Tag: James Bassler

More Pop-Ups Please!

Space 67 - bogarts Pop-Up installation
From left to right: Repos + Paix-side by Mariette Rousseau-Vermette, Embarrilado Azul by Carolina Yrarrázaval, Fire Fright and Range Fire by Lewis Knauss, CMA-CGM by Laura Foster Nicholson, Arm & Hammer by John McQueen and Peninsula by Mary Merkel-Hess. Photo by Tom Grotta

We had a chance to do an expanded Pop-Up at Space67 in Norwalk, CT last month. We were first asked to curate an exhibition that would be enjoyed by individuals who attended The Supper Club. Then, with the exhibition in place, we decided to create a public Pop Up for one day and invite our fans, people in Norwalk, and those just walking by. 

Haiti inspired Chicken Tender
Haiti-inspired, Braised chicken tender in creole sauce – yuka – plantain crisp – cilantro avocado salsa verde was one of extraordinary seven courses served at The Supper Club. Photo by Tom Grotta

The Supper Club dinner was a project of the Kitchen Incubator at the Village Community Foundation in Stamford, CT. The Incubator Program at The Village is a nonprofit program that supports local, diverse entrepreneurs and startups in the food and beverage industry. 

Supper Club Chefs
Chefs Xavier Santiago, Marta Garcia, and Ivan Romero, their crew, and Village Community Foundation President, Jon Winkel, addressing diners. Photo by Tom Grotta

The Supper Club at Space67 involved three exceptional chefs — Chef Xavier Santiago, Chef Marta Garcia, and Chef Ivan Romero — who, with a talented crew, prepared a 7-course meal with offerings from Colombia, Puerto Rico, Haiti, Jamaica, Cuba, and the Dominican Republican. 

Supper Club at Space 67
Between courses at Space 67. Photo by Tom Grotta

Sixty people were served, music was provided by The Briefly Educated & Friends and a great time was had by all!

browngrotta Pop-up Space 67 art exhibition
Falling Fruit by John McQueen, Cimbreante by Eduardo and María Eugenia Dávila Portillo and Pre-Columbian Meets Mid-Century Modern by James Bassler. Photo by Carter Grotta

In support of the South American food and drinks (Cuba Libre, Clarified Piña Colada, and Hibiscus Lemonade) that were served, we chose a Pan-American theme for the works we exhibited: Continental Divide: Fiber Art from North and South America included artists from Chile, Venezuela, Canada, and the US. Falling Fruit by John McQueen, Carolina Yrråzaval’s Embarrilado AzulCimbreante by Eduardo Portillo and María Davila and CMA-CGM by Laura Foster Nicholson were among the most-commented-upon works in the exhibition.

John McQueen and MAry Merkel-Hess
Arm & Hammer by John McQueen and Peninsula by Mary Merkel-Hess. Photo by Tom Grotta

For the public Pop-Up we added work by Mary Merkel-Hess and a large sculpture by John McQueen.

Claude Vermette by the vaults
Coq-de-Bruyere by Claude Vermette by the Vaults. Photo by Tom Grotta

Pop-Ups serve an important objective of ours at browngrotta arts — to bring fine fiber art to more and varied audiences. Watch for more!


Art and Design Trends: 2024

Still firmly in the start of the year, New Year’s resolutions not abandoned yet, it’s an ideal time to explore the design trends that will define the aesthetic landscape of 2024. From color palettes to furniture styles, this year’s design pundits predict an array of options for transforming your living spaces into stylish and on-trend havens. Art can be an essential part of that transformation. Here are some of the 2024 insights we’ve compiled:

Color: the eternal appeal of blue
“One trend in particular is emerging as clear as the sky is blue,” says The Spruce, an interior design blog(“The 2024 Colors of the Year Point to One Trend You Need to Know,” Megan McCarty, November 7, 2023). Each fall, paint brands unveil their colors of the year, and for 2024, many of them declared shades of blue as the color to consider, including Skipping Stones by Dunn-Edwards, Blue Nova 825 by Benjamin Moore, Renew Blue by Valspar, Thermal by C@ Paints, Bay Blue by Minwax, and Bluebird by Krylon. Blue, as any of you who followed our 2018 exhibition Blue/Green: color, code, context know is elemental…sky and sea, infinite in hue, tone, intensity and variation…indigo, azure, sapphire, ultramarine. As metaphor, it connotes integrity, tranquilty.  It’s no wonder that it never really falls out of favor. The designers interviewed by The Spruce gave a number of reasons for including the color in one’s space. It’s calming and relaxing, subtle and subdued, and has a connection to nature. The Spruce quotes Chelse Thowe, the lead designer of Forge & Bow, sees a common thread in the paint brands’ colors of the year:  each is reminiscent of clear skies and calm waters. “Blue is trending because it connects us with nature and feels rejuvenating,” Thowe says. “It brings a sense of stillness and creates a sanctuary from our busy lives.” 

Micheline Beauchemin tapestry
1mb Totem aux Millefleurs Bleues, Micheline Beauchemin, wool, 84″ x 42″, 1980

Many artists who work with browngrotta arts use indigo and other shades of blue to evince natural themes.  In Totem aux Millefleurs BleuesMicheline Beauchemin chose blue, turquoise and green to create a calm atmosphere of forest and leaves. “…[T]he color, though dark,” she said, “will be brilliant and beautiful.” Still others, choose it for its metaphorical power.

Rachel Max basket
8rm Continuum, Rachel Max, dyed cane, plaited and twined, 15.5″x 17″ x 17″, 2018

Rachel Max’s work, Continuum, explores the artist’s ambivalence about blue. “It is cold yet often warm and comforting. It is a color of depth and distance, of darkness and light and dawn and dusk.” Blue is linked closely to the sea and sky, and Max says, like our lives, she says, they seem infinite yet each has a beginning and an end. Continuum is like a Mobius strip, illustrating the contrasts and opposites, the finite and infinite.

Biophilic Design/Return to Nature
Interior designers predict that homeowners will seek to create calming and harmonious environments in the coming year. Biophilic design, with its emphasis on incorporating natural elements into interiors, will continue to flourish, bringing the outdoors inside through the use of plants, natural materials, and organic textures, says ZDS, (“Exploring the biggest interior design trends 2024“). This trend is one also predicted to have a parallel in the art world. Artsy interviewed 15 curators on defining art themes for 2024 (“15 Leading Curators Predict the Defining Art Trends of 2024,” Artsy, Maxwell Rabb, January 12, 2024), including Amy Smith-Stewart, Chief Curator, at The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, Connecticut. Materials and methods carry meaning, Smith-Stewart told Artsy, “I predict we will see more artists incorporating organic materials or materials collected, grown, and harvested from the natural world into their work,” she said. Artists will seek to comment and address legacies of colonization, she predicts, as well as on issues of environmental justice and land use.

James Bassler weaving
16jb Things Past, James Bassler, single ply agave, 38.5” x 38.5” x 3.5”, 2021

At browngrotta, James Bassler’s use of agave in Things Past is part of a project to use the plant waste created by the making of tequila. Bassler’s friend, the artist Trine Ellitsgaard, organized an exhibition of works made from agave. She has worked with artisans in Oaxaca, Mexico to create fibers and spun thread from agave waste to spin into rugs and bags and art. 

Ane Henriksen tapestry
30ah Reserve, Ane Henriksen, linen, silk, acrylic painted rubber matting, oak frame, 93.75” x 127.625” x 2.5”, 201

In Reserve, Ane Henriksen used material covered with oil spots, found washed up on the west coast of Denmark. Fishermen use the material on the tables in the galley, so the plates don’t slide off when on the high seas. The work highlights ecological peril. “Nature is threatened,” Henriksen says. “I hope this is expressed in my image, which at first glance can be seen as a peaceful, recognizable view of nature, but when you move closer and see the material, it might make you uneasy, and stir thoughts of how human activity is a threat against nature.” John McQueen has created provocative sculptures from twigs, branches and bark for many years. More recently, he has begun to add recycled plastics to highlight humans’ tenuous connection to nature. He illustrates this conflicted relationship in Arm & Hammer with a man stepping precariously on a snake made from recycled plastic bottles of detergent.

John McQueen sculpture
79jm Arm & Hammer, John McQueen, twigs, twine, plastic from, Arm & Hammer detergient bottles, 56” x 31” x 30”, 2006

Celebrating the 70s and Icons
Each year, 1stDibs, the e-commerce interior design and fine art marketplace, aims to quantify subtle shifts in designers’ taste with its Designer Survey (“The 1stDibs Guide to 2024 Interior Design Trends,” Introspective, Cara Greenberg, December 19, 2023). This year’s survey drew responses from more than 600 industry professionals. The results report what excites designers at this point in time, “what they’ve had quite enough of and what they anticipate sourcing to conjure sublime living spaces in the months to come.” 1st Dibs reports a fresh enthusiasm for the 1970s, which 27 percent of designers in the US and 29 percent in the UK cited as the era they’ll draw upon for inspiration in 2024. “[E]expect to see an updated version of 1970: “a curated, earth-toned Laurel Canyon look, if you will — organic, relaxed, and comforting.” The survey also found that iconic design has lasting power. “Iconic designs are revered for a reason. Their forms are so pure, their function so unimpeachable that their lasting popularity should come as no surprise.”

Glen Kaufman tapestry
188gk Abbot’s Mantle, Glen Kaufman, wool, 74″ x 36″ x 1.5″, 1971

We find the same purity in works from the 1970s by the icons of art textiles. Abbot’s Mantle made in 1971 by Glen Kaufman, reflects the experience in rug making and design that he gained at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, during a Fulbright in Scandinavia, and while working at Dorothy Liebes’ New York Design Studio. 

Katherine Westphal quilt
47w The puzzle of Floating World #2, Katherine Westphal, transfer print and quilting on cotton, 85″ x 68″, 1976

Puzzle of the Floating World (1976)by Katherine Westphal, who authored The Surface Designer’s Art: Contemporary, Fabric, Printers, Painters and Dyers (Lark Books,1993, Asheville, NC) contemporizes quilting. 

Sherri Smith weaving
1ss/r Linde Star, Sherri Smith, plaiting, discharge; cotton webbing, 36″ x 33.75″, 1976

Sherri Smith’s Linde Star is an imaginative stitched-and-plaited work, that was included in the seminal 1970s book, Beyond Weaving: the art fabric. Ritzi Jacobi, who was also featured in Beyond Weaving, 

Ritzi and Peter Jacobi goat hair tapestry
10rj Exotica Series, Ritzi and Peter Jacobi, cotton, goat hair and sisal, 114″ x 60″ x 6″, 1975

was known her heavily textured works, like Exotica Series  made with Peter Jacobi in 1975, in which the couple used unusual materials such as sisal, coconut fibers, and goat hair. 

Ed Rossbach Peruvian tapestry
78r Peruvian Tapestry, Ed Rossbach, printed weft, 20″ x 21″, 1972

 In Peruvian Tapestry (1972)Ed Rossbach, an influential artist, author, and teacher, continued his experiments re-envisioning traditional techniques. Peter Collingwood, knighted by the Queen of England, developed a practice that he called shaft switching to create complex and elegant works.

Peter Collingwood textile
5pco Microgauze 84, Peter Collingwood, warp: Black and natural linen; Weft: natural linen, 72″ x 8.375″ x .125″, 1970

Conclusion:
The design and art trends of 2024 suggest ways to create spaces that are not only visually appealing but also deeply reflective of your personality and lifestyle. We are happy to help you source works from browngrotta arts to enable that process.


Art Assembled – New this Week in April

Welcome to our April Art Assembled blog, where we are thrilled to showcase the incredible artists featured in our New This Week series. Last month, the artists highlighted in our New This Week series all happen to be included in our current exhibition, Acclaim! Work by Award-Winning International Artists.

As we near the end of the exhibition, we’ve been enjoying seeing and meeting everyone at Acclaim! and invite those who haven’t had the chance to visit yet to come experience the stunning works of James Bassler, Adela Akers, Ed Rossbach, Helena Hernmarck, Mary Giles, and so many more while it’s still open! You have until this Sunday, May 7 to come check it out in person.

In the following paragraphs, we will dive deeper into the art of James Bassler, Adela Akers, Ed Rossbach, Helena Hernmarck, and Mary Giles, highlighting some of their stunning pieces on display in our exhibition.

James Bassler
17jb Unravelling, James Bassler, agave warp and weft, natural dyes, avocado seeds, weave madder root, wedge weave, embroidery, 28″ x 47″, 2022.

To kick off the month of April, we introduced you to the masterful textile artist James Bassler, whose piece “Unravelling” exemplifies his skill and creativity. Bassler’s unique style combines traditional weaving techniques with modern sensibilities, resulting in pieces that are both timeless and contemporary.

This particular piece features a map of the United States on PBS, illustrating the deep divide of the states and Bassler’s concern for the state of democracy. He wondered if our democracy is unraveling, leading him to name this piece “Unraveling.” He finished the piece on his 89th birthday.

Throughout his career, Bassler has received many accolades and honors for his art, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Craft Council.

Adela Akers
52aa Silver Waves, Adela Akers, linen, horsehair, paint & metal foil, 63” x 24”, 2014. Phot by Tom Grotta.

As the month continued, we introduced you to Adela Akers, a talented textile artist who uses mediums like metallic threads and horsehair to create a mesmerizing interplay of light and shadow, evoking the movement of waves in the ocean. “Silver Waves” is a captivating piece that will leave you in awe of Akers’ skill and imagination. Her art is a beautiful representation of the delicate balance between nature and human creativity.

Born in the Czech Republic, Akers grew up in Venezuela and later moved to the United States. Her art is a beautiful representation of the delicate balance between nature and human creativity, and her pieces are included in many prestigious private and public collections, including the Smithsonian Institution.

Ed Rossbach
200r Eternal Summer, Ed Rossbach, 14″ x 8″, 1995. Photo by Tom Grotta.

Ed Rossbach was a master weaver and sculptor who revolutionized the world of basketry with his innovative use of ancient techniques and unconventional materials like plastics and newspaper.

His incorporation of pop culture references into his art is a testament to his imaginative prowess. Rossbach’s art invites the viewer to see beauty in the unexpected, and his unique style continues to inspire artists today.

Throughout his long and prolific career, Rossbach received many awards and honors, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Helena Hernmarck
62hh Tabula Rasa 2, Helena Hernmarck, wool, 53″ x 44″, 2010

Up next, we turned our attention to the visionary Swedish-born artist and handweaver, Helena Hernmarck. Hernmarck has revolutionized tapestry as a medium for modern architectural spaces. Her tapestries are renowned for their incredible illusion of movement, captivating viewers and transcending the boundaries of two-dimensional art.

Born in Stockholm, Hernmarck studied at the Handarbetets Vänner textile school in Stockholm before moving to the United States. She has received numerous awards and honors throughout her career, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Craft Council.

Mary Giles
69mg Quill Bowl II, Mary Giles, waxed linen and porcupine quills, 4.5″ x 11.5″ x 11.5″, 1983

Last, but not least, we highlight the work of the late Mary Giles. Giles was a renowned artist who mastered the coiling technique associated with Native American basket traditions. Her work included striking wall pieces and freestanding sculptures that draw inspiration from the environment, human figures, and vessels.

Her signature style incorporated thin metal strips, some of which are shaped like human figures, layered over a surface or core. Her pieces are a beautiful representation of the connection between art and nature, and her work is included in many prestigious collections, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

There are only a couple of days left to experience the stunning works of the incredible artists in our Acclaim! exhibition in person. Don’t miss out on this amazing opportunity to engage with the art and immerse yourself in the world of these talented artists. For more information on Acclaim! or to register, click here. We hope to see you there!


Pop Culture as an Art Influence

Pop culture is a potent inspiration for artists, from Andy Warhol’s portraits of Liz Taylor Marilyn Monroe and Superman. Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck for Roy Lichtenstein (On a Dare from His Son, Roy Lichtenstein Unwittingly Invented Pop Art, Alina Cohen, Artsy, October 1, 2018) and Pinocchio and Mao Tse-tung for Jim Dine. 

Ed Rossbach Sports Illustrated silk screened fabric
164r Sports Illustrated, detail, Ed Rossbach, commercial cotton fabric, dye, silk screen, heat transfer printed, 132” x 42”, 1980. Photo by Tom Grotta

Artists whose work is shown by browngrotta arts are not immune to the attractions of these images. Ed Rossbach, is one such artist — he created a printed textile based on images from Sports Illustrated — highlighting advertisements in particular. Other works featured John Travolta and US astronautsRossbach is best known for including Mickey Mouse in many examples of his work — woven in damask, painted on cedar baskets, illustrated in lace, featured in embroidered photographs. Rossbach’s The New Mickey basket features images of Mickey throughout. He reportedly co-opted the world’s famous rodent in response to snide remarks about his classes and occupation. The motif came to be included in some of his best-known works — including works in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the Cleveland Art Museum.

Ed Rossbach Mickey Mouse Basket
214r The New Mickey, Ed Rossbach, paper and various fibers, 12.5″ x 12.5″ x 12.5″, 1995. Photo by Tom Grotta

“If you’re doing knotless netting, you need an image, or I want an image,” Rossbach explained in an oral history prepared by Harriet Nathan in 1983. “What image do you put in nowadays? Sometimes the images were there for you, certain religious images, and now in our culture, what images do you put in? So you put in Mickey Mouse, and it’s a statement about that, too, I think. I like Mickey Mouse. I think it’s partly because it’s a defensive attitude on my part, that what people think very much is Mickey Mouse. They refer to the classes that you teach as Mickey Mouse classes, and everything is just dismissed as, ‘It’s Mickey Mouse.'” Rossbach found that very damaging. “So I put a Mickey Mouse on baskets and the most elaborate textile; I wove Mickey Mouse in double damask,” he said laughing. “I did him in ikats. I’ve done a lot of Mickey Mouses. And Mickey Mouses sell,” he added wryly.

Glen Kaufmann Mcdonalds logo Prayer Rug weaving
001gk Prayer Rug III, Glen Kaufman, cotton, silk, 18“ x 15“ x 2.5”, 1983. Photo by Tom Grotta

In our recent work with the estate of Glen Kaufman, we discovered pop culture themes interested him as well. In 1983, he created a series works that took the form of diminutive prayer rugs with McDonald’s arches replacing the traditional mihrabs — arch-shaped designs that indicate the direction of Mecca.

James Basslers Trader Joe's bag
8jb Shop, James Bassler, made of brown paper Trader Joe’s shopping bags, cut and twisted and with yellow and red waxed linen thread; 16” X 10” , 2009. Photo by Tom Grotta

James Bassler’s interest was in Trader Joe’s market — literally. He created a bag from their bags. He wanted to introduce his class to the technology of spinning. What materials do we have readily available, he asked. “I spotted a Trader Joe bag on a table, in which I had carried supplies to class,” he says. “At that point, much to my surprise, I had established my lesson plan for the day. I told them that their first assignment was to cut and spin yam from a T.J. bag. I then demonstrated what it takes to do this … I proceeded to weave, using the resulting brown paper ‘yarn.’ As I wove, my concept crystallized to create a Trader Joe Bag. It took approximately eight bags, a lot of spinning and 2-3 intermittent years to complete.”

Helena Hernmarcks Juicy Fruit tapestry Commission
54hh Juicy Fruit, Helena Hernmarck, Photo by Tom Grotta

Popular products often serve as graphic inspiration. Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Tomato Soup can prints and Brillo boxes are prime examples. For a commission, Helena Hernmack created a collage that incorporated a Juicy Fruit label, then wove the imagery into a tapestry.

For more information about our artists, visit browngrotta.com.


Process Notes: James Bassler

Portrait of James Bassler, Photo by Mark Davidson

James Bassler describes himself as a problem solver. He loves nothing better than to pursue an idea and discover how the final execution differs from his initial “fuzzy” conception. An American Craft Council Gold Medalist, Bassler writes engagingly about his investigations into pre-Columbian and other weaving techniques, his experiments with different dyes and materials, and the influence of current events and modern life on his work. We share some excerpts of his writings below:

Origins
It didn’t hurt me to grow up in a family steeped in hard work and hand processes. My father was brought up in a Mennonite community in Pennsylvania. He was a major league baseball player, but interestingly enough, he had other talents including the hooking of rugs. I was introduced to the textile traditions at a very early age. I entered UCLA in the early 1950s. In 1953, I was drafted into the US Army with a tour of duty in Europe, followed by a civilian job in England. In 1960, I returned home via a cargo ship to China and Japan. It was on this journey that I witnessed the importance of world crafts, and their essential role in cultures. A spinning and weaving demonstration in Bombay, was of particular interest, as well as the dyeing processes of Indonesia and Japan. Returning to California, I re-entered UCLA as an art student and began to explore fabric patterning and later, weaving.

To Plait, James Bassler, Wedge weave construction; silk, linen, ramie, sisal, pineapple, nettles weft; indigo-dyed silk and linen warp, 47.25” x 44.25”, 2015. Photo by Tom Grotta.

On plaiting
To Plait is part of a series of weavings that propose to illustrate and demonstrate a variety of structures used throughout history and the world to create objects of fiber. Currently, with so much attention and interest directed toward electronics, I have found little curiosity directed toward how material objects are made. How did early people survive? To Plait can help answer that question. To Plait could help someone, some day, actually make something with their hands.

Shop, James Bassler made of brown paper Trader Joe’s shopping bags, cut and twisted and with yellow and red waxed linen thread, 16” X 10″, 2009.

On spinning
My intent to spin and weave Shop [made from “yarn” spun from Trader Joe’s bags] was not to create a handwoven shopping bag. I wove it to draw attention to the important role that vessels have played in ancient history, as they do today. I wove it to draw attention to the honesty and beauty of a simple, and readily available material. I wove it to draw attention to the adaptability of handweaving to create three-dimensional forms, but most of all, I wove it to celebrate the beauty of a handmade object.

On Inca Time, James Bassler, four-selvage weaving, handspun alpaca, commercial wool, silk, linen, ramie, agave, cotton; natural dyes: lac, cochineal, gardenia jasminoides, sophora Japonica, huezache, walnut shells. 42” x 37” Photo by Tom Grotta.

On pre-Columbian textiles
For over 30 years I taught at UCLA. For 12 of those years I offered a course entitled “Textiles of the World: The Americas,” in the Fowler Museum there. With access to the Museum’s vast collection I became much more familiar with the challenges that the early indigenous people faced in order to create an identity to their particular cultures.  In terms of historical woven textiles created in the Americas, in particular areas, a weaving process was developed.  It is identified as scaffold weave, or four-selvaged and it is quite different from the weaving traditions of Europe.

In 1999, I challenged myself to learn scaffold weave, aided, I will confess, by some 20th century modifications, including foam core, straight pins, and large needles.  From that time on a good portion of what I have created uses this ancient technology.  I choose it because of the freedom it gives me.  However, the process does take longer.

Regarding the woven textiles of the pre-Columbian Andean Cultures, one of the most recognizable patterns is the use of the checkerboard. One sees the checkerboard tunic often because it was the uniform of the Inca military, but it was used frequently in other ways.  I was inspired by images I had seen in a catalog of an exhibition at Yale University which Jack Lenor Larsen had sent me. A second inspiration came from beautiful images of pre-Columbian Andean shibori. Simultaneously, I began to explore these ideas, one a black and white checkerboard, scaffold weave, using a multitude of yarns I had been anxious to use.  On the other project, also scaffold weave and checkerboard, I chose to use a great variety of wool yarn since I planned to use natural dyes in the shibori process.

Mi Wari Boro, James Bassler, four-selvage weaving (scaffold weave) and shibori (tie-dye), handspun and commercial wool, natural dyes: lac, cochineal, gardenia jasminoides, sophora Japonica, huezache, walnut hulls, 32” x 35”, 2019. Photo by Mark Davidson.

In the piece Mi Wari Boro, the word “boro” comes from the Japanese tradition of repair and mending. I was faced with the need for numerous patches and mending in this piece due to the variety of wool yarns I introduced and their reaction to the numerous dye baths they were subjected to. Thus, the inspiration came from the pre-Columbian culture and the Japanese tradition of mending. 

I can say that a good amount of time was spent on each piece, including challenges that left fond memories regarding how certain problems were resolved, and what I learned. I really, truly am more comfortable in pre-Columbian time, thus “on Inca time.”

My Letterman Yantra, James Bassler, natural brown cotton, handspun silk, waxed linen – plain weave, brocade – dye immersion with off-set printing method (wicking); large figures, letters and numbers in raised embroidery, with smaller figures also embroidered in part or completely. 28.5” X 32.5”, 2012, Photo by Tom Grotta

On running: My Yantra Jacket
I was one of 11 artists invited to participate in the exhibit Sourcing the Museum at The Textile Museum in Washington D. C., curated by Jack Lenor Larsen. Regarding the process of selecting an object from the museum collection, I was dubious that I could be moved by an image on a computer screen, that I had never seen or touched. Nevertheless, after several searches I kept coming back to a Burmese shirt, with all the writings and mystical symbols covering the surface. After some research, I discovered that the drawings are called yantras, and that they are magical and sacred symbols to evoke protection, good luck, prosperity, support, love and compassion from the cosmic universe. At my age, I thought I could use all that positive energy.

Underlying this selection was the deeper desire to finally celebrate, with bravado, my achievements of competing in numerous marathon races. In order to complete these and other shorter runs, I had clothed my body in a variety of yantras, from puritan simplicity to blatantly annoying symbols of products I never used, love of God, city, state, or political alignment. This was the opportunity to create something regal, that captures the focused endurance of the individual marathon runner, along with the chants and ultimate tacky trophies and medals that await the victors. Yesterday’s yantras, today’s tattoos.

In remote mountain communities of the Sierra region of Oaxaca, women continue to collect and spin silk cocoons found on native oak trees. Bound by tradition, threads are dyed in a strong magenta dye and allowed to dry, unrinsed. These specific yarns are woven to create brocade images into a cotton ground. After being woven, the cloth is folded and bound, and submerged into a hot water bath, allowing the dye to bleed (wick), creating a pattern. Using this same silk, I created many brocade images of runners, leaving spaces for the images to print, or wick, during the dyeing process. Separately, the three panels of cloth that make up the piece were each carefully folded, clamped and submerged into the hot water, permitting the dozens of runner figures to emerge.


Art Assembled: New This Week in May

May was a busy month for the browngrotta arts family. Throughout May, we launched our spring exhibition, Crowdsourcing the Collective: a survey of textiles and mixed media art, and it was quite the success! Throughout the month, we introduced some exceptional art to you all. Just in case you missed it, we’re recapping it all here.

Blair Tate
16bt RePair, Blair Tate, linen, cotton rope and aluminum 83” x 58”, 2022. Photo by Tom Grotta.

this piece, RePair, was created by American artist Blair Tate. Tate has been exploring flat woven grids in her work since the 70s. When interviewed about her art, more specifically weaving, Tate said:

“In weaving there is a direct analogy between textile and text – the construction of fabric and the process of writing. Both have methodical underpinnings that provide the framework for development. Both woven strips and written sentences can be rearranged to re-contextualize, to forge relationships, to develop meaning.”  

James Bassler
14jb On Inca Time, James Bassler, four selvedge weaving (scaffold weave) handspun and commercial wool, silk, linen, ramie, sisal, cotton, natural and synthetic dyes, 43″ x 36.75″, 2019. Photo by Tom Grotta.

American textile artist James Bassler did not disappoint when it comes to On Inca Time. This piece was created with inspiration from Pre-Columbian Andean Cultures, which you can see displayed through the checkerboard pattern throughout the four-selvedge weave. For decades Bassler has applied ancient techniques and materials to create works with contemporary themes, and we remain in awe of the outcome!

Eduardo Portillo & Mariá Eugenia Dávila
22pd Océano Cósmico, Eduardo Portillo & Mariá Eugenia Dávila, silk, cotton,
alpaca, indigo and copper leaf, 59” x 31”, 2022. Photo by Tom Grotta.

Océano Cósmico was created by Venezuelan artists Eduardo Portillo & Mariá Eugenia Dávila

These artists’ work is often driven by their relationship with their surroundings and how their ideas can be communicated within a contemporary textile language. Océano Cósmico reflects their conception of an imagined Cosmos, “a parallel world that we still see in the midst of changing times.” They also aim to promote an understanding and appreciation of natural dyes as an element in textiles, their importance as a means to preserve and disseminate cultural values and as a medium of contemporary expression. 

Norma Minkowitz
95nm Mother Mine, Norma Minkowitz, Mixed media
(My Mother’s Gloves) and fiber, 6.5″ x 11.75″ x 8″, 1984. Photo by Tom Grotta.

This profound artwork comes from one of our favorite artists, Norma Minkowitz. This particular piece of work incorporates a pair of gloves her mother owned as a tribute. 

Pat Campbell
36pc Mandela IV, Pat Campbell, rice paper, reed and wood, 19.75″ x 14.5″ x 9.875″, 2012

This exceptional piece of art comes from American artist, Pat Campbell. Often, Campbell’s intricate, airy pieces are influenced by Japanese shoji screen, which is traditionally made of rice paper. When asked about the why behind the her medium of choice, Campbell said: 

“Paper is exciting to work with. It is a fragile material that can be easily ripped or torn,” said Pat Campbell.” It is a natural choice of material for my work. It provides the translucency I am seeking in constructions.”

We drop new art every week, so follow us on social media to keep up with the art we bring into the fold! To get your hands on some art of your own, checkout our exhibition: Crowdsourcing the Collective: a survey of textiles and mixed media art, which is available online until June 13.


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.


Trends Observed, Part 2

As we wrote earlier this month, in December 2021, we were asked to talk to a group of fiber artists about trends we had observed in browngrotta arts’ 30+ years in the art textiles field. Here is second of two arttextstyle posts on the insights we shared with that group. In the last post (January 12, 2022) we spoke about fiber art’s resurgence from 2004 on, after a few decades of the medium’s being on the art world’s out list.  In this post, we’ll discuss two art trends that we have seen propel fiber art’s growing popularity.

Democratization 

The most important of these trends is the democratization of the art experience which the internet, among other cultural changes, has wrought. Art lovers now find work by scrolling the internet from the Google home page to museums’ digitized collections. Pinterest users compile images of artwork they find everywhere. Art lovers do not approach art chronologically as museums required or by movement or medium or by fine art versus decorative art. Galleries and museums are no longer the gatekeepers. Current art viewers have no patience for exclusionary labels – they are content to just like what they like. In a corresponding change, online sales have quadrupled in the last several years, doubling between 2019 to 2020 alone.

online art

Galleries and Museums Take Note

The move toward a more inclusive approach to art and artists is evident in what galleries exhibit. It wasn’t that many years ago that an art fair we attended posted large signs dividing Fine Art from the section that housed glass, ceramics and other mediums, Our booth was near the signs and we saw people abruptly turn heel, rather than look at artwork labeled other than “fine art.” Quite a contrast to today’s Art Basel booths, where a mix of media – often including fiber art – is the norm. 

Yale University show ceramics
Ceramic Presence in Modern Art at the Yale Art Gallery in 2015

Museums have been forced to respond to democratization, too. Fiber art is not the only medium that has benefited from this trend – all craft media have. The Ceramic Presence in Modern Art at the Yale Art Gallery in 2015, masterfully combined 80 ceramics with paintings from their permanent collection by artists such as de Kooning, Noguchi and Mark Rothko. The curators cited a dissolution of boundaries and hierarchies, where artists bear less allegiance to any particular historical medium or tradition, opting instead to use “whatever materials best suit their ideas at a given moment.” 

Meernalini Mukherjee at MoMa
Meernalini Mukherjee at MoMa

The trend toward democratization means a pointed inclusion of women artists and artists from underrepresented groups. Traditionally excluded by curators and critics, institutions have committed to changing the racial and gender composition of their collections. The reopening of MoMA in 2019, announced, with great fanfare, “a reimagined approach to its presentation of modern and contemporary art.” A work by newly appreciated Indian fiber artist Meernalini Mukherjee held center court. CBS News reported that MoMA planned to add five times as many women artists as before to its collection. And Director Glenn Lowry described the elimination of departments and the creation of displays that would mix paintings, sculpture, photography, architecture, design and new media in a way that feels much more “whole and real.”

Mariyo Yagi sculpture
Mariyo Yagi 300-pound sculpture. Photo by Tom Grotta

Appreciating Art Without Labels 

We’ve seen this new openness to art – without labels — in our business, too. Fewer people compare work we show to other art forms – no longer needing to place it in a context that’s familiar. We’ve sold important work through online platforms to clients that we have next-to-no contact with, including a large tapestry to an executive in Peru and the 300-pound sculpture pictured in this post to a large company in Indonesia. And museums are willing to look at art that’s by artists other than the stalwarts of the field. We’ve placed work by Eduardo Portillo and Mariá Dávila, Venezuela, Aleksandra Stoyanov of Israel and Chang Yeonsoon of Korea in museum collections.  As Forbes Magazine notes: “The expectation that craft techniques will be seen in an art museum … allows the techniques to flourish, to facilitate new artistic expression, and to make new meaning.”

Democratization (and the pandemic) has meant that people are more willing to find art in unexpected places – including a renovated barn in Wilton, Connecticut. We’ve had busloads of students from Canada, textile fans from Chile, collectors from California, and curators from Illinois, Minnesota and Missouri. More people now travel to us from New York and fewer people balk at buying art from Connecticut and not New York.

Judy Chicago
Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party

Illustrating concerns about political issues and the environment

A second trend we’ve observed in the last decade is a more explicit presentation of concerns about political issues and the environment. The re-examination of the origins of fiber in the last few years brought attention to the important role that feminism had played, particularly in the 70s – as artists used fiber art to take a provocative stance against the male domination of “pure” art forms such as Minimalism. Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party is probably the best-known feminist work from this period; it was the subject of a retrospective at the de Young Museum in San Francisco last December. Chicago and other artists of the period like Miriam Shapiro and Faith Ringgold consciously sought to reclaim those mediums, traditionally considered “craft,” as fine art mediums, equivalent to painting and sculpture.

In the last decade, craft techniques, those identified as women’s work in particular, have again been reappropriated by emerging artists as ways to address feminist and other current issues. The NYT realized in 2018 that “Some of the Most Provocative Political Art is Made With Fibers,” observing that  “… a generation later, fiber art looks fresh again.” With threads and hair, fabric and flags, Sonya Clark examines the African experience and the harmful legacy of the Confederacy. Artists Sophie Narrett and Orly Cogan use embroidery to highlight what Narrett calls “the freedoms and restraints of femininity.” Bisa Butler has reinvented quilting – a traditionally marginalized medium—to explore the historical marginalization of her subjects.

Gyöngy Lakás Slowly and Variant
Gyöngy Laky Slowly, 2002 and Variant, 2021. Photos by Tom Grotta

At browngrotta arts, one of the artists we represent, Gyöngy Laky, who studied fiber at Berkeley in the 70s, has always reflected her activism In her work. Slowly (2002) can spell “LAG” or “GAL.” It makes a statement on the lack of female faculty in the University of California system. On the right is Variant, a newer work, made of painted branches and red golf tees, that makes a statement about the coronavirus and Trump’s inattention. 

James Bassler Flag
James Bassler, They’re Ready For Their Seat at the Table, 2021. Photo by Tom Grotta

James 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, the political takes center stage. An earlier flag was meant to be hung upside down as a statement on current events. A flag he made last year is entitled They’re Ready for Their Seat at the Table. “The recent street action of all these young people has really inspired me,” he wrote us. “For years I’ve held on to some wonderful handspun cotton from Guatemala, dark, dark brown and some lighter natural brown hand spun from Oaxaca.  Well the dark brown has become the warp to replace the red and the brown cotton replaces the white. There will be a trace of red amongst the dark brown, I don’t want to completely wipe out the Puritans,” he says. ”I just want room for everyone to sit at the table.” 

Neha Puri Dhir Forest Fire
Neha Puri Dhir, Forest Fire, stitch-resist dyeing on handwoven silk, 2017. Photos by Tom Grotta

Neha Puri Dhir from India says she is generally inclined to look inwards for inspiration which brings a sense of peace and empathy to her work. “But gradually, the growing disquiet around me became impossible to ignore,” she says describing has work Forest Fire. “Polluted water table, climate change, extinction of species, and forest fires – made me anxious. The complexity of these layered thoughts, could no longer be expressed in closed geometric shapes. Art adapted itself to the chaos within…,” she says.

As we concluded in Trends Observed, Part 1, it’s an exciting time to work with fiber artist and to promote art textiles and fiber sculpture. Thanks for joining browngrotta on this journey.


A Victory for Future Art Funding

Big Bird
The LBJ Presidential Library exhibition, On the Air: 50 Years of Public Broadcasting, 2017, in Austin, Texas. On Nov. 7, 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, establishing the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and, eventually, the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), and National Public Radio (NPR).  Characters © 2017 Sesame Workshop LBJ Library photo by Jay Godwin 06/24/2017

Elections have consequences, as they say, and 2020 election will be no different. Donald Trump tried to make the world to his artistic tastes. His reach was sweeping in efforts to cut funding for the arts and simultaneously oddly specific. I.e., DC should have no more contemporary architecture (www.npr.org); and duck stamps should feature hunting paraphernalia www.thedailybeast.com. He oversaw the disbanding of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, after a mass resignation of private committee members in response to his comments on right-wing violence in Charlottesville, VA in August 2017. And, of course, there would be four years of budgets that included cuts to federal arts programs — National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, even Museum and Library Services.

President-elect Joe Biden’s record is quite different. As The New York Times described him, he’s “No RBG, but a Loyal Promoter of Culture “https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/30/arts/biden-arts-culture.html. Biden’s attitude, wrote The Times, is “less from a consumer point of view and more about the inspirational value and transformational value of the arts,” quoting Robert L. Lynch, president and chief executive of Americans for the Arts. “It’s not, ‘Look, I loved this piece, or this song.’ It’s more about the bigger role of the arts in society.” 

National  Endowment for the Arts Recipients; Lia Cook, Dona Look, Adela Akers, John McQueen, James Bassler, Debra Sachs, Thomas Hucker, Norma Minkowitz and Gyöngy Laky
Funding for the Arts in Action: work by nine National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship Recipients; Lia Cook, Dona Look, Adela Akers, John McQueen, James Bassler, Debra Sachs, Thomas Hucker, Norma Minkowitz and Gyöngy Laky

Actors’ Equity endorsed Biden’s candidacy. “Vice President Biden understands that the arts are a critical driver of healthy and strong local economies in cities and towns across the country,” said Kate Shindle, president of Actors’ Equity. That could bode well for passage of Americans for the Arts Creative Workplace Proposal — 16 specific actions for the next administration to take in order to put creative workers to work rebuilding, reimagining, unifying, and healing communities in every state and territory, as well as within tribal lands www.americansforthearts.org. Among the suggestions from Proposal: Put artists to work addressing public and mental health in communities; Complete the launch of an ArtistCorps within AmeriCorps; and Direct and incentivize the integration of creative workers and creative organizations at the municipal, county, state, and tribal levels during disaster relief and recovery efforts.

Private efforts will continue to be key to the arts’ support, too, of course. For a comprehensive look at new philanthropic initiatives, including #ArtistSupportPledge and Artists for Artists appeal, read “Funding the Future of the Arts,” by Gareth Harris, November 2, 2020. https://www.sothebys.com/en/articles/funding-the-future-of-the-arts?

browngrotta arts wants to play its part, too. From now until the end of the year if you make a purchase from us, we’ll contribute 5% of any sales we make to the American for the Arts Action Fund. 


When Words Aren’t Enough: Artists and Politics, Part III

War and violence are often influences for artistic works. In the last of our three columns on Art and Politics we look at three works in which artists have commented on specific conflicts and three that address the futility violence in differing contexts.

Compound, Norma Minkowitz, mixed media, 70” x 54.75” x 1.5”, 2011

Concerns about war animate Compound, a work by Norma Minkowitz a large panel that chronicles a nightmare scenario, the last moments of Osama Bin Laden’s life.  It features a tiny-mesh crocheted surface. It has a powerful push me/pull me effect once the subject matter– which includes stylized soldiers, SEALS parachuting from a helicopter, the compound where Bin Laden was hiding, and the World Trade Center — clarifies itself. This whole is an unforgettable image.

Responding to a call for art for a browngrotta arts’ exhibition entitled Stimulus: art and its inception in 2011, Norma Minkowitz began, as she usually does, to sketch.  “I began in a spontaneous, unplanned manner,” Minkowitz explains, “arranging lines and subtle patterns, until I had a feeling of the direction it would take. Suddenly, I realized that the linear image had become the apparition of an aerial view of the compound where Osama Bin Laden was found, which I had seen in a newspaper article. Compound combines a replica of the space and my vision of the event.

“This is not my usual way of working,” she says. It is more literal because of its historic significance. I enjoyed this different approach and found it quite timely as we remembered the attack on our country on September 11, 2001. I wanted to commemorate courage, justice and the resolve of the USA.”

Women Warriors, Dona Anderson, mixed media, 2005-2011. Photo by Tom Grotta
Women Warriors, Dona Anderson, mixed media, 2005-2011. Photo by Tom Grotta

The war in Iraq influenced Dona Anderson, as well and resulted in a series of “armor” pieces, including Women Warriors. Anderson’s granddaughter was in the army stationed in Japan while the granddaughter’s husband was in Iraq.  When he came home for a break, he said he did not have any body armor. Anderson was so bothered by this information that she used her art to create some stylized armor for him.

El Salvador, Ed Rossbach, muslin, camouflage netting, sticks, plastic, plastic tape, wire, tied, dyed, linoleum block printed, 1984. Photo by Tom Grotta
El Salvador, Ed Rossbach, muslin, camouflage netting, sticks, plastic, plastic tape, wire, tied, dyed, linoleum block printed, 1984. Photo by Tom Grotta

A previous conflict in Latin America led to the creation of a textile construction, El Salvador, by Ed Rossbach in 1984.  Here, the artist using very simple materials constructed a powerful anti-war statement. The death squads in El Salvador killed many thousands of people before the civil war ended. Rossbach pushed the bounds of conventional 1950’s design. His art used raw materials — like camo mesh — to create forms that explore context, scale and juxtaposition to create irony

Globalization IV; Collateral Damage, Gyöngy Laky, ash, commercial wood, paint, blue concrete bullets, 2005. Photo by Tom Grotta
Globalization IV; Collateral Damage, Gyöngy Laky, ash, commercial wood, paint, blue concrete bullets, 2005. Photo by Tom Grotta

Gyongy Laky, a student of Rossbach’s, regularly addresses political issues in her work. Laky is a powerful advocate for the environment as well as a proponent of the hiring of more women at the University of California, Davis where the artist taught for many years. Through Globalization IV Collateral Damage, she speaks with great force and conviction about the utter waste of blood and treasure that is war. Constructed of ash and commercial wood scraps the three letters spell WAR but can also be rearranged to create other vivid elucidations of the subject: MAR, ARM, RAW, and RAM. Bullets for building and red paint are also used in the construction to dramatic effect.

Help-Siring Soldiers to Sacrifice, Judy Mulford, waxed linen, buttons, beads, babies & bullet casings, 23" x 11" x 9.5", 2005. Photo by Tom Grotta
Help-Siring Soldiers to Sacrifice, Judy Mulford, waxed linen, buttons, beads, babies & bullet casings, 23″ x 11″ x 9.5″, 2005. Photo by Tom Grotta

In Help-Siring Soldiers to Sacrifice,  Judy Mulford, has created a female figure with bullet casings making up her skirt to illustrate the tragedy for mothers in war zones, whose children are served up as fodder for never-ending conflicts. “My art honors and celebrates the family,” says the artist. “It is autobiographical, personal, graphic and narrative. Each piece I create becomes a container of conscious and unconscious thoughts and feelings, one that references my female ancestral beginnings.”

NRA Approved,  James Bassler, woven, stitched and batik dyed; silk and sisal; each 20”h X 12”w X 4”d (as mounted), 3 pieces in one box  with 3 custom stands, 2014.Photo by Tom Grotta
NRA Approved,  James Bassler, woven, stitched and batik dyed; silk and sisal; each 20” x 12”w x 4”d (as mounted), 3 pieces in one box  with 3 custom stands, 2014. Photo by Tom Grotta

James Bassler commented on gun violence in schools in a series of vests that make up NRA Approved. “The cloth I wove, batik dyed and stitched, was inspired by the 19th Century Japanese fireman’s jacket,” he explains. “It was also inspired by our 21st Century public debate about gun violence and what we, as a nation, could do to make our schools safe from the tragic incidents of our times. The NRA has openly suggested that teachers and students wear bullet-proof vests. Often, our young students do wear waterproof aprons when doing creative work. Here, in these woven sculptural forms, I have added camouflage to help conceal children in harm’s way. Camouflage, indeed, has been used throughout.”

Artists can — and do — share their political observations through their work. The rest of us can do the same through our votes. Please do!