For Sourcing the Museum, 11 artists (Olga de Amaral, James Bassler, Polly Barton, Archie Brennan, Lia Cook, Helena Hernmarck, Ayako Nikamoto, Jon Eric Riis, Warren Seelig, Kay Sekimachi, and Ethel Stein) were invited by renowned textile designer Jack Lenor Larsen to artists explore the Museum’s historically and culturally varied collections. The resulting exhibition includes 12 new artworks that the artists created, displayed alongside the fabrics that inspired them. The historical textiles highlight the wide scope of the Museum’s collections, ranging from rare Pre-Columbian and Late Roman weavings to Japanese kimono and Central Asian ikats.
Helena Hernmarck, for example, re-envisioned a 9th-century Egyptian fragment in an abstract, loose weave. “It was the color that won the day,” she says,”and getting to closely study what an 1100-year-old thread looks like woven in a carpet. There is pile in the carpet, and that made me think, in this case I would weave a looser structure to capture the illusion of pile. This is an oxymoron, since pile is the fiber being seen into its cut, and I am letting the fiber, lying down flat, carry that message. A challenge: but to me, this kind of time-consuming, visually intimate study of something greatly enlarged, is rewarding. I find the advantage of making the plastic strips carry the structure, means I am allowed flexibility how I weave the wool weft — it feels more like sketching than weaving. And it has volume, the volume of puffy wool threads, lending an extra dimension. In other words, this is a double weave, with the lower layer made with the plastic strips; and the upper, plain weave and soumak layer, made with wool, linen and cotton threads. It is the first time I have tried loosening the surface structure like this, still aiming to give an illusion of depth.”
According to the Washington’s Post (“At the Textile Museum weaving tradition into art,” Danielle O’Steen, 3/24/12), Sourcing the Museum “feels fresh and raw…” O’Steen describes the connections that the artists made between old and new as, “loose, and maybe fleeting in the grand scheme of a textile tradition. But the strength of Sourcing the Museum lies in its premise, as it challenges contemporary practitioners to consider a history of traditions, and maybe even embrace lost legacies.” The exhibition continues through August 19, 2012. The Museum is at: 2320 S Street, NW, Washington, DC 20008-4088;Phone: (202) 667-0441.