Art Out and About: Exhibitions Around the US

Adaptation: Artists Respond to Change

Happily, vaccines are on the rise and art openings are, too.

We are excited about our own opening, Adaptation: Artists Respond to Change, May 8 – 16. You can join us by making an appointment through Eventbrite:  https://www.eventbrite.com/e/adaptation-artists-respond-to-change-tickets-148974728423  Elsewhere, exhibitions are ongoing live coast to coast this Spring. Check some or all of these events in person, or online. Art makes a comeback!

Uncommon Threads: The Works of Ruth E. Carter
New Bedford Art Museum/ArtWorks! (NBAM)
Massachusetts

May 1 – November 14, 2021

Uncommon Threads NBAM

A solo exhibition celebrating Massachusetts-born Ruth E. Carter’s 30-year career as an Academy Award-winning (Black Panther, 2018) costume designer rn Ruth E. Carter’s 30-year career as an Academy Award-winning (Black Panther, 2018) costume designer. 

For more info: https://newbedfordart.org/ruth/

Sonya Clark: Tatter, Bristle, and Mend
National Museum of Women in the Arts
Washington, DC 
Through June 27, 2021

Sonya Clark: Tatter, Bristle and Mend

This first survey of Clark’s 25-year career includes 100 sculptures made from black pocket combs, human hair and thread as well as works created from flags, currency, beads, cotton plants, pencils, books, a typewriter and a hair salon chair. The artist transmutes each of these everyday objects through her application of a vast range of fiber-art techniques: Clark weaves, stitches, folds, braids, dyes, pulls, twists, presses, snips or ties within each object. 

View in-person or online https://nmwa.org/exhibitions/sonya-clark-tatter-bristle-and-mend/

Craft Front and Center
The Museum of Arts and Design 
New York, NY

May 22, 2021–Feb 13, 2022

Craft Front and Center
Photo courtesy of the Museum of Arts and Design

MAD’s collection comprises over 3,000 artworks in clay, fiber, glass, metal, and wood, dating from the post-war studio craft movement through to contemporary art and design. Craft Front & Center is organized into eight themes exploring craft’s impact. Each section is punctuated with pivotal and rarely seen works from iconic makers, such as Betty Woodman, Marvin Lipofsky, Lia Cook and Magdalena Abakanowicz. The exhibition also casts a fresh eye on craft’s pioneers; celebrating Olga de Amaral, Charles Loloma, Ed Rossbach, Kay Sekimachi, Katherine Westphal and others who pushed the boundaries of materials and sought more inclusive sources of inspiration. The exhibition affirms craft as one of the most exciting spaces for experimentation and wonder in art today.

Building Bridges: Breaking Barriers

Ruth’s Table
San Francisco, CA
Virtual Exhibition through May 13, 2021

Artist Talk April 15 at 4:30 pm (PST)

Building Bridges, Breaking Barriers

See the Exhibit 

RSVP for the Artist Talk on April 15th

If you are not near an exhibition with in-person viewing, you can visit this two-part exhibition series online. Building Bridges: Breaking Barriers aims to help break barriers in perception by recognizing the unique agility and skill possessed by professional older artists at the pinnacle of their careers, their continued value and contribution to the arts and society, leading us to building bridges of an intergenerational nature. The exhibition, which includes work by Lia Cook, highlights artists who are particularly notable for their ability to transform their oeuvre in the thick of their careers. Each artist displays a selection of works that represent evolution and, sometimes, rupture from earlier works, demonstrating a compelling ability to take risks, break new ground and shape attitudes through their artistic practice.


Artist Focus: Blair Tate

Balir Tate Self portrait
Blair Tate self portrait, 2021

Blair Tate has explored flat woven grids in her work since the 70s. Her work evidences an “austere elegance,” Jack Lenor Larsen and Mildred Constantine observed in the seminal The Art Fabric: Mainstream in 1985. “I began weaving in the early 70s, under the influence of 60s Minimalism and modernist architecture,” she wrote in 1986. “I believed that form should follow function and accordingly I sought an objective basis for my work. In this, I was reacting against the majority of the weavnig I saw at the time: weaving that seemed either unfocused and overwhelmed by an eruption of materials, or myopically and exclusively concerned with complex technique …. I determined that my work in fiber should come from fiber and celebrate the medium.” 

Rift, 1991 by Blair Tate
Rift, Blair Tate, linen, cotton rope and aluminum, 96″ x 65″, 1991. Photo by Tom Grotta

To compose her works, Tate creates modular units of woven linen strips tied together with cotton cords. The knots that result create an additional pattern — what Tate considers a scaffold for the tapestry, producing a second complicating scrim. She sees an analogy between textile and text. The strips are like sentences that can be edited,  “rearranged to re-contextualize, to forge relationships, to develop meaning.” Her influences are diverse, African kente cloths “for their beauty and directness,” Baroque architecture, Berber carpets, Italo Calvino’s, If on a Winter’s Night a Travelerand an appreciation for Japanese order and symmetry, broken by natural variations. In addition to her weavings, she has worked as a commercial textile designer, authored The Warp: A Weaving Resource (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1984) which analyzes the elements of weaving, and in the past year, she has made masks for neighbors, friends and a local care center.

Pangaea, 2021 and Small Gemelli, 1977 by Blair Tate
Pangaea, linen, cotton rope and aluminum, 46″ x 29″ x 1.5″, 2021 2021
Small Gemelli, woven linen, spago (hemp). loosely constructed plaid. It exposes and clarifies each element of weaving – counted wefts follow a small doubling sequence within parallel warps which leave all weft ends exposed, 24.75” x 18.75” x 3.25”, 1977

In Adaptation: Artists Respond to Change this spring at browngrotta arts (May 8 -16), Tate will exhibit two works that explore her ideas about the warp. Small Gemelli (1977) was one of her earliest pieces to focus on the elements of weaving. It is a simple plaid – one of the most fundamental woven configurations – but opened to keep both warp and weft distinct.  In Panagea, created this year, Tate consciously wove to the very limits of her warp to minimize loom waste.  In the past, she says,  “I might have incorporated interruptions in the strips while weaving, thereby wasting the unwoven warp; in Pangaea, the gaps emerge only in the rearranging.” 

Jaiselmer by Blair Tate
Detail of Jaiselmer by Blair Tate, linen, cotton rope and aluminum, 73″ x 39″, 1999. Photo by Tom Grotta

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: Lija Rage

This week we are highlighting the work of artist Lija Rage of Latvia. Rage creates her fiber works by painting small sticks and wrapping them in copper wire, by gluing and sewing, layer upon layer until the work is finished. Her work is infused with color. As Rage described it for her 2018 Colours exhibition at the Mark Rothko Centre in Daugavplis, Latvia,

Lija Rage. Photo by Ruta Pirta.
Lija Rage. Photo by Ruta Pirta.

“Green – the woods outside my window; blue – the endless variety of the sea; orange – the sun in a summer sky; brown, grey and black – fresh furrows and the road beneath the melting snow; red – the roses in our gardens. The colours in my work are drawn from the splendour of Latvian nature.”

Animal, Lija Rage, silk, metallic thread, flax 2006 photo by Tom Grotta
Animal, Lija Rage, silk, metallic thread, flax 2006. Photo by Tom Grotta

Rage is influenced by different cultures. “I plunge into them with the help of literature,” she said in her statement for the Transition and Influence, exhibition, which traveled in the UK. “I am particularly interested in drawings of ancient cultures on the walls of caves in different parts of world; Eastern culture with its mysterious magic, drawings of runes in Scandinavia, Tibet and the mandala, Egyptian pyramid drawings. The world culture seems close and colorful to me due to its diversity.”

Beginnings, Lija Rage, bamboo, copper wire, fabric 2019, photo by Tom Grotta
Beginnings, Lija Rage, bamboo, copper wire, fabric 2019, photo by Tom Grotta

Rage was born in 1948 and lives and works in Jūrmala, Latvia. She completed a master’s degree in the Textile Department of the Art Academy of Latvia. Rage has been a member of Latvian Artists’ Union since 1976. Her work has been featured in more than 10 solo shows and in numerous group exhibitions in Latvia and abroad.

Detail, Beginnings, Lija Rage, photo by Tom Grotta.

Rage has received a number of awards: Grand Prix of the Baltic Applied Arts Triennial in Tallinn, Estonia, special award of the Korean Biennale (2007), the Valparaiso Foundation grant (2009); the Nordic Culture Point grant (2010); Excellence Award of the 7th International Fibre Art Biennale in China (2012); Excellence Award of the Applied Arts Biennale in China (2014). 

Crossroads, Lija Rage. Winner of the Excellence Award
Crossroads, Lija Rage. Winner of the Excellence Award

In 2020, she received an Excellence Award for Crossroads, at a solo exhibition at the Zana Lipkes Memorial Museum, which memorializes a family that hid Jews during World War II. The exhibition text quotes Rage, “With our works and our choices, we all leave traces and footprints. Human paths intersect, and the choices we make have consequences and affect others. To life! Spread goodness.”


Artist Focus: Yasuhisa Kohyama

Our artist focus this week is on Yasuhisa Kohyama.

portrait of Yasuhisa Kohyama and Wakae Nakamoto
Yasuhisa Kohyama and Wakae Nakamoto. Photo by Tom Grotta.

Yasuhisa Kohyama’’s masterly ceramics are inspired by the ancient Shigaraki, Jomon and Yayoi ceramics of Japan. Kohyama has played a significant part in reviving the use of the traditional Japanese anagama wood-firing kiln. He was the first potter in the area to build such a kiln since the Middle Ages. Using the distinctive Shigaraki clay and a wood-firing kiln, he has created modern ceramic vessels and sculpture, which are vigorous and new, but timeless in their beauty.

Kohyama shapes his asymmetrical forms using a piano string, thereby creating distinctive, rough surfaces. The clay with its nuggets of feldspar creates a tactile quality not often seen in contemporary work. No glazes are used, but the wood ash and the placement in the kiln produce an extraordinary array of colours and shading on the surface.

grouping of Yasuhisa Kohyama ceramics; wood-kiln ceramic
Yasuhisa Kohyama wood-kiln ceramics. Photo by Tom Grotta

The exhibition of the works from the first firing of the anagama kiln in 1968 created widespread interest in Kohyama’s work, with famous potters such as Shoji Hamada visiting the exhibition. Collectors and museums were quick to acquire his works, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Gardiner Museum of Art in Toronto, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Museum of Art and Craft in Hamburg and the Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park in Shiga, Japan.

“Keeping a tradition alive and fresh like that is not easy for any contemporary Japanese ceramic artist. No other Shigaraki artist, in my humble opinion, does it with the flair and diversity of Kohyama,” wrote Robert Yellin in the catalog for Kohyama’s 2002 Tokyo exhibition, which was held at the Takashimaya Department Store in Tokyo. (http://www.e-yakimono.net/html/kohyama-yasuhisa.html) “His larger works, which speak of the wind, canyons, and mountains, would look equally at home in a traditional Japanese tokonoma (alcove) or a marbled penthouse in London. To have that spirit in form, whatever the size, cross borders with such ease is a testament to the integrity and vision of Kohyama. Ceramic art is indeed universal.”

Detail of Yasuhisa Kohyama
Detail of Danpen by Yasuhisa Kohyama 神山易久, 2016. Photo by Tom Grotta

Kohyama’s work is the subject of Yasuhisa Kohyama: The Art of Ceramics (Arnoldsche Verlagsanstalt, Stuttgart, Germany), co-authored Susan Jeffries, former curator of the Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art in Toronto, Canada and Michael R. Cunningham, former chief curator of Asian Art at The Cleveland Museum of Art. Kohyama’s work also graces the cover of Contemporary Clay: Japanese Ceramics for the New Century by collectors Alice and Halsey North and curator Joe Earle.

48yk Sai, stimuli: character of Sai an ancient word that means container for offering to Gods, wood-kiln ceramic, 14.5″ x 13″ x 3.25″, 2011. Photo by Tom Grotta

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.


Pantone Color(s) of the Year — Ultimate Gray and Illuminating (Yellow)

For more than 20 years, Pantone has been choosing a color of the year. For 2021, however, the color influencer has chosen harmony over singularity. The color for 2021 is two colors, Pantone 17-5104 Ultimate Gray + Pantone 13-0647 Illuminating — soft gray and citron yellow reflecting strength and positivity, practical and rock solid but at the same time warming and optimistic https://www.pantone.com/color-of-the-year-2021. “No one color could get across the meaning of the moment,” Laurie Pressman, vice president of the Pantone Color Institute, told the New York Times. “We all realized we cannot do this alone. We all have a deeper understanding of how we need each other and emotional support and hope.” 

To celebrate the pairing, we present a selection of art works that feature gray and yellow. 

65mg Silver Figure
Mary Giles
waxed linen, silver wire
24″ x 4.5″, 1999
36sb Gray Line with Yellow II,
Sara Brennan
linen, cotton and wools
41.5″ x 36″, 2007
5mb Gold Laugh
Micheline Beauchemin,
 metallic and acrylic thread, cotton
25.25” x 21.25” x 2.25”, 1980-85
4lw Winter, Fornebu
Løvass & Wagle
rainware, nylon stockings
45″ x 45″, 1999
47es Footprints on the Dunes
Ethel Stein
mercerized cotton, damask
31.25” x 35.25” x 1.5”, 2011
16cht Blue Threads and Yellow Stripes
Chiyoko Tanaka
handwoven ground fabric
12.5” x 26”, 1990

According to the Pantone Color Institute, “the two offer a combination of color whose ties to insight, innovation and intuition, and respect for wisdom, experience, and intelligence inspires regeneration, pressing us forward toward new ways of thinking and concepts. Emboldening the spirit, the pairing of Ultimate Gray and Illuminating highlights our innate need to be seen, to be visible, to be recognized, to have our voices heard.”


Return to Nature: an Art Trend to Watch in 2021

Artsy has identified Return to Nature as an art trend to watch in 2021. “Amid the ceaseless anxieties of 2020, people around the world found solace in nature,” wrote Shanon Lee on the online art platform earlier this month (“Trends to Watch in 2021: Return to Nature,” Artsy, January 6, 2021 https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-trends-watch-2021-return-nature). “They escaped the daily barrage of uncertainty to ground themselves in something more evergreen,” writes Lee. “That impulse, whether yearning for the freedom symbolized by the great outdoors or discovering refuge in the world of flora and fauna, can be seen in new works by contemporary artists.” Artsy sees Return to Nature as “one of the biggest artistic shifts we’ve witnessed emerge from the tumultuous unpredictability of 2020.”

Sara Brennans
 Dark Blue Line I, 1999
Broken White band with Pale Blue II, 2011
Journey-Tree-IV, 2020
Sara Brennans
 Dark Blue Line I, 1999
Broken White band with Pale Blue II, 2011
Journey-Tree-IV, 2020

This impulse is not one that has been wasted on UK artist Sara Brennan. known initially for starkly abstract weavings. In recent years, her weavings began to incorporate a hint of imagery, evoking treelines and clouds. During the pandemic, imagery became paramount. Brennan began to weave trees that had been part of her prepandemic world. “The drawings for the tree tapestries were taken from photographs of trees that I would drive past on a journey that I had been doing at least twice a week for the last six years or more,” she writes. “This journey stopped during Lockdown. Drawing, weaving and looking at these trees from a different context took me on another journey. The study of these trees and the tracing of time brought a new rhythm to a place.”

Flowers by Keiji Nio braided polyester, based on the images on the left. Photos by keiji Nio

Japanese artist Keiji Nio drew on images of nature for his work during the pandemic, as well. For his work he photographs nature — the beach, the sea, then silkscreens the images onto fabric tapes and from these, he creates braided sculptures. His most recent work, which is brightly colored, features a flower. “The picture of the flower used for this work was taken when I was looking for the flower which emphasized red, yellow and green in the botanical garden” says Nio. “Now that I can’t go out freely, I made a work using these flowers as materials so that I can feel the vivid color and fragrance of these flowers which we’ll experience again in the world after COVID is cured.”


Artist Focus: Chiyoko Tanaka

We are adding a new feature to our social media lineup periodically, an Artist Focus. Our first artist spotlight is on Chiyoko Tanaka, who celebrated her birthday on January 1st. 

Portrait of Chiyoko Tanaka with Hiroyuki Shindo
Chiyoko Tanaka on the right, Hiroyuki Shindo’s wife on the left and Hiroyuki Shindo in the center at browngrotta arts in 1996. Photo by Tom Grotta.

We have been honored to exhibit the work of Chiyoko Tanaka since 1996, when we were pleased to host Sheila Hicks Joined by Seven Artists from Japan

Time is essential in Tanaka’s work. After weaving works on an obi loom, she agrees them with mud and stone, brick and clay. Portions of the work are deliberately worn away as an actual and metaphorical representation of time, or “weaving time into space,” as she describes it. She works in various series — Mud-Dyed Cloth, Grinded Fabrics and Printed & Grinded Fabrics.

Grinded Fabric-Three Squares Blue Threads and Blue #689 by Chiyoko Tanaka
Grinded Fabric-Three Squares Blue Threads and Blue #689Chiyoko Tanaka, handwoven, ground fabric (raw linen, ramie)-rubbed with white stone, pencil drawing, 19.25″ x 44.25″ x 2.25″, 2005, Photo by Tom Grotta

“Placing the fabric on the ground, I trace out the ground texture and surface of the fabric,” Tanaka explains. “The final color of the surface is not so important, more the effect achieved by the application of a certain soil, charcoal or choice of tool which helped translate the texture of the ground more readily into my ‘canvas.’ The true past tense of the verb to grind, ‘ground,’ also implies the earth, which can be used to embed, implant, erode and emboss its own surface into my work.” 

Detail  of Mud-Dyed Cloth - Mud Dots on Brown Stripes #742 by Chiyoko Tanaka
Detail – Mud-Dyed Cloth – Mud Dots on Brown Stripes #742, Chiyoko Tanaka, handwoven, mud- dyed fabric (raw linen, ramie), 21″ x 44″ x 1.5″, 2009, Photo by Tom Grotta

Tanaka’s work has been exhibited throughout the world: Europe, England, Australia, Israel and the US. It is included in the public collections at 

Permeated Black Stain #941  by Chiyoko Tanaka
Permeated Black Stain #941, Chiyoko Tanaka, handwoven, black dyed Korean ramie, black stain, and rubbed with stone on the reverse side, 18″ x 32.25″, 1999-2001. Photo by Tom Grotta

Museum of Arts and Crafts Hamburg, Germany; Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois; Saint Louis Art Museum, Missouri; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, the Netherlands; The Israel Museum, Jerusalem; Passage de Retz, Paris, France; Kyoto City University of Arts, Japan; Central Museum of Textiles, Lodz, Poland. She was one of the artists featured at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in the seminal exhibition, Structure and Surface: Contemporary Japanese Textiles  and in traveling exhibition, Texture & Influence, curated by Lesley Millar, for the University of the Creative Arts in the UK. She is among the artists profiled in the award-winning video, Textile Magicians