Baskets by Deborah Valoma, Hisako Sekijima, Gyöngy Laky
photos by Tom Grotta, courtesy of browngrotta arts

In 2008 internationally known collector Lloyd Cotsen donated 151 contemporary basketworks to the Racine Art Museum in Wisconsin. When added to the nearly 300 contemporary basket works already in the museum’s collection, the result was one of the largest concentrations of fiber sculpture in any US art institution. The excerpt below is from an essay/interview included in the study guide, Basketworks: Cotsen Contemporary American Basket Collection, available from RAM. The interviewer is Bruce Pepich, Executive Director and Curator of Collections, RAM:

Pepich: The majority of the artists in this collection are American women. So this was intentional?

Baskets by Mary Giles, Dorothy Gill Barnes, Christine Joy
photos by Tom Grotta, courtesy of browngrotta arts

Cotsen: Yes. The acquisition of women artists’ work was an intentional statement on my part. In Japan, most of the basket makers are men, but when I looked at what was going on in the United States, I noticed that the majority of the artists advancing the field at this time were women. I found a great deal of experimentation that was moving contemporary basketry — and the fibers field in general — in many new directions. There are a few men and also some British and Japanese women artists who are included in this group because they actively participated in the American basketry movement as teachers and exhibiting artists. However, the great majority are American women.

Baskets by Mary Merkel-Hess, Maggie Henton and Nancy Moore Bess
photos by Tom Grotta, courtesy of browngrotta arts

I am most frequently drawn to what the women basket artists see in the materials they employ and the forms they create. These artists seem to have an innate closeness to the earth; it interests me to see how they express that through their work in fibers. Historically, women carried baskets as storage containers or created other textile forms; contemporary basket artists share a connection with their predecessors in the understanding they have for basket materials and forms. I think contemporary works are more interesting than classic American folk baskets. I did not want to have the pieces in this collection mistaken as purely functional, but viewed as innovative sculptural statements. Functionality is not important to me; it can be a limitation. I am interested in aesthetic and shape.

When I first started collecting, there were few people systematically assembling contemporary basket collections. I wanted to encourage the development of these artists’ aesthetic concepts by acquiring their works.

Marion Hildebrandt; Naomi Kobayashi; Chungi Choo
photos by Tom Grotta, courtesy of browngrotta arts

Basketmakers in the The Cotsen Contemporary American Basket Collection: Dona Anderson;* Joan Austin; Michael Bailot; Dorothy Gill Barnes;* Patricia Barrett; Dail Behennah;* Nancy Moore Bess;* Linda Bills; Delores L. Boyer; Joann Segal Brandford; Nancy Braski; Brent Brown; Jan Buckman; Chunghi Choo; Jill Nordfors Clark; Akemi Daniells; Dane Dent; Rob Dobson; Jean and Rob Doubert; Jeanne Drevas; Lillian Elliott/Pat Hickman; Norma Anderson Fox; Therese Neptune Gardiner; John Garrett; Lindsay Ketterer Gates; Mary Giles;* Maggie Henton; Marion Hildebrandt; Patti Q. Hill; Kazue Honma;*Flo Hoppe; Christine Joy*; Tamiko Kawata*; Jane Kerseg-Hinson; Susan W. Kilmer; Naomi Kobayashi;* Gyöngy Laky;* Shereen LaPlantz; Kari Lonning; Elaine Lucero; Mika McCann; Connie/Tom McColley; John McQueen;* Merkel-Hess;* Doris Messick; Sally Metcalf; Norma Minkowitz;* Diane Moore; Debora Muhl; Judy Mulford;* Dulese Myers; Dennis Nahabetian; Leon Niehaus; Jane Niejadlik; Linda Kelly Osborne; Francina Kraynek Prince; Emily Borden Ragsdale; Lois S. Rainwater; Fran Reed; Jill Romanoke; Ed Rossbach*; JoAnne Russo; Betz Salmont; Hisako Sekijima;* Corey Shenkin; Karyl Sisson;* Thurmond Strickland; Billie Ruth Sudduth; Polly Adams Sutton; Ema Tanigaki; Deborah Valoma*; Don Weeke; Jiro Yonezawa.* An asterisk indentifies artists whose work will be included in Retro/Prospective: 25+ Years of  Art Textiles and Sculpture at browngrotta arts this fall.