Tag: browngrotta arts

Art Assembled: New This Week in April

Although launching our spring exhibition, Crowdsourcing the Collective: a survey of textiles and mixed media art, has kept us busy, we still had no shortage of new art to introduce you to in April. We presented art from many talented artists, including work from: Masako Yoshida, Ethel Stein, Polly Barton, and John McQueen. Just in case you missed out, we’re covering all the details about these artists and their art! Read on for more.

Masako Yoshida
14my Air Hole #838, Masako Yoshida, walnut and flax, 8″ x 8″ x 7″, 2017

This artwork comes from Japanese basketmaker, Masako Yoshida. Yoshida created this piece by interlacing sheets of walnut bark with string made of nettle. When asked about her work, Yoshida said:

“My work provides a means of release, allowing the truth to emerge and open the mind. In the process, I ask myself, ‘what is my connection to society?'”

Ethel Stein
56es Touch of Green, Ethel Stein, mercerized cotton, 31.5” x 36” x 1/4”, 2008. Photo by Tom Grotta.

Touch of Green comes from the late Ethel Stein, who was an exceptional American textile artist. Within her career, Stein created countless intricate textile pieces, and browngrotta arts has had the honor of representing her work for nearly 15 years.

Within Stein’s work, she has been known for using reproposed items that have been discarded as a medium and creating something miraculous with them. Often, her artwork is distinguished by its rhythmic simplicity, although it’s created with extraordinary technical complexity.

Polly Barton
8pb Thistledown, Polly Barton, handwoven double ikat with Japanese silk warp and Japanese silk wrapped around a metal core, 41” x 31” x 1.125”, 2016. Photo by Tom Grotta.

Thistledown was created by nationally recognized American fiber artist, Polly Barton. Trained in Japan, Barton is known for working with traditional methods of binding and dyeing bundles of fiber to weave contemporary imagery. More specifically, Barton is known for her talent in adapting the ancient weaving technique of ikat into contemporary woven imagery.

Barton has been charting the way for fiber art over the past 40 years. In fact, early in here career in 1981, Barton moved to Kameoka, Japan to study with master weaver, Tomohiko Inoue.

John McQueen
John McQueen, 32jm Out From Under, wood, willow, bark, and held together with tiny spikes of bamboo 20.75” x 25.25” x 16”, 2021. Photo by Tom Grotta.

This artwork was created by American artist, John McQueen. Within his work, viewers can often find themes of prominent world associations. Often, his three-dimensional works are created with natural materials like twigs, bark, cardboard – he prides himself on being able to create with found objects.

McQueen has discussed how plastic and metal are ubiquitous in landfills and our own trash and he hopes to draw attention to this waste problem with his art, as we are burying ourselves in waste without seeing it.

If you like the art you see – keep your eye out for even more in May! You’ll even have the opportunity to see art in person at our spring exhibition launching this weekend. Visit: https://bit.ly/38QiXCe to join us.


Artists New to Crowdsourcing the Collective: Meet Jeannet Leendertse and Shoko Fukuda

Baskets by Jeannet Leendertse and Shoko Fukuda
Jeannet Leendertse, Drum-shaped Seaweed Vessel, coiled-and-stitched basket, rockweed [ascophyllum nodosum], waxed linen, beeswax, tree resin, 17″ x 9.5″ x 9.5″, 2022 and Shoko Fukuda, Loop with Corners, coiled ramie, monofilament, plastic, 12″ x 11.5″ x 5″, 2021. Photo by Tom Grotta

For our Spring exhibition, Crowdsourcing the Collective: a survey of textile and mixed media art (May 7 -15) browngrotta arts is delighted to introduce the work of two artists new to the gallery, Jennet Leenderste, Netherlands, US and Shoko Fukuda, Japan. Each of them creates sinuous and supple objects — Leenderste of seaweed and Fukuda of sisal, ramie and raffia. 

Portrait Jeannet Leendertse
Jeannet Leendertse portrait by David Grinnell

Jeannet Leenderste crafted with fabric as a child. She studied graphic design in the Netherlands and at 27 left for New York in search of an internship. After completing her degree cum laude, she moved to the Boston area and became an award-winning book designer. In recent years, has turned her focus again to textiles. Having grown up on the Dutch shore, her fiber work responds to the rugged coast of Maine, where she now lives and finds sculptural forms in the landscape and its creatures. As an immigrant, she says, her Dutch culture and heritage are always with her, while she continues to make this new environment her home. Exploring the concept of belonging, she develops work that feels at home in this marine environment. Adaptation and reflection are ongoing. Her fiber process brings these outer and inner worlds together.

Seaweed Vessels
Reclining Seaweed Vessel, Jeannet Leendertse, coiled-and-stitched basket rockweed [ascophyllum nodosum], waxed linen, beeswax, tree resin 8″ x 13″ x 7″, 2022; Seaweed Vessel with Stipe Handle, Jeannet Leendertse, coiled-and-stitched basket, rockweed [ascophyllum nodosum], sugar kelp [saccharina latissima] waxed linen, beeswax, tree resin, 11″ x 13″ x 5.5″, 2021. Photo by Tom Grotta

“My work grows from coastal impressions and material experimentation,” Leenderste explains. “It takes on a new life when moved out of the studio and placed back in its natural environment.” That feedback propels her process. “I feel a strong responsibility to consider my materials, and what my creative process will leave behind. She began foraging seaweed—in particular rockweed—to work with, and discovered the amazing benefits this natural resource provides. “Seaweed not only creates a habitat for countless species,” she says, “it sequesters carbon, and protects our beleaguered shoreline from erosion as our sea levels rise.  Rockweed vessels show the beauty of this ancient algae, while drawing attention to its environmental value.” Several examples of Leenderste’s seaweed works will be featured in Crowdsourcing the Collective.

Portrait Shoko Fukuda
Shoko Fukuda portrait by Makoto Yano

Shoko Fukuda is a basketmaker and Japanese artist who holds a Bachelor of Design from Kyoto University of Art and Design, and a Master’s degree from Osaka University of Art, where she focused on research in textile practice.  She has exhibited her work internationally for the past 10 years. Shoko Fukuda currently works as an instructor at Kobe Design University in the Fashion Design department.

At browngrotta arts, we were recommended to Fukuda’s work by noted basketmaker Hisako Sekijima. “I encountered Sekijima’s artworks about 20 years ago,” Fukuda says. “Lines made with expressive plant materials were woven into an abstract and three-dimensional shapes. I had never seen such small artworks, like architectural structures before. I have been fascinated by the structural visibility and the various characteristics of the constructive form consisting, of regular lines ever since then.” 

Fiber Sculptures by Shoko Fukuda
Vertical and Horizontal Helix, Shoko Fukuda, raffia, 5.125″ x 6″ x 7.5″, 2015; Traced Contour II, ramie, monofilament, plastic, 6.5″ x 17″ x 3.5″, 2022. Photo by Tom Grotta

In Loop With Corners, Fukuda considered how to create a multifaceted form from a flat surface. By making corners, shapes are formed based on intentional decisions that lead to unexpected tortuous and twisted shapes. By weaving and fastening as if making a corner, a rotating shape was created. The movement of coiling creates a rhythm, and the lines being woven together leave organic traces in the air. In Vertical and Cylindrical helix is made of cylindrical spirals stacked like layers. They were woven from different directions — up and down, left and right — to form a single piece. The work has a dense structure, dyed black and shaped like a tightly closed shell. 

Fukuda is interested in “distortion” as a characteristic of basket weaving. “As I coil the thread around the core and shape it while holding the layers together, I look for the cause of distortion in the nature of the material, the direction of work and the angle of layers to effectively incorporate these elements into my work. The elasticity and shape of the core significantly affect the weaving process, as the thread constantly holds back the force of the core trying to bounce back outward.” By selecting materials and methods for weaving with the natural distortion in mind, Fukuda saw the possibility of developing twists and turns. “I find it interesting to see my intentions and the laws of nature influencing each other to create forms.”

Fukuda’s work, like Leenderste’s, will be well represented at Crowdsourcing the Collective, our Spring 2022 exhibition. Join us at browngrotta arts May 7-15, 2022. Save your space here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/crowdsourcing-the-collective-a-survey-of-textiles-and-mixed-media-art-tickets-292520014237


Artist Focus: Rachel Max

Rachel Max portrait
Rachel Max in her studio, Photo by Tom Grotta

Rachel Max’s interest in basketry grew out of experiments with the tactile and the textile properties of metals. The UK artist’s work will be included in browngrotta arts’ upcoming exhibition Crowdsourcing the Collective: a survey of textile and mixed media art.  A background in metal work that informs her work, while the materials and techniques used in basketry enable her to create a “fabric” with which to shape sculptural forms. The fabric is a delicate grid structure forming an intricate network of lines that are interlinked. Her pieces are often inspired by natural shapes. The unique shapes that result are endlessly engaging — each takes on a different appearance when viewed from varying vantage points.

The weave creates the foundation of all Max’s work. “I have developed a technique of layering to form structures that explore the relationship between lines and shadows and space,” she explains. The relationships between containment and concealment and movement and space are the constant rudiments in her works. “The materials used may vary; however, I have a particular penchant for fine cane, which has a delicacy that is pliable, with wire-like characteristics that suit the open weave compositions that I have been exploring. The contrast of very regular patterns with looser weaves is a recurring theme.” This weave has become her vocabulary, “a way of drawing in space that enables me to explore patterns and form through the interplay of lines, or light and shadow through density and color.”

Rachel Max wall basket
6rm Tonal Fifths, Rachel Max, dyed cane, plaited and twined, 25″ x 21″ x 7.5″, 2017. Photo by Tom Grotta

Music is a large part of Max’s life and an important artistic influence. She has been exploring the ways in which musical terms, structure and composition can be translated into woven form. Both Endless and Tonal Fifths use, as a starting point, the fugue, a musical composition based upon one, two or more themes, which are gradually built up and intricately interwoven into a complex imitative form. “Elements of weaving are comparable to notes in music, a measure of time, a beat or a pulse. Rhythm is everywhere, in the movement of my hands as I weave, in the tension and spaces between each stitch, in the beat of our hearts and in the pace of our footsteps,” says Max.

Rachel Max,  blue basket
8rm Continuum, Rachel Max, dyed cane, plaited and twined, 15.5″x 17″ x 17″, 2018. Photo by Tom Grotta

Color, the final stage in Max’s work, does not appear as an afterthought, but as an integral element. Color is “a necessary ingredient that unifies the process; it is paramount in my work,” she says. Works like Continuum explore the temporal and spatial elements associated with color. The color blue Max describes, for example, as an “ambiguous” color — cold yet often warm and comforting. “It is a color of depth and distance,” in Max’s view,  “of darkness and light and of dawn and dusk. It is a color linked closely to the sky and sea, both of which seem infinite and finite. Blue is paradoxically continuous, yet like the sky and sea, has a beginning and an end. Our lives, too, are structured around the continuous cycle of beginning and end. Our perception of color constantly shifts as the light changes. My aim was to translate these seemingly abstract ideas into something concrete. Continuum is a piece about such contrasts and opposites. It is both infinite and finite. A Mobius strip forms the inner core of the piece and the structure gradually shifts, forming a piece with two very different aspects.”

Rachel Max, Red basket
12rm Balance, Rachel Max, plaited and twined cane, 12″ x 16″ x 9″, 2022. Photo by Tom Grotta

Max was eager to participate in Crowdsourcing. “The way in which we are all currently living is one of the biggest adjustments I have ever had to make and one none of us could ever have imagined,” she wrote. “I would like to make something in response to the situation. At the moment it all feels uncontrollable, weighty and fragile. But the words ‘ together and apart’ keep coming to mind and I remember writing them down back in March. There is a huge sense of solidarity and compassion. We’re looking out for each other, we’re closer than we ever were but we cannot touch, hug or meet up. Our spatial awareness and of sense touch has become heightened as the air between us and the surfaces we touch have become dangerous. I would like to make piece which reflects this.” The result is Balance, which explores notions of infinity and time. “My aim was to distort the form, but still create something that is both finite and infinite. It’s rare that the title of a piece comes to me during the making process but as I was weaving this I became aware of its changing weight and stability, forcing me to rethink how I originally intended it to be seen. It became a subconscious reflection on the world we are in now: Everything seems to be in the balance.”

See Max’s work at Crowdsourcing the Collective: a survey of textile and mixed media art (browngrotta arts, May 7 -15, 2021). https://www.eventbrite.com/e/crowdsourcing-the-collective-a-survey-of-textiles-and-mixed-media-art-tickets-292520014237


Art Assembled: New This Week in March

As the spring season kicks off, our bright, blooming artists continue to amaze us with their contemporary and innovative pieces that continue to push the envelope within the art community. Throughout the month of March, we introduced you to pieces from Lija Rage, Paul Furneaux, Mary Giles, James Bassler and so many other talented artists. Read on for a closer look at the work from these artists!

Lija Rage’s Beginning, 2019, Bamboo, copper wire, fabric, 46 1/4 × 39 1/2 × 1 1/4 in, 117.5 × 100.3 × 3.2 cm. Photos by Tom Grotta.

This lively piece, Beginning, was created by Latvian artist, Lija Rage. Rage has said that she often finds inspiration from her homeland – drawing vibrant colors and attributes from the rich and diverse elements in Latvian nature and infusing them into her art.

In addition to the bright themes that can be found throughout Rage’s pieces, her artwork is also often created with bamboo and copper wire elements.

Paul Furneaux, 7pf Garden Shadows: City Shadows Mokuhanga (Japanese woodcut print ), gesso, rice paste and pva archival glue, solid tulip wood 20.5” x 55” x 4”, 2021. Photo by Tom Grotta.

Scottish artist, Paul Furneaux, consistently impresses us with his inspired use of traditional printing techniques within his art. Furneaux has been perfecting his use of traditional Japanese woodblock printing techniques for over the past decade, and his expertise shows clearly throughout his work.

When asked about his printing technique of choice, Furneaux said: “This inherently beautiful and simple process has allowed my work to develop in a contemplative and semi-abstract way.”

Silver Figure, Mary Giles, 24″ x 4.5″, 1999. Photo by Tom Grotta.

This innovative piece comes from the late Mary Giles, an American artist who was and is near and dear to our hearts at browngrotta arts. Throughout her career, Giles created dynamic artwork that ranged from mixed-media coiled baskets that are sculptural in nature, totems and three-dimensional wall works.

Her work is known for its tactile qualities and the reflective and malleable materials that it’s composed of. 

Before her death in 2018, the wall panels she created were inspired by her growing concerns about our population and problems that plague the word. 

6jb Pre-Columbian Meets Mid-Century Modern, James Bassler, single-ply linen,
synthetic dyes; four-selvage construction; 55” x 56” , 2006. Photo by Tom Grotta.

This artwork was created by James Bassler, a renowned American fiber artist based out of California. Bassler has built his career around the art and craft of weaving. He is well known around for his use of ancient pre-Columbian techniques and materials, which he uses to create traditional works with contemporary themes.  

Bassler has spent a lifetime investigating Peruvian and cube weaving and other techniques and materials like nettle and cochuyi. In some of his works, though, politics takes center stage.

We have so many exciting things (art and exhibitions alike) in store as the spring months unfold, so keep your eyes peeled for all that awaits! We will also be introducing our followers to new art every Monday, so follow us on social media to stay up-to-date on all the new art we’re bringing to the table.


Artist Focus: Hideho Tanaka

Hideho Tanaka portrait
Hideho Tanaka at the opening of Fiber FuturesJapan’s Textile Pioneers in New York, 2011. Photo by Tom Grotta

Japanese artist Hideho Tanaka, now in his 80s, explores contradictory elements in his work, using time, which he sees as an agent of change, as one guide to his aesthetic choices.

Tanaka studied industrial art and design at the Musashino Art University, in Tokyo. Beginning in 1972, Tanaka taught art, while participating in solo and group exhibitions As a teacher, Tanaka explained, he worked to nurture younger generations, as artists, to think not only of soft cloth, but also less-used materials such as wood, paper pulp and stainless steel thread.

Vanishing and Emerging Rocks
22ht Vanishing & Emerging P32-A, Hideho Tanaka, paper and burnt steel wire, 8″ x 11.5″ x 10″, 1995; 23ht Vanishing & Emerging P32-B, Hideho Tanaka, paper and burnt steel wire, 8″ x 11″ x 11″, 1995; 25ht Vanishing & Emerging P32-D, Hideho Tanaka, paper and burnt steel wire, 8″ x 8.5″ x 7.5″, 1995; 26ht Vanishing & Emerging P32-E, Hideho Tanaka, paper and burnt steel wire, 8″ x 8″ x 8.25″, 1995. Photo by Tom Grotta

In the 1980s, Tanaka expanded the scale of his activities and began large-scale outdoor performances and installations in which he covered dunes with cloth which he burned. In subsequent years, under the theme of Vanishing & Emerging (disappearance and transformation), he continued these explorations — burning metal fibers and other aspects of his works. “He uses fire to suggest destructive force or benign transformation .… He often creates simple solids, opposing the specificity of the materials to the generality of the forms and burning holes in the cloth or singeing the edges of the solids to invade their geometric austerity.” Janet Koplos, Contemporary Japanese Sculpture (Abbeville Press, New York, NY, 1991).

Vanishing and Emerging Wall detail
16ht Vanishing and Emerging Wall, Hideho Tanaka, paper, 87” x 102” x 11”, 2009. Photo by Tom Grotta

Tanaka also expanded his art practice in the 80’s to include the creation of art textiles using paper — Tanaka also expanded his art practice in the 80’s to textiles using paper — creating dynamic works by virtue of the material used in the works and their sense of scale. The artist explained his interest in fiber in the catalog for Fiber Futures: Japan’s Textile Pioneers (Japan Society, New York, distributed Yale University Press 2011an exhibition that travelled internationally in Europe, the US and Europe. “Why did I start thinking about fiber art as a medium? It was partly because I was attracted to the idea of expressing myself in a subtle yet intractable material, but I was also intrigued by the challenge of turning something accidental into a deliberate work of art,” he said. “I’m acutely aware of accidents that actually help me achieve the expression I was striving for and other accidents that take my work in a completely different direction.”

The sculptural sense of Tanaka’s art is exciting — the works are light and yet have enormous presence. In his smaller objects, several layers of thin wire have been loosely bound, sometimes with piles of light-colored fibers, sometimes coated with paper pulp. He creates a contrast between the stiff wire and the short pieces of malleable fiber, the uniform wire and pulp in freeform. The large elliptical wall hanging, Vanishing and Emerging, wall (2009), takes a different approach. “Intricately crafted from ink-lined squares of paper, it is a kind of ode to the natural weight, thickness and movement of the cotton, flax and paper fibers from which the panels are made, emphasizing the material’s natural flow so that the piece seems to have a life of its own. The result is a subtle trick of the eye: The textile is at once rippled and featherlight yet geometrically robust with parallel and perpendicular lines that appear to be woven together like a dense and tidy network of veins in a leaf,” wrote Alexandra Zagalsky, “Hideho Tanaka Carefully Stitched Together Pieces to Make this Sculptural Textile,” Introspective Magazine, September 22, 2021.

Emerging Wall Collage
29, 31ht Emerging, Hideho Tanaka, japanese carbon ink drawing, inkjet print, collage (cotton cloth which put a Japanese tissue paper.), 14.5” x 18.25” x 1”, 2016. Photo by Tom Grotta

Tanaka’s work “deals with both philosophical and metaphysical ideas, and he often endeavors to connect the realm of the physical world with unseen spiritual planes. He attempts to bridge this gap through forms that suggest the frailty and transience of the human experience,” writes the Minneapolis of Art which has acquired his work. “The medium of fiber is versatile and allows Tanaka creative freedom.” His work seamlessly spans the categories of fiber art and sculpture. 


Contemporary Fiber Art – Trends Observed, Part I

In December of 2021 of last year, we were asked to talk to a group of fiber artists about trends we had observed in the art textiles field. In two arttextstyle posts we’ll summarize the insights we shared with the group. First, we described a bit about browngrotta arts’ creative journey and fiber arts’ place in the art world in the years we’ve been the medium’s champion.

2004 Art Palm Beach. Works by Masakazu Kobayashi, Mary Merkel-Hess, Deborah Valoma, Jo Barker and Sheila Hicks, among others. Photo by Tom Grotta.

browngrotta arts began quite informally in 1987, showing artwork in our Connecticut home at parties or by appointment – a concept we called “art in use.” We quickly discovered two things – First, people weren’t terribly willing to buy paintings from a suburban home, with New York galleries nearby. Second, fiber work was not well represented on the East Coast. The fiber art we showed, however – baskets by Mary Merkel-Hess and Markku Kosonen, and tapestries by Mariette Rousseau-Vermette – was new and interesting to clients and us.  We decided to focus on that.

1987 Contemporary art-in-use
browngrotta arts 1987 exhibition. Contemporary art-in-use

Fiber art on the outs

That said, 90s and early 2000s were not great for fiber art. The slick and shiny were popular in furnishings and design. Some of the public fiber commissions from the 70s had begun to show their age and give fiber a bad name. The craft/art divide was harsh and dark – and women’s work, like weaving, knitting and crochet – was at the bottom of that chasm.  The period saw fiber friendly galleries like Sybaris in Detroit, Louise Allrich in Califoria, and Bobby Okun in Santa Fe all close their doors. But we hung in there, with our unusual business model – presenting fiber artists from Japan, Scandinavia, the UK and pioneering and emerging artists from the US, attending art fairs, partnering with art centers and documenting the work in catalogs and on our website.

Beyond Weaving: International Art Textiles
browngrott arts exhibition Beyond Weaving: Internatioanl ArtTextiles at the Flinn Gallery in Greenwich, Connecticut

In 2006, we curated Beyond Weaving: International Art Textiles at the Flinn Gallery in Greenwich, Connecticut, which included work by Sheila Hicks, Magdalena Abakanowicz and Lenore Tawney. Mildred Constantine, the former textile curator at MoMA, told us it was the “best fiber exhibition in 15 years,” which tells you a lot about how the medium had been sidelined in that period.

Gradual reemergence

But slowly, in that time period, fiber’s profile began to improve. Appreciation for natural materials increased as did appreciation for the hand made. Sheila Hicks had an exhibition of miniatures at Bard in 2006; Ruth Asawa a retrospective at the de Young 2007; 50 years of Sheila Hicks opened at the Addison, then the Mint and ICA in Boston in 2010 and so did Contemporary Fiber Art: a selection from the Permanent Collection at the Art Institute in Chicago.

ICA Boston 2014
ICA Boston, 2014 Fiber Sculpture – 1960 to the present. Photo by Tom Grotta

The watershed for fiber art’s resurgence was just four years away. In 2014, Janelle Porter, who had worked on 50 Years of Sheila Hicks, organized the expansive ICA show, Fiber Sculpture – 1960 to the present. The exhibition travelled to Columbus, OH, Produced a detailed book and Porter was awarded a best museum exhibition award. 

It was as if a dam had broken – 50 Fiber artists toured the US in Innovators and Legends in 2013, initiated at the Muskegon Museum of Art, a retrospective of François Grossen’s work opened at Blum and Poe and one of Ethel Stein’s work opened at the Art Institute of Chicago in 2014. Anne Wilson, Louise Bourgeois, Lenore Tawney were also featured in Thread Lines at the Drawing Center 2014. Richard Tuttle unveiled a vast installation of weavings in Tate Modern (followed by an exhibition of Textiles by Sonya DeLauney in 2015). The Art Newspaper declared: “Soft Fabrics Have Solid Appeal;” the Wall Street Journal called Fiber “The Art World’s New Material Obsession.” 

Taking a thread for a walk-MoMA
Aurélia-Munñoz-Åguila-Beige-(Brown-Eagle) at Taking a thread for a walk-MoMA. photo by Denis-Doorly

Fiber Art’s Continued Recognition and Appreciation

The trend has continued since – Anni Albers at the Tate in 2018; Women Take the Floor in Boston; Off the Wall: American Art to Wear in Philadelphia and Taking Thread for Walk at MoMA, all in 2019,Weaving Beyond the Bauhaus in Chicago in 2020 and Olga d’Amaral’s Weaving a Rock in Houston in 2021 and at Cranbrook in 2022. Sheila Hicks, Off the Grid, at The Hepworth Wakefield in West Yorkshire, UK, Faith Ringgold, American People at the New Musuem in New York City open this year as do 34 fiber artists, including Lia Cook, in Subversive, Skilled, Sublime: Fiber Art by Women at the Smithsonian in November. 

It’s an exciting time to promote art textiles and fiber sculpture as browngrotta arts has done for three decades. In Contemporary Fiber Art — Trends Observed, Part 2, we’ll examine some of the changes we’ve seen in the field and in the approach of the artists who work with us.


Elements of Japandi: Hygge Meets Wabi Sabi

browngrotta arts’ Fall “Art in the Barn” exhibition, Japandi: shared aesthetics and influences opens on Saturday, September 25th at 11 a.m. and runs through October 3rd. The exhibition features 39 artists from Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark and Japan and explores artistic affinities among artists from Scandinavia and Japan. Artwork and design from these areas often incorporate several elements — natural materials and sustainability, minimalism and exquisite craftsmanship. In addition, some observers see similarities between the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi and the Scandinavian concept of hygge as making up a fourth aesthetic element that the regions share.

Writer Lucie Ayres notes that, “[i]n traditional Japanese aesthetics, wabi-sabi (侘寂) is a world view centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete (rough and organic textures. worn and weathered objects, colors that mimic nature) …. Hygge is a [related] Danish and Norwegian word for a mood of coziness and comfortable conviviality with feelings of wellness and contentment (soft textures, sentimental items, comfortable environs).”  (“A Knowledge Post: The Difference Between Wabi-Sabi, Hygge and Feng Shui,” Lucie Ayres, 22 Interiors, March 26, 2020).

Subcontinet by Toshio Sekiji
Toshio Sekiji, 28ts Subcontinent, red, green, black, natural lacquer, Hindi (Delhi), Malayalam (Kerala State) newspapers, 77.25” x 73.25” x 2.625”, 1998. Photo by Tom Grotta

Several artists in the Japandi exhibition evidence an appreciation for repurposing and appreciating materials as wabi-sabi envisions. Toshio Sekiji’s works are made of newspapers from Japan and India; one of Kazue Honma’s works is of Japanese telephone book pages. Paper is a material that creates an atmosphere as well as art. Eva Vargö, a Swedish artist who has spent many years in Japan, describes how Washington paper, when produced in the traditional way, has a special quality — light filters through paper from lamps and shoji screen doors creates a warm and special feeling, in keeping with the sense encompassed in wabi-sabi and hygge.

Japan by Eva Vargo
Eva Vargö, 7ev Japandí, Japanese and Korean book papers, 23.5” x 22.375” x 2.5”, 2021. Photo by Tom Grotta

Vargö admires the way the Japanese recreate worn textiles into new garments in boro and recreate cracked ceramics with lacquer through kintsugi. That’s the reason she reuses old Japanese and Korean book papers and lets them “find ways into my weavings.” By giving them a second life she honors those who have planted the trees, produced the paper, made the books, filled them with words and also their readers.

Reserve by Ane Henriksen
Ane Henriksen, 30ah Reserve , linen, silk, acrylic painted rubber matting, oak frame, 93.75” x 127.625” x 2.5”, 2015. Photo by Tom Grotta

“Anything made by real craftsmanship – objects created out of wood, ceramics, wool, leather and so on – is hyggeligt …. ‘The rustic, organic surface of something imperfect, and something that has been or will be affected by age appeals to the touch of hygge,” writes Meik Wiking, author of The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living (The Happiness Institute Series) William Morrow, 2017). Danish artist Åne Henriksen’s work uses the non-skid material from the backside of carpets and series of knots to create contemplative images that are engaging from a distance, and rough and textured up close. Jane Balsgaard, also from Denmark, uses wood and paper to create objects that reference boats and sails and wings, referencing the old as well as the organic by sometimes incorporating artifacts in her works.

Polynesian Boat by Jane Balsgaard
Janes Balsgaard, piece of Polynesian boat creates an artifact. Photo by Nils Holm, From Înfluences from Japan in Danish Art and Design, 1870 – 2010, Mirjam Gelfer-Jorgensen.

“I’ve never been to Scandinavia,” says Keiji Nio, “but I admire the Scandinavian lifestyle. The interior of my living room, furniture and textiles have been used for more than 25 years, but I still feel the simple and natural life that does not feel old.” Nio finds that artists from Japan and Scandinavia each have an affinity for calming colors. “When I saw the production process of the students from Finland at the university where I work, I was convinced that they had a similar shy character and simple color scheme similar to the Japanese.”

Join us at Japandi: shared aesthetics and influences to experience accents of wabi-sabi and hygge in person. The exhibition features 39 artists from Japan, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark. The hours of exhibition are: Opening and Artist Reception: Saturday, September 25th, 11 to 6

Sunday, September 26th: 11 to 6

Monday, September 27th through Saturday October 2nd: 10 to 5

Sunday, October 3rd: 11 to 6 

20 people/hour; Advance reservations are mandatory; Covid protocols will be followed. 

There will be a full-color catalog prepared for the exhibition available at browngrotta.com on September 24th.


Make a Day of It – Visit browngrotta arts and Other Art Venues This Weekend

Eva LeWitt, Untitled (Mesh A–J) (site-specific installation view, detail), 2019 Courtesy of the artist and VI, VII, Oslo. Photo: Jason Mandella

If you are coming to Artists from the Grotta Collection: a book launch and exhibition at browngrotta arts in Wilton, Connecticut this weekend, we suggest you take advantage of a few of the area’s other cultural offerings. Eva LeWitt (b. 1985) first one-person exhibition at the Aldrich Museum in Ridgefield, just a few miles (literally)up the road from bga. The artist’s largest exhibition to date, debuts a significant, new site-specific installation commissioned by The Aldrich. Says the Museum, “LeWitt’s sculptural practice explores the visual interconnection of color, matter, shape, light, and gravity. Using materials she can control and manipulate with supporting and opposing attributes – rigid/pliable, opaque/transparent, airy/substantial, and handmade/machine built – LeWitt creates exuberant configurations that vaunt a buoyant physical agency. LeWitt’s deft sculptural arrays wondrously wed industrial materials like Plexiglas, acetate, latex, and vinyl with hand-cast and hand-dyed polyurethane foams, sponges and rubbers to form soft, sensuous, and splendidly vibrant compositions.” The artist’s first publication, with an essay by exhibition curator Amy Smith-Stewart is available http://aldrichart.org/article/eva-lewitt


On Saturday, 30+ highly-skilled artisans from across the country will be presenting their hand-crafted contemporary and traditional furnishings and wearables at the 34th American Artisan Show at the Wilton Historical Society (224 Danbury Road, Route 7). The Historical Society is also just down the road from bga — in the opposite direction. Furniture, folk art, pottery, fine leather goods, Nantucket-style baskets, candles, Windsor chairs, art, tavern signs, fine jewelry, photography, and much more – will be available for purchase at the Show. The show is fittingly set in the Society’s charming 18th and 19th century buildings. Artisan demos on Saturday. 10:00 – 5:00. Admission is $10; under 18 free. Wilton Historical Society: http://wiltonhistorical.org/events/american-artisan-show/

Grace Farms in New Canaan


Another option is a visit to Grace Farms in New Canaan (365 Luke’s Wood) which was established with the idea that space communicates and can inspire people to collaborate for good. To realize this vision, Grace Farms Foundation set out to create a multipurpose building nestled into the existing habitat that would enable visitors to experience nature, encounter the arts, pursue justice, foster community and explore faith. The architect SANAA’s goal was to make the River building become part of the landscape without drawing attention to itself. Under the continuous roof are five transparent glass-enclosed volumes that can host a variety of activities and events, while maintaining a constant sense of the surrounding environment. It sits on 80 acres, most of which are being preserved in perpetuity as open meadows, woods, wetlands and ponds. It’s open six days a week and free to the public. https://gracefarms.org/faq/

Hope to see you Saturday and Sunday or Sunday. You can visit Artists from the Grotta Collection at browngrotta arts, 276 Ridgefield Road, Wilton, Connecticut from 10 am to 5 pm either day. http://www.browngrotta.com/Pages/calendar.php


Art Lives Well-Lived: Mary Giles

Mary Giles 1995

Mary Giles Portrait 1995. Photo by Tom Grotta

We were heartbroken to learn of artist Mary Giles’s passing last month. Giles was a light – casting warmth and humor wherever she went. We have been fortunate to represent her work at browngrotta arts for many years and were delighted she could join us in Wilton for our 30th anniversary exhibition last year.

30th Anniversary Portrait

30th Anniversary exhibit artist portrait.
Photo by Tom Grotta

Giles received the James Renwick Alliance Master of the Medium Award in Fiber in 2013. In receiving the award, Giles spoke of her process and her sources of inspiration: “I have always been influenced by place and especially the natural world in those places. In the early 80’s, having taken up scuba diving, I did a series based on sea life called “walking tentacles.” Later, during many trips to New Mexico, I discovered mesa forms as well as Native American kivas and petroglyphs. Those sources dominated my work for over 10 years. Most recently the changing light, colors, and patterns seen from our retirement home on the banks of the St. Croix River in Minnesota have informed by work. My ideas are an accumulation, my sources most often from nature and my pallet is drawn from the colors of earth, water, wood and stone.” You can read the full text of her remarks on arttextstyle: http://arttextstyle.com/2013/05/18/master-remarks-mary-giles/

vessels and wall works

Mary Giles Vessels and wallworks
Photos by Tom Grotta

Giles reveled in the tactile, reflective and and malleable materials. She is represented in the Erie Art Museum’s permanent collection by a meticulously made basket of porcupine quills. The materials she used on the surface of the coiled forms were individually hammered pieces of 12- to 18-gauge wire made of copper, tinned copper, iron, lead or brass. By torching the metals she was able to alter the colors in varying degrees enabling me to blend them from darks to brights, a blending she used to interpret the colors, textures and light that she saw in the natural settings.
Some years ago Giles began creating wall panels that dealt with her concerns about population and explored ideas of density and boundaries. They were not baskets but the figures incorporated were like those that had been featured on her vessels. The first expression of this theme was composed of hundreds of torched copper wire men arranged outwardly from dense to sparse, directly on a gallery wall.

Mary Giles Boulders

3 Mary Giles Boulders
Photo by Tom Grotta

Giles’ work has been displayed in numerous galleries and museums in the United States including the Barbican Centre in London, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Yale Art Gallery and the Detroit Institute of Arts. She represented the U.S. at the International Triennial of Tapestry in Lodz, Poland.
She is one of 20 artists featured in a current article in 1st dibs online magazine Introspective: “20 Women Designers Young and Resurgent Stand Side by Side,” which you can read here: https://www.1stdibs.com/introspective-magazine/tag/mary-giles/. Her work is also featured in eight catalogs published by browngrotta arts available on our website: http://store.browngrotta.com/sara-brennan-tapestry-and-mary-giles-fiber-sculpture/.

Happy New Year: to new beginnings, fresh starts, rewrites and resurrections


Mariyo Yagi’s works, including A Cycle, Infinity, resonate with her nawa principle: spiral energy of movement and human beings together creating a metaphorical rope, all pulling together. What better sentiment for the New Year? We at browngrotta arts wish you all an awesome and abundant year. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cDSqnF_Wjac

For Yagi, nawa unites two principles: na (you) and wa(I). When combined, nawa means “you and I,” representing a single word that signifies human empathy and endurance. In nawa, you and I, face each other beyond difference, thus signifies our creative interaction, to achieve interconnectedness, unity and peace.
Yagi worked for Isamu Noguchi in Japan in 1973-1976. In order to  fully realize her own projects, which are large in scale, Yagi became a licensed  civil engineer and contractor, the first Japanese sculptor to do so. Yagi has found her own global vocabulary, an infinite array of spiraling forms. From 1980 through the present, she has created artscapes in plazas, gardens, fountains, earthworks and other community art works, including a glass spiral at a Venice Biennial collateral event two years ago and a tall spiral. Axis for Peace and two other works at LongHouse Reserve in East Hampton. She has the ability to transform communities and build environments through her unconventional interactive art practice, which often involves untrained community volunteers. More about Yagi’s work can be found at www.browngrotta.com/Pages/yagi.php and at: http://www.mariyoyagi.net/English/cn53/ProfileE.html.