Category: Technology

An Artist Evolves: Lia Cook’s Five Bodies of Work

Lia Cook is a relentless innovator who has been involved in textile experimentation since her graduate and undergraduate work in Arts and Design at the University of California, Berkeley in the 1970s. 

While Cook has created varied bodies of work in her storied career, her explorations have a consistent theme. They all involve the experience of touch, the sensation of the body and the physicality of cloth. “Cook’s work defies the ‘ocular-centricity’ of Western art by overturning the hierarchy of the senses and repositioning the sense of touch in the foreground. While the work is never handled in the gallery or museum, the sense of touch is so fully activated that the experience of the work is startlingly touch-sensory,” writes Deborah Valoma, in Lia Cook: In the Folds — Works from 1973 – 1997

Space Dyed Weaving
48lc Space-Dyed Weaving II, Lia Cook, rayon, cotton; woven, 72″ x 33″, 1975

Cook’s early work aimed to envelop the viewer in monumental cloth. “The work was imposing, strident and typically employed magnified imagery of weave patterns as the subject,” writes Valoma, “depicting both in realization and representation the structural realities of weaving.” Space-Dyed Weaving-2, created in 1975, is an example of work from this period. So is Spatial Ikat III-2, the prize for the winner of our Art for a Cause 2021 sweepstakes with UncommonGood (uncommongood.io.), which continues through July 31st.

Through the Curtain in 5 Scenes Transposed
13lc Through the Curtain in 5 Scenes Transposed, Lia Cook dyes on rayon; woven, 5’ x 18.5’, 1986

In the 1980s, cook turned her attention to textile structures — curtains, pockets and crazy quilts. Through the Curtain in 5 Scenes Transposed, which hints at curtains on a stage, is from this period. In the 1990s, Cook created works that took inspiration from images of fabric painted during the Renaissance, when images of drapery were an essential part of a painter’s training.  

Material Pleasures: Leonard I
8lc Material Pleasures: Leonard I, Lia Cook acrylic on linen, dyes on rayon; woven, 53” x 77”, 1993

As Valoma describes, in works like Material Pleasures, created in 1993, Cook painted the imagery of draped fabrics on linen or abaca with acrylics or oil paints. The canvases were finely stripped and inserted as weft into hand-painted warps and woven on a 32-harness loom, purposefully defying conventional definitions.

Big Susan
43lc Big Susan, Lia Cook, woven cotton, 168” x 48”, 2005

In the mid-90s, after two artists-in-residencies, one in Italy and one in Germany, Cook’s work took yet another turn — focusing on the Jacquard loom and incorporating photography, to create works that were narrative and personal. This body of works was featured in The Embedded Portrait, her solo exhibition at the University of Wyoming Art Gallery in 2009.

In 2010, Cook’s shifts again. As an artist-in-residence at the University’of Pittsburgh’s TREND program (Transdisciplinary Research in Emotion, Neuroscience and Development, Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine), Cook was able to compare the emotional responses of viewers to actual photographs and to her weavings of photo images “I wanted to explore the nature of people’s emotional connection to woven faces,” she explains. “I thought that the material and structural aspects of the textile, the physical evidence of the hand and the memories associated with these tactile experiences might intensify the reactions. Something about the textile engenders embodied emotional response beyond that of the two–dimensional photo.”

Neural Networks
23lc Neural Networks, Lia Cook woven cotton and rayon, 83″ x 51″ x 1.5″, 2011

To test her hypothesis, Cook, in collaboration with scientists at TREND tried several approaches. Cook and the scientists could see noticeable differences in individual images from MRI data and in records of electrical brain activity from EEGs when volunteers compared flat and woven images. She underwent this MRI imaging on herself and then, using software from MGH/Harvard, Biomedical Imaging Lab, she manipulated the images for a series of weavings that combine faces and images of brain fibers, as you can see in Neural Networks, 2011.

Cook’s experiments in neuroaesthetics continue — and as always, she makes adjustments and changes her gaze to produce something new. Recently, she has merged three fibers into her imagery — neural fibers, plant fibers and the parallel lines that she used in the 1970s. “Art and science are more similar in their process than many people think,” says Cook. “Each requires starting with a question, being curious, discovering something new, being willing to take the answers or lack of answers — good or bad — and building on that for the future.” 

Keep watching, as this remarkable artist continues to experiment, innovate and create remarkable work.


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.


App Haps: Accessing Art on Your Mobile Device

There are so many ways to see and make art these days. Technological advancements have granted people all over the world unprecedented access to art and knowledge about art. One series of these advancements, iPhone and Android Apps, puts art at people’s fingertips. We curated a list of some of our favorite creative apps:

Google Arts & Culture
The Google Arts & Culture skyrocketed to the top of the App Store this year after it unveiled a feature that can analyze your face and match it with a well-known painting, creating “masterpiece memes” as it were. However, it is the app’s wide variety of other features that makes it stand out. The app allows users to take virtual tours of some of the world’s most famous museums and iconic landmarks, helps locate museum and cultural events near the user and has an art recognition software that identifies pieces by pointing your device camera at the artwork, just to name a few. One of our personal favorite features is under the “Experiments” tab, which gives users the chance to experiment with new technologies created by artists and coders. The “Art Palettes” experiment helps users find art that matches their preferred color palette , while the “Curator Table” experiment delivers users with insights and connections between artworks scattered all around the world.
Cost: FREE

Artsy
The mobile version of Artsy is just as great as the online version. Arsty, an online platform that aims to connect collectors to art, helps users navigate and explore the many branches of the art world. The app grants you immediate access to over 2,500 of the world’s top art galleries, including browngrotta arts. Additionally, Artsy’s online magazine continually pushes out interesting and informative content for art lovers of all kinds. The Artsy app also allows users to follow their favorite artists and receive notifications when a new piece by them goes up on Artsy.
Cost: FREE

Typendium
If you love type and fonts and all things written this is the app for you. Typendium provides users with the opportunity to learn the stories behind some of the world’s greatest typefaces such as good ole’ “Times News Roman” and “Baskerville.” Though the selection of fonts is not huge at the moment, Typendium is sure to satisfy your craving for creative history.
Cost: FREE

Photo: Christian Zibreg


Lightroom
While most of Adobe Creative Cloud programs have sister apps, our favorite is Lightroom. Though the mobile version of Lightroom does not have all of the manipulative options the computer program has, mobile Lightroom allows users to edit their photos capture, edit, organize, store and share all of their mobile photos. Unlike many photo editing apps in the App Store, Lightroom doesn’t just give the option to apply a “one size fits-all” filter. Instead, Lightroom gives you the ability to make advanced adjustments with the tone curve to alter the color, exposure, tone and contrast in a way that you feel in adequate. This technique allows the user to make the adjustments they need while also preserving the integrity of the original photo.
Cost: FREE