Contemporary textile works are often installed effectively right on the wall. Dimensional textiles in particular rarely need an edge. Yet, there are some works that can manage the counterpoint of an artful frame. There are works given more emhasis by the addition of a shadow box or an edge. A frame can also protect a textile from touching and from dust and, with UV glass, even from sunlight to some degree. In our current Viewing Room, Art With an Edge: the case for framing, we are sharing a number of works that feature frames.
Many artists are content to let galleries or museums or collectors handle frames. Other artists are intentional about frames, often going so far as making frames themselves. Members of the Ashcan School (late 19th-early 20th century) wanted frames that reflected “the raw, unsentimental spirit of their work, not that of an Old-World cathedral,” notes Eleanor Cummins. (Is It Time to Recognize Frames as an Independent Art Form?, Smithsonian Magazine, June 29, 2020). Georgia O’Keeffe wanted viewers to consider the way the shapes, colors, line and composition worked, without distractions, explains Dale Kronkright, head of conservation at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe. To ensure her vision was realized, O’Keeffe worked with Of, the New York City frame maker, to develop eight distinct frames that precisely suited her paintings. Scott Rothstein, whose works are available at browngrotta arts, says he thinks of the frame as a part of the work itself. “The black matte and the frame tightly control how the work is seen,” he says, “which is something I have done with intent. My work can’t be seen any other way.”
An unabashed fan of frames, Matthew Jones, managing director of the framers and conservationists firm, John Jones London argues that, it’s really about harmony. “A good frame can completely change a work. I very much want the outcome of the project to offer what I call ‘the three wows’. When you first see a work that’s been framed, you should be drawn immediately to the image itself. We then like the eye to cast out to the frame, and — finally — to make a connection with the object in its entirety. If you’ve got a slight imperfection on the frame, or a slight imbalance in colour, it’s going to distract you from your enjoyment of the image.” (“How to choose the right frame for your picture,” Christie’s online, https://www.christies.com/features/How-to-choose-the-right-frame-for-your-picture-10005-1.aspx).
At browngrotta arts, we rely on the expertise of Mary Luke https://www.maryluke.com, our Gallery Associate. Luke is a painter, stylist and designer — but also an experienced framer. “Artwork that would otherwise be lost on a wall can be given a strong, powerful voice with a simple mat and frame.” Material and color offer options, Luke says. “Material and color can be used to contrast or blend with the artwork — either way, though, the artwork should always remain the focal point.”
Check out more of Mary Luke’s Framing Q&A in the Art With an Edge Viewing Room. You’ll find 50+ works of art with various frames — shadow boxes, natural edges, perspex, plexiboxes, frames with mats — illustrating their possibility and potential.
“Art is limitation; the essence of every picture is the frame.” G.K. Chesterton
Art & Identity: A Sense of Place
In our 2019 Art in the Barn exhibition, we asked artists to address the theme of identity. In doing so, several of the participants in Art + Identity: an international view, wrote eloquently about places that have informed their work. For Mary Merkel-Hess, that place is the plains of Iowa, which viewers can feel when viewing her windblown, bladed shapes. A recent work made a vivid red orange was an homage to noted author, Willa Cather’s plains’ description, “the bush that burned with fire and was not consumed,” a view that Merkel-Hess says she has seen.
The late Micheline Beauchemin traveled extensively from her native Montreal. Europe, Asia, the Middle East, all influenced her work but depictions of the St. Lawrence River were a constant thread throughout her career. The river, “has always fascinated me,” she admitted, calling it, “a source of constant wonder” (Micheline Beauchemin, les éditions de passage, 2009). “Under a lemon yellow sky, this river, leaded at certain times, is inhabited in winter, with ice wings without shadows, fragile and stubborn, on which a thousand glittering lights change their colors in an apparent immobility.” To replicate these effects, she incorporated unexpected materials like glass, aluminum and acrylic blocks that glitter and reflect light and metallic threads to translate light of frost and ice.
Mérida, Venezuela, the place they live, and can always come back to, has been a primary influence on Eduardo Portillo’s and Maria Davila’s way of thinking, life and work. Its geography and people have given them a strong sense of place. Mérida is deep in the Andes Mountains, and the artists have been exploring this countryside for years. Centuries-old switchback trails or “chains” that historically helped to divide farms and provide a mountain path for farm animals have recently provided inspiration and the theme for a body of work, entitled Within the Mountains. Nebula, the first work from this group of textiles, is owned by the Cooper Hewitt Museum.
Birgit Birkkjaer’s Ode for the Ocean is composed of many small woven boxes with items from the sea — stones, shells, fossils and so on — on their lids. ” It started as a diary-project when we moved to the sea some years ago,” she explains. “We moved from an area with woods, and as I have always used materials from the place where I live and where I travel, it was obvious I needed now to draw sea-related elements into my art work.”
“I am born and raised in the Northeast,” says Polly Barton, “trained to weave in Japan, and have lived most of my life in the American Southwest. These disparate places find connection in the woven fabric that is my art, the internal reflections of landscape.” In works like Continuum i, ii, iii, Barton uses woven ikat as her “paintbrush,” to study native Southwestern sandstone. Nature’s shifting elements etched into the stone’s layered fascia reveal the bands of time. “Likewise, in threads dyed and woven, my essence is set in stone.”
For Paul Furneaux, geographic influences are varied, including time spent in Mexico, at Norwegian fjords and then, Japan, where he studied Japanese woodblock, Mokuhanga “After a workshop in Tokyo,” he writes, “I found myself in a beautful hidden-away park that I had found when I first studied there, soft cherry blossom interspersed with brutal modern architecture. When I returned to Scotland, I had forms made for me in tulip wood that I sealed and painted white. I spaced them on the wall, trying to recapture the moment. The forms say something about the architecture of those buildings but also imbue the soft sensual beauty of the trees, the park, the blossom, the soft evening light touching the sides of the harsh glass and concrete blocks.”