Tag: Judy Mulford

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!


Catalog Lookback: California Dreamin’ – An Online Exhibition on Artsy

Ed Rossbach, Katherine Westphal, Adela Akers, Syvia Seventy, Marion Hildebrandt, Judy Mulford, Deborah Valoma Catalogs

Ed Rossbach | Katherine Westphal | Marion Hildebrandt | Judy Mulford | Deborah Valoma | Adela Akers | Sylvia Seventy

California has played a seminal role in both the history of the Contemporary Fiber Arts Movement and artists from California have played an equally significant role in browngrotta arts’ exhibition archive.  You’ll find California artists represented in nearly all our group catalogs: Lawrence LaBianca in Stimulus: Art and its Inception (vol. 36); Carol Shaw-Sutton in 25 for the 25th (vol. 25); Nancy Moore Bess in 10th Wave I (vol. 17) and 10th Wave II (vol. 18); Karyl Sisson in Karyl Sisson and Jane Sauer (vol. 12) and Ferne Jacobs in Blue/Green: color/code/context (vol. 44). 

California Dreamin’, an online exhibition on Artsy from May 11 to June 5th, features seven artists: Ed Rossbach, Katherine Westphal, Marion Hildebrandt, Judy Mulford, Deborah Valoma, Adela Akers and Sylvia Seventy.  The exhibition borrows from three browngrotta catalogs (vols. 6, 20, 26) and highlights decades worth of art.

Ed Rossbach Basket
Green with Four Ears by Ed Rossbach, 1984. Photo by Tom Grotta

Best-known of the group, Ed Rossbach, completed his graduate studies at Cranbrook in 1946. He, along with Marianne Strengell worked within the narrow parameters of Euro-Bauhaus-Scandinavian weaving traditions for industry.  “In reaction to this tight definition of textiles,” Jo Ann C. Stabb wrote in Retro/Prospective: 25+ Years of Art Textiles and Sculpture (vol. 37), “Rossbach became fascinated by indigenous textile processes and the use of found materials as he studied artifacts in the anthropology collection at University of California, Berkeley, as a faculty member from 1950 to 1979. Noted for creating three-dimensional, structural forms from unexpected, humble materials including plastic, reeds, newspaper, stapled cardboard, twigs,  Rossbach inspired a renaissance in basketry and vessel forms and influenced other artists, including his students Gyöngy Laky and Lia Cook.”

Katherine Westphal Komono
Chuto-Haupa by Katherine Westphal, 1983. Photo by Tom Grotta

Katherine Westphal, who was married to Rossbach, generated experiments of her own.  In the late 60s she was among the first artists to use photocopy machines to make images for art. In the 1970s, in addition to drawings to baskets, she began creating wearable art, which, according to Glenn Adamson, former director of the Museum of Arts and Design. was a genre she essentially invented. She wanted it said of the graments she created:  “there wasn’t another one like it in the world, and most people probably wouldn’t be caught dead in it.”  Few were worn, most were hung on the wall like paintings.  Her work displayed wide-ranging, autobiographical themes, arising from her travels: Native American art from trips through the Southwest, cracked Greek pots viewed on a trip to the Met, portraits of geishas after visiting Japan. “I want to become a link in that long chain of human activity, the patterning on any surface available,” she said. 

Large Sylvia Seventy Paper Basket
Bound Vessel IX by Sylvia Seventy, 1983. Photo by Tom Grotta

Also in the 70s, Sylvia Seventy, inspired in part by her studies of the art of the Pomo Indians, was exploring her own innovative techniques in paper making.  In 1982, The New York Times said of her works, “The vessel forms of Sylvia Seventy, all produced over molds, are rich, earthy bowl shapes, with embedded bamboo, cotton cord and sisal.  From a distance they appear to be hard, perhaps stoneware; on closer inspection, they are fragile works.”  Her vessels feature an accretion of items: compositions of beads, feathers, fishhooks, googly eyes, hand prints, and buttons, creating what Charles Tally called “emotionally poignant landscapes within the interior of the vessel[s].” (Artweek, November 29, 1990). 

Deborah Valoma, author, art historian and creator of both textile and sculpture, heads the Textiles Program at the California College of Arts and Crafts (Oakland).  Valoma credits numerous influencers for her work: “I first learned to knit in Jerusalem from a Polish refugee of the Holocaust.  I learned to stitch lace from my grandmother, descendant of Armenian survivors of the Turkish massacres.  I learned to twine basketry from one of the few living masters of Native American basketweaving in California. These dedicated women tenaciously pass the threads of survival forward.  When their memory fails, my hands remember.  My hands trace the breathless pause when I teeter on the sharp edge of sorrow and beauty.”  Using hand-construction techniques and cutting-edge digital weaving technology, her work hugs the edges of traditional practice.  She upholds traditional customs and at the same time, unravels long-held stereotypes.  Valoma believes that students must locate themselves within historical lineages in order to understand the historical terrain they walk — and sometimes trip — through daily. 

Detail of Sigmund Freud Quote woven by Deborah Valoma
Detail of Femininity by Deborah Valoma, 2008
Grouping Marion Hildebrandt baskets
Baskets by Marion Hildebrandt, 2002-2003. Photo by Tom Grotta

Marion Hildebrandt lived and worked in Napa Valley, gathering most of the plant material used in her baskets from the region until her death in 2011.  “My works are a coming together of my life experiences,” Hildebrandt said.  “My basketmaking reflects a longtime interest and study of native California flora and fauna.”  Hildebrandt employed the same materials that Native Americans used when they inhabited the area.  “It is still possible to find plants here that were used by basketmakers 4000 years ago,” she noted. Although she never attempted to replicate their baskets, she shared a similar appreciation for the natural materials that surrounded her.  “Ever so subtly, plants cycle from winter to summer,” she observed. “Each day, week, month brings changes that effect the materials that I collect and use for my baskets.”

Detail of Judy Mulford Sculpture
Detail of Plan Your Parenthood-Population by Judy Mulford, 2009. Photo by Tom Grotta

Further down the California coast, Judy Mulford continues to create her narrative sculptures and baskets of gourds.  Mulford studied Micronesian fiber arts and in the 70s was one of a group of women who worked on Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party.  She says each piece she creates “becomes a container of conscious and unconscious thoughts and feelings: a nest, a womb, a secret, surprise or a giggle.  And always, a feeling of being in touch with my female ancestral beginnings.”  Her sculptures integrate photo images, drawings, script, buttons and small figures.  Mulford explains: “The gourds are surrounded by knotless netting – an ancient looping technique – symbolic because it is also a buttonhole stitch historically rooted in the home.”

Angled Blue, 1989 and Markings and Blues, 2018 by Adela Akers. Photo by Tom Grotta

In the 1970s, Adela Akers on the East Coast teaching at Temple University, but she has been creating art as a resident of Califonia for the last 25 years. Drawing inspiration from African and South American textiles, Akers creates woven compositions of simple geometric shapes, bands, zigzags and checks.  Many of her works incorporate metal strips —  meticulously measured and cut from recycled California wine bottle caps.  Her techniques and materials produce images that change under different lighting conditions.  Akers also frequently incorporates horsehair into her weavings, adding texture and dimensionality.  Over time, Akers’ work has evolved in scale, material and construction. Yet, several themes reoccur, notably the use of line which, in conjunction with light, brings forth the transformative quality that uniquely characterizes her work.

From May 11th to June 7th, view an assortment of works by these artists at California Dreamin’ on Artsy



A Couple Collects: Sandy and Lou Grotta of the Grotta Collection

Sandy and Lou Grotta in front of the Grotta House from The Grotta Home by Richard Meier: A Marriage of Architecture and Craft published by Arnoldsche, photo by Tom Grotta
Sandy and Lou Grotta in front of the Grotta House from The Grotta Home by Richard Meier: A Marriage of Architecture and Craft published by Arnoldsche, photo by Tom Grotta

Next month, we will showcase 40 artists whose works part of the remarkable collection of Sandy and Lou Grotta, acquired during their nearly 70-year relationship. “In quality and depth, the Grotta collection of contemporary craft outshines all others, including what is in museums,” writes designer and curator Jack Lenor Larsen. In Artists from the Grotta Collection we will feature important works of fiber, ceramic and wood – just as the Grotta Collection does.

"The Grotta Home by Richard Meier: A Marriage of Architecture and Craft"
The Grotta Home by Richard Meier: A Marriage of Architecture and Craft

The Grottas’ acquisitions are housed in an architecturally significant home designed intentionally to showcase their art. The collection and their home are featured in a new book, The Grotta Home by Richard Meier: a Marriage of Architecture and Craftwhich was photographed and designed by Tom Grotta.

Lila Kulka, Pair, sisal, wool, stilon, 125" x 77", 1989
A couple-themed work by Lila Kulka on of the artists in the Grotta Collection. Pair, sisal, wool, stilon, 125″ x 77″, 1989, photo by Tom Grotta

A well-regarded interior designer, Sandy Grotta (then Sandy Brown) met her husband, Lou Grotta, at the University of Michigan in 1953. After enrolling in multiple art history courses together, the couple quickly developed a mutual admiration for contemporary architecture which would grow to encompass the work of dozens of renowned craft artists. “In the early 1960s, walking out of the Museum of Modern Art, we stumbled upon the Museum of Contemporary Craft next door, ” she says. “The Museum’s exhibitions, many of whose objects were for sale in its store, caused a case of love at first sight. It quickly became a founding source of many craft purchases to follow. It was the site of our initial sighting of the wonderful walnut wood work of Edgar and Joyce Anderson.” Soon after, the Grotta commissioned the first work of what evolved into their becoming the most important collectors of Joyce and Shorty’s limited output over the next 30 years. The Andersons introduced them to their friends, ceramists Toshiko Takaezu and William Wyman. “[T]he Andersons were our bridge to other major makers in what we believe to have been the golden age of contemporary craft,” says Sandy, “and the impetus to my becoming our decorator going to interior design school and entering the field.” Lou’s interest in modern architecture and Scandinavian art also stems back to his early years as a student at the University of Michigan. In the early 80s Lou reunited with his New Jersey friend from summer camp, Richard Meier, and, despite differing opinions about craft and differences in opinion concerning craft materials, they decided to collaborate on the creation of The Grotta House. Over a span of five years, the three worked together to design and build a house that combined the Grottas’ unique appreciation for contemporary art and Meier’s formal elements of design.

Sauvages Diptych, Stephanie Jacques, willow, 51" x 18" x 12", 2014
Stephanie Jacques’ couple of willow: Sauvages, Diptych, willow, 51″ x 18″ x 12″, 2014, photo by Tom Grotta


Sandy and Lou continue their curation, still seeking dimensional textile art, sculpture and fine craft that enhances their collection. When it comes to aesthetic decisions, Lou says, the two early disagree. “Since day one, we’ve always been blessed with an amazing like/dislike simpatico. On rare occasions when we disagree, we honor the other’s veto power.” The results of that unique creative collaboration are documented in the more-than 300 photographs that make up The Grotta Home, which will be celebrated in Artists from the Grotta Collection: exhibition and book launch runs from November 2nd to the 10th at browngrotta arts, 276 Ridgefield Road, Wilton, CT.

Together Forever, Judy Mulford, mixed Media, 19.5” x 18.5” x 10”, 2012
This work by Judy Mulford, celebrates partnerships like Sandy’s and Lou’s: Together Forever, mixed Media, 19.5” x 18.5” x 10”, 2012, photo by Tom Grotta


The Artists Reception and Opening is November 2nd, 1 pm to 6 pm; the hours for November 3rd – 10th are 10 am to 5 pm. TheGrotta Home by Richard Meier: a Marriage of Architecture and Craft will be available throughout the exhibition and Tom will be available to sign it. For more info: http://www.browngrotta.com/Pages/calendar.php.

See Me, Norma Minkowitz, mixed media, 11.75" x 22" x 6", 2019
Two heads contribute to a singular vision. Norma Minkowitz, See Me, mixed media, 11.75″ x 22″ x 6″, 2019. photo by Tom Grotta


Art & Text Opens — Reception at the Wilton Library on October 11th

On Art and On Life Dana Romeis
8dr/r On Art 9dr/r On Life Dana Romeis, silk and cotton, 24″ X 24″, 1991

Through November 7th, browngrotta arts is participating in Art & Text, an inaugural collaboration of 13 libraries in Fairfield County, Connecticut. Each library within the consortium will highlight one or more artists, whose work reflects their unique perspectives on the exhibition’s theme.  Throughout the County, Art & Text runs from September 1 through December 31, 2019, with shows running from one week to 3 months, depending on a library’s individual calendar. Through mixed media, ranging from sculpture and painting to graphics, each library’s exhibition aims to promote awareness of visual arts in the libraries of Fairfield County, as well as foster a connection between the community it serves and the arts.
browngrotta arts provided works by nine artists who use text in their art in a a number of different ways, including embroidered words, collaged newspapers and sculptured works made of the Congressional Record.

The Sun-Shine on the Water, Naomi Kobayashi
50nk The Sun-Shine on the Water, Naomi Kobayashi, washi paper, koyori thread, india ink, cotton, 20″ x 12.5″ x 2″, 2009

One of the works included is by Naomi Kobayashi who incorporates strips of calligraphy into her weavings. In a an ideal Art & Text plot twist, author William Bayer was inspired by Kobayashi’s work. In his book Hiding in the Weave, the protagonists have to deconstruct a weaving to find a clue to solve a mysterious death. Other artists presented through browngrotta arts include Dana Romeis, who is an artist and interior designer from St. Louis, Missouri. She has a background in art and textiles. From an early age, Dana has been drawn to the intricacy of design. She is particularly fond of the quote, “God is in the details” by Mies van der Rohe. In On Life and On Art,  she has incorporated text into her weavings.

The Congressional Record, Kate Hunt
The Congressional Record, Kate Hunt, nails, twime, encaustic, 12″ x 9″ x 4″

Kate Hunt is from Montana and has recently relocated to Mexico. She says of newsprint, her chosen material: “Newspaper as a construction material is cheap and easy to obtain. It forgives easily. I love the color and feel and its changes in color over time. The size range is equal to that of wood. Texture and density are adjustable. The audience has a history and experience with newspaper that they bring to each of my pieces resulting in a dialog that transcends anything that I thought of as an artist.”

35ts Pasodoble, Toshio Sekiji, Japanese newspapers; urushi lacquer, red ochre (bengara), 28" x 25" x 4", 2009
35ts Pasodoble, Toshio Sekiji, Japanese newspapers; urushi lacquer, red ochre (bengara), 28″ x 25″ x 4″, 2009

Japanese artist Toshio Sekiji intertwines strips of paper from various cultures, rewriting messages and imaging a harmonius confluence of disparate cultures, languages and nationalities – different than the facts on the ground. California artist, Ed Rossbach, was a relentless experimenter. He learned all manner of textile techniques from double weave to bobbin lace making and then applied them to unusual materials with striking results. It the work in Art & Text, Rossbach has used throwaway materials – annual report pages – to create a vessel that looks like a colorful vase. Judy Mulford is also from California. Her work, which often includes gourds, celebrates women and the family. In this case, words about family life and celebration are spelled out in thread using a button-hole technique.

17da Undulating Surface #7, Dona Anderson
wire armature, pattern paper and polymer, 16″ x 17.5″ x 15″
2010

An unusual sculpture by Washington state artist Dona Anderson is included. Anderson uses everyday materials in her works. Her vessel in Art andText is made from dressmaker patterns and the instructions can still be read on its sides. Like Ed Rossbach, Sylvia Seventy was part of California’s fiber movement of the 60s and 70s. She began making vessels of handmade paper then, a process she continues. Her vessels are whimsical incorporating everything from feathers and pins to beads and googly eyes. In this work she has included text telling the viewer to consider the back – where may artist secrets can be found.

Looking at the Back Sylvia Seventy
21ss Looking at the Back Sylvia Seventy molded recycled paper, vintage cotton embroidered fabric, wax, wire, beads, waxed carpet thread 3.5” x 8.5” x 8.5”, 2016

The opening of Art & Text at the Wilton Library takes place on Friday, October 11th from 6 pm to 7:30 pm. The Library is at: 137 Old Ridgefield Rd, Wilton, CT 06897. A majority of the works are available for purchase with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the Library.  Media Sponsor: The Wilton Bulletin.


Art Assembled: New This Week in June

Summer is finally here and in June, browngrotta arts offered a look at the latest pieces in our collection representing works from around the world. This month, in our New This Week series, we shared some extraordinary pieces by Chang Yeonsoon, Judy Mulford, Lewis Knauss, Pat Campbell and Eva Vargo.
We kicked off the first few days in June with a three-piece work of abaca fiber, pure gold leaf and eco-soluble resin by Chang Yeonsoon, a Korean textile artist who specializes in sculptural fiber works. “I have been studying philosophy and breathing meditation for the last 10 years because I am interested in Oriental philosophy. Chunjeein (天地人) means heaven, earth and human in the East. In the Book of changes (a chinese classic) say that the heaven is a circle, the earth is a square, and the human is a triangle.”

heaven, earth and human sculptures
Chunjeein-1, 2 & 3, Chang Yeonsoon
abaca fiber, pure gold leaf, eco-soluble resin, 33″ x 7.125″ x 6.75″, 2019

Soon after that, we shared a mixed media work, Ancestral Totem by Judy Mulford. “My art honors and celebrates the family” explains the artist. “It is autobiographical, personal, narrative, and a scrapbook of my life. Each piece I create becomes a container of conscious and unconscious thoughts and feelings: a nest, a womb, a secret, a surprise, or a giggle.” This work, which Mulford talks more about in a youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j3-YTMWD4JM art + identity interview, features “memory chairs” and buttons that she sourced from family and friends.

Button hole stitched chair sculpture
Ancestral Totem, Judy Mulford, mixed media, 34.5″ x 10.5″ x 10.5,” 2019

Next in our June series was Lewis Knauss‘ work, Thorny of woven, knotted linen, waxed linen and reed. Knauss’ interest in landscape originated during his first teaching appointment in Ohio. The textures and materials of textiles have provided him a medium to explore his memories of place.

Lewis Knauss wall sculpture
Thorny, Lewis Knauss
woven, knotted, waxed linen, reed, 17″ x 16″ x 6,” 2018/19

We aim to keep your creative palettes full, and so we featured Kundalini Rising II by Pat Campbell of rice paper, reed and wood. Campbell’s work aims to promote, not divide, the world’s population ethnically, racially and religiously, specifically to promote globalization and world peace. We at browngrotta arts fully support her work and the meaning behind each piece. Her work combines hope for the future, love of where she came from, and a reminder to viewers to reflect the best in themselves to solve world problems.

Pat Campbell Rice Paper Sculpture
Kundalini Rising II, Pat Campell
rice paper, reed and wood, 24″ x 14″ x 6.5″, 2009

Last, but most certainly not least, we shared No. 55 (Book of Changes), by Eva Vargo of linen, thread, paper strings and gold leaves. A Swedish artist who has lived abroad for a large part of her life, she has been influenced by each country in which she has lived. iFrom the time she began using paper strings and papers from old Japanese and Korean books in her woven works, it has been an exciting journey for her and it is still a path she keeps on exploring.

Eva Vargo Book of Changes
No. 55 (Book of Changes), Eva Vargo
linen, thread, paper strings and gold leaves, 31.75″ x 29.375″ x 1.5″, 2019

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Plunge: explorations above and below Opening Tonight, New Bedford Art Museum, Massachusetts

Annette Bellamy Long Lines

Annette Bellamy Long Lines

Rippling, roiling, teeming with life… Deep, dark, waiting to be explored…
Water has long been a potent influence for artists wishing to explore its majesty and mystery.

For the last several months, browngrotta arts has worked with Jamie Uretsky, Curator and Noelle Foye, Executive Director of the New Bedford Museum of Art/ArtWorks! in Massachusetts. Plunge: explorations from above and below, which examines the influence of water in the work of 16 artists from around the world, is the result.

New Bedford Plunge installation

Plunge explorations from above and below installation

The multifaceted exhibition combines sculptures, tapestries, installation works, paintings and photography. Each work resides at the intersection of the maker’s fascination with a variety of nautical and natural themes and the artmaking process. Plunge pairs Helena Hernmarck’s monumental woven depiction of tall ships in New York Bay 1884 and Chris Drury’s Double Echo, a print that superimposes a fragment of an echogram from Flight W34 over East Antarctica and an echocardiogram of the pilot’s heartbeat. In other galleries, Heather Hobler’s meditative photographs of seascapes join Karyl Sisson’s “sea creatures” made of domestic objects like zippers and clothespins; Christopher Volpe’s evocative paintings join Grethe Wittrock’s Arctica, a sculpture made from a repurposed sail from the Danish Navy. Unlike most musuem exhibtions, the works in Plunge are all available for sale.

Thirteen of the artists in Plunge, representing five countries, are represented by browngrotta arts: Dona AndersonJane BalsgaardAnnette BellamyMarian BijlengaBirgit BirkjaaerChris DruryHelena HernmarckLawrence LaBiancaSue LawtyJudy MulfordKaryl SissonUlla-Maija VikmanGrethe Wittrock. Their work, and that of the three other artists in the exhibition, Heather Hobler, Anne Leone and Christopher Volpe, will be included in the catalog for the exhibition, designed and photographed by Tom Grotta. It will be available beginning June 5th at www.browngrotta.com.

Plunge’s opening is tonight Friday, June 2nd at the New Bedford Museum of Art from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Jane Balsgaard, one of the artists in Plunge, will attend from Denmark.

The New Bedford Art Museum is great cultural destination for those on the way to the Vineyard, Nantucket or the Cape. You have plenty of time to see it, as the exhibition continues through October 7, 2017. The New Bedford Art Museum/ArtWorks! is located at: 608 Pleasant Street/ New Bedford, MA/02740/508.961.3072/info@newbedfordart.org.


Still Crazy…30 Years: The Catalog

Still Crazy...30 Years: The Catalog Cover Naoko Serino and Mary Yagi

Still Crazy…30 Years: The Catalog

It’s big! It’s beautiful (if we do say so ourselves –and we do)! The catalog for our 30th anniversary is now available on our new shopping cart. The catalog — our 46th volume — contains 196 pages (plus the cover), 186 color photographs of work by 83 artists, artist statements, biographies, details and installation shots.

Still Crazy...30 Years: The Catalog

Naoko Serino Spread

Still Crazy...30 Years: The Catalog

Michael Radyk Spread

Still Crazy...30 Years: The Catalog

Lilla Kulka Spread

Still Crazy...30 Years: The Catalog

Jo Barker Spread

The essay, is by Janet Koplos, a longtime editor at Art in America magazine, a contributing editor to Fiberarts, and a guest editor of American Craft. She is the author of Contemporary Japanese Sculpture (Abbeville, 1990) and co-author of Makers: A History of American Studio Craft (University of North Carolina Press, 2010). We have included a few sample spreads here. Each includes a full-page image of a work, a detail shot and an artist’s statement. There is additional artists’ biographical information in the back of the book. Still Crazy After All These Years…30 years in art can be purchased at www.browngrotta.com http://store.browngrotta.
com/still-crazy-after-all-these-years-30-years-in-art/.
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Books Make Great Gifts 2016

Another year of widely divergent books. Art, biology, history and biography are all represented in the answers we received to the questions we asked of artists that work with browngrotta arts: What books cheered you? Inspired you? Provided an escape?

Dona Anderson, wrote that she is reading Herbert Hoover: A Life by Glen Jeansonne (NAL, New York, 2016) who calls Hoover the most resourceful American since Benjamin Franklin. “I recently had a birthday and remember that my mother went to vote on the day I was born, November 6th, and she voted for Herbert Hoover. Consequently, I started to think about what the political atmosphere was like then — as ours was so crazy and even more so now. When I went to the library in October, the Hoover book was brand new and it appealed to me.” Rachel Max is reading Materiality, edited by Petra Lange-Berndt (MIT Press, Cambridge, 2015), one of the latest additons to the Whitechapel Documents of Contemporary Art series. It’s a fantastic series. Each volume in the series focuses on a specific theme and contains many thought-provoking essays from theorists and artists. Materiality not only addresses key geographical, social and philosophical issues, but it also examines how artists process and use materials in order to expand notions of time, space and participation. As the publisher notes, “this anthology focuses on the moments when materials become willful actors and agents within artistic processes.” Max has also been dipping into the diaries of Eva Hesse. “They are extremely private and were never meant for publication. But, as a huge fan of her work it is interesting to read her thoughts,” Max writes.

Gyöngy Laky recommended, highly, Daughters of the Samurai, A Journey From East to West and Back by Janice P. Nimura (W.W. Norton, New York, 2016). “This book is a fascinating biographical history chronicling the lives of three young Japanese girls sent to America in 1871 by the just barely 22-year-old Empress, Haruko. Their mission was to become educated and to bring back to Japan western ideas to advance the role of women and to help Japan adopt western knowledge and technology. Haruko […”something of a prodigy: reading at the age of three, composing poetry at five, studying calligraphy at seven and plucking the koto (a stringed instrument) at 12] had earlier married the 16-year-old Emperor who ascended the throne in 1868. He had adopted the name, Meiji, or Enlightened Rule—to usher in the beginning of a new era. The new era was a plunge into modernization. Sending three young girls to the West turned out to be more enlightened than expected. Sutematsu Yamakawa, 11; Shige Nagai, 10 and Ume Tsuda, the youngest, a tender, 6, remained in the U.S. for 10 formative years and then changed the future and subsequent history of Japanese women forever.

Nimura’s skillful crafting of a can’t-put-it-down narrative of their experiences on two sides of the Pacific is a vividly rich visual, as well as historical, account. She produced for the reader, through captivating descriptions illuminating the startling differences between these two very different cultures, the contrasting worlds we could easily visualize.

Stacy Shiff, Pulitzer Prise-winning author of Cleopatra wrote: “Nimura reconstructs their Alice-in-Wonderland adventure: the girls are so exotic as to qualify as ‘princesses’ on their American arrival. One feels “enormous” on her return to Japan.” It is just this Alice-in-Wonderland aspect of their story that caught my imagination. As in Louis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, it is the environment and the material culture that sets the stage for remarkable events. The tangible aspects of two vastly contrasting cultures – intellectually, technically, behaviorally and in terms of the accoutrements of every day life, express well the often conflicting, peculiar and unexpected events in the girls’ lives. The girls move from Japanese clothing, furniture and customs to western style and then back again feeling more comfortable in western settings than in their birth homes kneeling on the floor and lavishly swathed in yards and yards of embroidered silks.

In the late 19th century the US was bursting with inventions and change. Planning begun in the 1850s for the Chicago World’s Fair was well under way, ushering in the Gilded Age of rapid industrial growth, design innovation and expansion of popular culture. A startlingly appropriate time for the girls’ cultural experiment to take place. Nimura, who moved to Japan for three years with her Japanese/American nesei husband, was adept at utilizing her keen sense of design and broad knowledge of the two disparate material cultures. She skillfully brought to life the vast differences between the two civilizations through masterful and insightful descriptions of clothing, hairstyles, furniture, interiors, architecture as well as the cities in which they existed. This, combined with her extensive research, presents the reader with many insights into the relations between the two countries and their intertwined histories through the lives of these exceptional girls and their extraordinary adventures.

As Miriam Kingsberg of the Los Angeles Review of Books wrote, “Daughters… is, perhaps, less a story of Japanese out of place in their country, than of women ahead of their time.” Laky adds that while she was a professor of art and design at the University of California, Davis, she encouraged her students to study abroad. “This book illustrates how education and experience in a foreign country enhances understanding of other cultures and peoples – perhaps more important today than in the 1870s and 80s. I believe travel also greatly inspires creativity.”

The Box Project, edited by Lyssa C.Stapleton (Cotsen Occasional Press, Los Angeles, 2016), “is one of the very best catalogs I have ever seen and not only the precious book binding!,” wrote Heidrun Schimmel. “I´m still reading the important essays again and again…and I´m learning again and again…” The Box Project is a limited edition book. It will be available at browngrotta.com next week. John McQueen wrote that The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben (Greystone Books, Vancouver, 2016), will change your next walk in the woods. “Trees will never seem the same again. This is a scientific study on how trees communicate with each other among many other things that I, for one, never thought about.”

Currently, Jane Balsgaard is reading The Wind is my Mother: The Life and Teachings of a Native American Shaman by Marcellus “Bear Heart” Williams and Molly Larkin (revised edition, Berkeley Publishing Group, New York 2012) and Diary of an Stupid Man, by Uschi Tech, published in Denmark by Forlaget Helle.
It is a sad and exciting story about a typical lonely man in today’s Denmark, she wrote. “Written in a wonderful language – so one can just imagine him, by reading it and it is just as sad as StonerMary Merkel-Hess has three recommedations. “I heard Cornelia Mutel read from her book, A Sugar Creek Chronicle: Observing Climate Change from a Midwestern Woodland (University Of Iowa Press, Iowa City, 2016), last March just after it was published” she writes. “I bought it immediately. Connie Mutel is a trained scientist but in this book she has written a very personal account of climate change occurring in her own small woodland here in Johnson County, Iowa. She has woven stories of her own life into observations of the possibly irreversible changes that are happening around us. It is a beautifully written and thoughtful book, but not a hopeless one. She ends with a discussion of things that we can do and strategies for our policymakers.”
Her second recommendation is Food Power: the Rise and Fall of the American Postwar Food System by Bryan L. McDonald. Bryan is Merkel-Hess’s son-in-law, a history professor at Penn State and long-time student of security issues. This book details how the unprecedented abundance of food mid-century was used to advance U.S. goals and values around the world. That food can influence global policy is an issue that Merkel-Hess never considered until now, but one she found fascinating.
The third book, is one for the Sinophiles and academically inclined among us, is The Rural Modern: Constructing the Self and State in Republican China by Kate Merkel-Hess. Merkel-Hess has another academic connection: Kate is her daughter and also a history professor at Penn State. This book about rural reform in China before the Communist revolution documents a desire for modernity rooted in Chinese rural traditions and institutions. Merkel-Hess found it interesting that American foundation money and the YMCA were involved in these early modernizing efforts.
We also have two limited-edition, artist-designed books to highlight: Judy Mulford: 80 Chairs by Judy Mulford and Marian Bijlenga: Miniatures, An autobiographical archive reflecting 30 years of work by Marian Bijlenga. In each case, the artist has created a reflective work — celebrating a full and accomplished career. The books are available at http://www.browngrotta.com/Pages/books.php.

As always, enjoy!


BLOG: Where’s Wlodzimierz? Can you find browngrotta arts’ art at SOFA Chicago

We are exhibiting at SOFA Chicago this week in Booth 921. We’ve got great work there from Keiji Nio, Jin-Sook So, Aleksandra Stoyanov and many others. But that’s not all. Artwork from browngrotta arts, including Miracle, a tapestry by innovator, Wlodzimierz Cygan, can be found throughout the art fair.
How may of these can you find??? (There’s a helpful hint below.)

1) Are We the Same by Norma Minkowitz. Photo by tom Grotta

1) Are We the Same by Norma Minkowitz. Photo by Tom Grotta

Are We the Same? mixed media sculpture, Norma Minkowitz (US)

2 Out of Focus by Grethe Sørensen. Photo by Tom Grotta

2) Out of Focus by Grethe Sørensen. Photo by Tom Grotta

Out of Focus 1-9, handwoven tapestry of cotton, Grethe Sørensen (Denmark)

Blue Holes by Marian Bijlenga. Photo by Tom Grotta

3) Blue Holes by Marian Bijlenga. Photo by Tom Grotta

Blue Holes, tapestry, of paper yarn, and blue-dyed horsehair, stitched, Marian Bijlenga (The Netherlands)

Linen Tapestry with Broken Grey Line by Sara Brennan. Photo by Tom Grotta

4) Linen Tapestry with Broken Grey Line by Sara Brennan. Photo by Tom Grotta

Linen Tapestry with Broken Grey Line, tapestry of linen, wool, and cotton, Sara Brennan (UK)

Silver Waves by Adela Akers. Photo by Tom Grotta

5) Silver Waves by Adela Akers. Photo by Tom Grotta

Silver Waves, tapestry of linen, horsehair, paint and foil, Adela Akers (US)

Miracle by Włodzimierz Cygan. Photo by tom Grotta

6) Miracle by Włodzimierz Cygan. Photo by Tom Grotta

Miracle, tapestry of linen, wool and sisal, Wlodzimierz Cygan (PL),  Encontrada I ( Found I ) by Eduardo Portillo and Mariá Eugenia Dávila (VE)

Encontrada I ( Found I ) by Eduardo Portillo & Mariá Eugenia Dávila, bronze casting, 13.5” x 11.375” x 2”, 2014

7) Encontrada I ( Found I ) by Eduardo Portillo & Mariá Eugenia Dávila

And, the not-to-be missed:

Judy Mulfords installation of 80 Empty Chairs

8) Judy Mulfords installation of 80 Empty Chairs

Empty Chairs, room-sized mixed media installation, Judy Mulford (US) and Simple Abundances, an individual work, Judy Mulford (US).

Cheat Sheet:
1) Are We the Same?: Main Aisle; 2) Out of Focus: VIP Concierge Booth; 3) Blue Holes; VIP Concierge Booth; 4) Linen Tapestry with Broken Grey Line; Chubb Personal Risk Services, Booth 925 (outside); 5) Silver Waves: Chubb Personal Risk Services, Booth 925 (inside); 6) Miracle: Chubb Personal Risk Services, Booth 925; 7) Encontrada I ( Found I ): Chubb Personal Risk Services, Booth 925 (inside)  8) Empty Chairs: Special Exhibit, Booth 921; Simple Abundances: Special Exhibit, Booth 221.

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SOFA Chicago Sneak Peek; Judy Mulford’s Empty Chairs Series

Judy Mulford 80 Empty Chairs Photo by Tom Grotta

Judy Mulford 80 Empty Chairs Photo by Tom Grotta

At SOFA Chicago this week, artist Judy Mulford will present her remarkable room-sized mixed media installation Empty Chairs. The installation features a central sculpture entitled “What now?” she said. “What now?…What now?…What now?…” surrounded by 80 individually rendered chairs in frames. The intimate and emotional sculpture chronicles domestic life. The dollhouse chairs, dolls, buttons and embellishments used in the work were collected by the artist from family members, flea markets, antique stores and friends. Mulford spent a year on the work, which marks her upcoming 80th birthday. She has also produced a limited-edition book, 80 Empty Chairs, as a part of this project.

Mulford’s sculptures have been exhibited at the Museum of Arts and Design, New York, the Mint Museum of Craft + Design, Charlotte, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Renwick Gallery and The Textile Museum, Washington, D.C. and the 12th International Biennial of Tapestry in Hungary. Mulford’s work is informed by her studies of the basket-making culture of Micronesia, particularly on the islands of Truk and Ulithi. She was a member of the studio team for Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party in the 1970s.

Judy Mulford Portrait in her studio. Photo by Tom Grotta

Judy Mulford Portrait in her studio. Photo by Tom Grotta

Mulford will speak at her Special Exhibition booth, SE221, and sign copies of her book at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, November 4th. Mulford will also be at browngrotta arts, Booth 921 at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday the 6th and will be available for questions and conversation throughout SOFA.