens, disrupt the status quo. Think Picasso’s Guernica, Rockwell’s The Problem We All Live With and Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party. In honor of art’s pivotal political role, for the next three weeks, we share some pointed commentary from our artists, to contemplate in this heightened US election season. In this post, works by Danish artist Grethe Sørensen and American artist Gyöngy Laky that foreshadowed the events of this past summer — protests in the US supporting Black Lives Matter movement and criminal justice reform. 

Movement by Grethe Sørensen,  
tapestry from the arists video of a protesting the death of Eric Garner in NYC. Photo by Tom Grotta
18gs Movement, Grethe Sørensen, cotton, 89.5″ x 64″ x 1.875″, 2016, tapestry from the arists video of a protests over the death of Eric Garner in NYC. Photo by Tom Grotta

In December 2014, Grethe Sørensen was in New York working on, among other things, finding motifs that might form the basis for a site-specific tapestry (25′ x 21.25′) for a primary school in Denmark. The motif needed to illustrate movement and Sorensen’s first idea was to work with light in motion, a subject she had been very engaged in earlier works. “Our hotel was on the corner of Broadway and Canal Street,” she writes, “where we had a room on the 7th floor. When we got back to the hotel on December 13th around 6 pm, Broadway was filled with people instead of the usual cars in seven lanes. Thousands of people of all races came in an endless stream down the street shouting ‘I can’t breathe’ or ‘stay calm, don’t shoot’, carrying banners and flags, small and large signs with the words ‘I can”t breathe’. It was very moving, and we felt we were witnessing a momentous event which we as foreigners could not take part in.” Sørensen and her husband rushed back to their room and began to shoot video and take stills to document this spontaneous outpouring of citizen outrage.

Detail:  Movement, Grethe Sørensen, 2016, Photo by Tom Grotta
18gs Movement, cotton, 89.5″ x 64″ x 1.875″, 2016, $28,000 tapestry from the arists video of a protesting the death of Eric Garner in NYC

They had found themselves in the middle of the protest march against the police violence caused by the death of Eric Garner during a brutal arrest, captured on video and viewed around the world. “When I went through my material from New York,” says Sørensen, “there was no doubt, the motif from the march should form the basis for the tapestry for the school. This motif describes movement in all ways – people are moving mentally, emotionally, politically and physically – I can hardly imagine a better motif for a teaching institution.” Movement presents this motif in a smaller scale.

The death of Eric Garner also impacted Gyöngy Laky‘s work. Laky’s work often addresses current events. In June, 2014. she was working on a project involving airplanes having been invited to participate in “Airplane Show” planned for January, 2015, at b sakata garo, a gallery in Sacramento, CA.

“Airplanes!,” Laky writes. “What a great topic to contemplate.  They are elegant shapes full of history and significance, having altered human civilization in a most consequential way.  I found my imagination ranging from bird-shaped baskets to exotic flying machines that allowed us earth-bound humans to lift ourselves off the ground, fly far and near and to experience parts of the world we might otherwise never be able to visit.”

Breathe (For Eric Garner) , Gyöngy Laky, 2015  Variable size.  Stainless steel bank pins.  The smallest version is 24" x 15" x 1.75"  It can be scaled up to very large with different pins, nails or specially produced stainless steel spikes.
Breathe (For Eric Garner) , Gyöngy Laky, 2015  Variable size.  Stainless steel bank pins.  The smallest version is 24″ x 15″ x 1.75″  It can be scaled up to very large with different pins, nails or specially produced stainless steel spikes.

But contemplation did not lead to composition — at least not of an airplane, she recalls. “Nothing I thought up impressed me nor did any of my ideas awaken my interest.” Yet, an idea began to grow. “As often occurs in my art process of imagining ideas for works, words drift in my mind intertwining and mingling with imagery I visualize offering possible connotations to contemplate. The word, air began to hold such a deep, full, and reverberating meaning for me that I embraced it as my theme.  Air is essential to life and the sky belongs to all of us.” she notes. “I began to feel the blocks that were hampering my imagination slipping away.  I could breathe more easily again.  Frustration was evaporating.  I began to discover an intriguing new way of working to create the lightness and poetry the word evoked… stainless steel shimmering pins stuck directly into the wall to form the word in script.  It looked tenuous, as if it could be blown away in an instant like the wafting disappearance of contrails whispering the passing of planes overhead.”

On Thursday, July 17, 2014, Laky recalls, air became an appalling focus everywhere. Eric Garner was deprived of it in New York by a policeman’s chokehold and being held on the ground by other officers.” Garner repeated the words ‘I can’t breathe’ 11 times as we watched the video over and over again on every news cycle.  It rang in my ears. The video was devastating.  

‘I can’t breathe’

‘I can’t breathe’

‘I can’t breathe’

‘I can’t breathe’

‘I can’t breathe’

‘I can’t breathe’

‘I can’t breathe’

‘I can’t breathe’

‘I can’t breathe’

‘I can’t breathe’

‘I can’t breathe’

Air took on a new and alarming meaning and became literal as  At least 134 people have died in police custody from “asphyxia/restraint” in the past decade alone (6/25/20, USA Today), Laky observes.

As she watched what happened to a man apprehended for allegedly selling cigarettes, the police beating of Rodney King 1991, rose from her memory.  “I was born amid the violence of war on the frontlines of battle in Hungary. Though a baby then, I must still carry some of that early trauma deep down somewhere,” Laky suggests. “These murders speak to some visceral aspect of my being.” She remembered, too, that Rodney King called for an end to the violence, asking, “can we all get along?” “It is my hope,” Laky says, “that the protests and demonstrations of today that have given voice to the change that is essential for us to lead us to a better future in which we do all get along.”