Friday, December 10, 2010
Mass MoCA is on a 13 acre historic mill complex in North Adams, a small city in Western Massachusetts. During the colonial period this area was home to numerous businesses including shoe manufacturers, a brick yard, a saw mill, hat manufacturers, marble works and more.
Arnold Print Works occupied the site from 1860-1942, at one time supplying fabric for the union army. They employed 32,000 workers in the early 20th century but in 1942 the effects of the Great Depression and the falling price of fabric forced them to move to a much smaller facility. Sprague Electric bought the site and turned it into an electronics plant that made components for weapons and the space program.
After Sprague closed in 1985, the town was looking for a way to use the property, and Thomas Krens, the director of the nearby Williams College Museum of Art was looking for an exhibit space for large contemporary art. With support from the Massachusetts legislature, the community and the private sector, the museum opened in 1999. You can see beautiful photos of the renovation by Nicholas Whitman.
I love the building. The renovation preserved the feel of a working mill building. The brick walls have stories to tell, like the one above that shows evidence of an old staircase. I was as intrigued by the walls as I was by the artwork.
The Sol Lewitt Retrospective is in a 27,000 square foot building which was restored specifically for this exhibition. It took 6 months and 65 artists to complete the installation of 105 wall drawings. The artists included 22 assistants who had worked with Lewitt, 33 student interns from Yale, Williams, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, and other colleges, and 13 local artists.
The Yale University Art Gallery owns some wall drawings, and the entire wall drawing archive (donated by the artist), and their director Jock Reynolds, collaborated with Lewitt to plan the retrospective, and with Mass MoCA and Williams College Museum of Art to create it. Lewitt made some new works for it before his death in April 2007. Since the exhibit opened in 2008, I assume Lewitt did not get to see it, which is very sad. This is the first time the wall drawings have been gathered in a group, in the past you had to see them one at a time in far flung galleries.
I was not sure what to expect; Lewitt was a leader in the field of Conceptual art, a movement with which my art school professors were quite enamored back in the 1970s.
It never did much for me, obviously, or I would not have turned to tapestry weaving!
Lewitt believed that the idea was the real work of art, and that the execution of the art could be performed by others, which makes perfect sense given the history of tapestry weaving.
In this case, each wall drawing consists of a set of detailed instructions. For example, the left side of this photo shows Wall Drawing 46, and the instructions read
“Vertical lines, not straight, not touching, covering the wall evenly.”
The materials range from pencil and chalk, to transparent ink washes, to glossy enamel paint, and cover the years from 1969-2007.
I had a great time taking photos of these.
They are all very large, and cover the walls completely, so there were many places where I could see 2 or more at the same time, and taking a step to one side would change the view radically. These drawings were made with translucent colored ink washes, giving an unusual matte finish that makes the colors glow, almost like wools in a tapestry.
In other cases, with the glossy drawings (executed in acrylic paint) reflections of another drawing seem to add a three dimensionality to the work. This is 821, alternating glossy with matte bands of black.
Wall Drawing 901 consists of colored bands and a black blob.
The blob is glossy, and has the same properties of reflection as 821.
I wonder whether Lewitt considered this possibility, given that most of the wall paintings were not in groups.
Below is Wall Drawing 880, “Loopy Doopy.” I found it painful to look at because of the intense contrast of the orange and green. Apparently the painters did too. They executed this by taping the wall, so they never saw both colors together until it was almost finished. Then when they did the final touch up they discovered the dizzying effect of the contrast.
I didn’t notice the effect of the sunlight on the walls until I looked through the camera. It almost looks like the wall is glowing from within.
On the right is a photo of 2 different drawings, on walls that are at 90 degrees. The composition of this photo would be something else if I took a step to one side of the other.
The catalog, “Sol Lewitt: 100 Views” can be purchased here. You can also see all of the works on the web here and some time lapse photos of their creation.
Because of the size, you really have to see them in person.
The exhibit will be at Mass MoCA for 25 years, so you have plenty of time to get there!
For more about Sol Lewitt, check out the Artsy Sol Lewitt page here
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
is almost done! I had a little scare when I saw how little warp I have left, but it will be enough….whew, just barely enough, but enough. My one inch weeks were expanding into 1.5 inch weeks, but now I’m being very careful to keep them to an inch or less. September was just obviously blue and yellow, I don’t know why but that was clear to me right away. I made October all shades of red, yellow and orange, for the fall foliage and because it just seemed like it was about time I used colors like that. November is brown, orange and white, and I’ll decide on December when it comes up. One thing I love about this project is that I can play it by ear like this, no thinking ahead.
In addition to colors, I have also been choosing images to weave, like in September I wove a lot of spirals, in October leaves, and in November I’m doing tree branches. Of course I continue to include special occasions.
The yellow hills are from my trip to California.
As much as I’ve enjoyed this, I have decided not to do it again in 2011. I have learned so much, using the diary to try out new ideas, and techniques. There is really no worry about the final product because every day I weave just that one parallelogram, which is just one 365th of the tapestry!
Next year I plan to do a drawing diary, but instead of doing a separate drawing for each day, I want it to be like the tapestry where each day’s drawing is just part of a larger whole. So I will probably take a large piece of paper and make a grid. I will also choose a topic for each month, like, for example, Moon Snails. I might also choose a medium for each month, like a colored pencil, or pen and ink, or graphite pencils or china marker.
I hope to learn as much from my 2011 drawing diary as I have from this 2010 tapestry diary.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
The first leg was a flight to Seattle, WA, where my friend and fellow tapestry weaver Ellen Ramsey picked me up at the airport and treated me to a delicious dinner at Wild Ginger. I stayed at a downtown hotel so I could make the 8AM passenger ferry to Victoria BC. The weather was OK, but the views would have been better on a clear day.
In Victoria I stayed with my Dad’s cousin, Kathy, who lives in a lovely little wooden house on a lake. I’ve heard about her my whole life, and we’ve been pen pals for a few years, so it was great to meet her in person. We had so much to talk about, since we have a lot of relatives in common: her mother and my grandmother were 2 of the youngest from a family of 14 kids. I spent hours sitting on the dock trying to get a photo of the huge turquoise dragonflies, but they would NOT sit still or even slow down. So instead I got lots of photos of the reeds and the reflections.
I spent a few hours exploring the city of Victoria, which is really lovely. It’s the provincial capitol and has some gorgeous architecture. I was inspired by the First Peoples exhibition in the Royal British Columbia Museum. There is also a collection of totem poles outside the museum in Thunderbird Park; you can see an online exhibit here.
Next stop: Fremont, California, to visit my daughter Zoe on her birthday. The weather was gorgeous, and it was great to see Zoe, her husband Jason, and the grandkitties.
We drove up to the Marin Headlands by the Golden Gate Bridge. The views are amazing from there.
Then I visited tapestry weaver and old friend Alex Friedman in her spacious studio.
She was preparing to hang an exhibit, “A Show of Hands,” which is at the Gail Van Dyke Atrium Gallery, Marin Cancer Institute, Green Brae, CA until January 7, 2011.
Here’s the tapestry that is featured on the exhibit postcard. It is titled “Flow: Unfathomed.Last Wednesday I flew to Omaha, Nebraska and rented a car to drive to Lincoln. My purpose was to attend the opening reception of the American Tapestry Biennial 8 on Thursday evening.
I met friends Sue Pretty, Lany Eila and Elizabeth Quick, all fellow tapestry weavers and exhibit participants. The exhibit opening was planned to coincide with the Textile Society of America annual meeting.
We were not registered for the meeting, so instead of listening to lectures (some of which did sound very interesting), we visited some of the 32 exhibits in the area.
Our first stop was the TSA Marketplace in the hotel. It was hard to tear ourselves away, but luckily many of the vendors did not take credit cards, so we were able to get out before we bankrupted ourselves on delicious textiles.
I bought a lovely small indigo-dyed rug from Veggie Zapotec Arts. (It’s much more blue, but I took the photo at night….)
Then I bought a silk scarf from India, black with very thin white stripes. I always like to match my tapestry at the opening reception!
Next we drove to the Elder Gallery on the Nebraska Wesleyan campus, and had a nice, leisurely visit with ATB8.
Since we were the only visitors I got a lot of photos without people in the way. This is an impressive exhibit, with a lot of variety. It’s never easy to hang such a show, but the 3 room gallery is very nice, and they did a great job.
My only complaint is that there were a few areas that were not quite adequately lighted, like the very top of this group, which is Archie Brennan’s tapestry. Below left is Janet Clark, then me on the right, then Pat Williams below.
Don’t forget you can click on the image to see it full sized.
Top, left to right: Rebecca Mezoff, Lynn Cornelius, Joanna Foslien, Mary Zicafoose and Dorothea Van de Winkel. Below, left to right: John Nicholson (above), Sarah Swett, Marie-Thumette Brichard, Marianne Haller (above) and Christine Pradel-Lien.
Top, left to right: Anne Jackson, Ulrikka Mokdad, Lany Eila, Barbara Heller, Susan Hart Henegar. Below, left to right: Susan Martin Maffei, Urban Jupena (above), Linda Rees, Kathy Spoering, Maximo Laura, Susan Iverson (above), Manuella Cocchis, Agneta Henerud
Top, left to right: Michael Rohde, Sarah Swett, Anne Brodersen, Ann Naustdal. Below, left to right: Joanne Sanburg (above), Don Burns, Suzanne Pretty (FIRST PRIZE!), Inge Norgaard, Jennie Lee Henderson.
This is an interesting grouping, with a very large, 3 dimensional tapestry by Mary Kester and two tiny tapestries by Kathe Todd-Hooker. I think it works, but it looks a little shocking in the photo because you can’t see the space around them.
Top, left to right: Jennifer Sargent, Elaine Duncan (above), Kristin Saeterdal, Jane Freear-Wyld, Becky Stevens (above), Christine Pradel-Lien, Jane Freear-Wyld. To see all the tapestries just buy the catalog, it’s a bargain at $20.
I didn’t mean to photograph the entire exhibit, but as our group moved around I shot photos of whatever was unobstructed. Later I realized I’d photographed almost the entire show, so I apologize to those few whose tapestries were left out.
Next stop: International Quilt Study Center and Museum.
This modern museum on the University of Nebraska campus opened in 2008, and was on my must-see list.
It was founded in 1997 when Ardis and Robert James donated their large quilt collection.
It’s the Hoormutch Interlacing Stitch. It almost looks like darning.
Our last stop for the afternoon was the Nebraska State Museum, to visit “A Turning Point: Navajo Weaving in the 20th Century”
This show displays some of the very finest Navajo weavings, curated by Ann Hedlund. Sadly, photographs were not allowed, but there are some on the museum’s website.
An extra attraction was the demonstration by Navajo weavers Melissa and Lola Cody and Martha Schultz. I met Melissa at the Southwest Indian Arts Fair a few years ago, and was impressed back then by the large and very intricate rug she was just beginning.
It was fun to catch up and see photos of the finished piece. I don’t think she has a website, but here’s a photo of her demo loom with a piece in progress.
Finally it was time for the ATB8 opening reception. There was quite a crowd, and a lot of the artists were present. Exhibit chairs Michael Rohde and Susan Iverson said a few words, then the artists were introduced, and the juror, Rebecca A.T. Stevens asked if perhaps we would each stand next to our tapestry so people could ask us about our work. I had a good time meeting new people. Luckily for me, my tapestry was right above Pat Williams’, so we had each other to chat with between visitors. Even the food was excellent. Who knew Petit Fours could be so moist? I had to try one of each flavor of course.
Monday, October 4, 2010
In 2006 I attended the ATA Tapestry Workshop/Retreat after Convergence in Grand Rapids. I was in Jane Kidd’s class; she is a fantastic artist and teacher and was a big inspiration. After 27 years of weaving tapestries, I am not looking for a lot of technical help, but can always use wisdom and guidance. It was also a blast to hang out on a college campus with a bunch of other tapestry weavers.So when ATA announced the 2010 program, there was no hesitation. I have never visited New Mexico before, and as you can tell from my previous posts, I was not disappointed one bit. In fact, I have promised to go back again, hopefully many times.
At the end of Convergence we hurried to St John’s College in Santa Fe to register and unload our luggage. The reason for the rush was the opening reception for “Enchanted Pathways,” the biennial non-juried small format tapestry exhibit, that evening.
This exhibit was at the William and Joseph Gallery on prestigious Canyon Rd. What a road! Gallery after gallery after gallery!
As befits a small tapestry exhibit, the room it was in was also quite small, and full of visitors during the opening reception. We had to (or GOT to!) walk through the other rooms of the gallery and admire some amazing artworks. This exhibit continues to grow; there were 179 tapestries by artists in 12 countries, and 28 US states. The maximum size is 10 x 10 inches.
There is a catalog for Enchanted Pathways, which can be purchased from ATA (American Tapestry Alliance), the sponsoring organization. As with all ATA projects, the work was done by dedicated volunteers. Letty Roller and her team did a fabulous job photographing the pieces and hanging the show.
I had enough time to make a quick visit to the Jane Sauer Gallery just up the road. WOW! I have never seen a gallery that included so many interesting artists in so many different media. Glass (I adore glass), paintings, sculpture, fiber, mixed media. I wish I’d had more time. The website says “At the forefront of innovation and excellence in a variety of media.” Yeah, definitely.
Back to St Johns, I loved my room. It was very plain, but very functional. White walls and floor, sturdy wooden furniture. Large desk and book case, adequate closet, bureau and bed. My window looked out onto trees and a distant view of the mountains.
We had perfect weather, at least if you’re like me and appreciate a good monsoon, which arrived at lunch time one day, and knocked out the power for a few hours. OK, weaving with no lights was a little challenging.
I have always been fascinated with St John’s College, with one campus in Annapolis, MD and the other one in Santa Fe. According to their website
“The all-required course of study is based on the reading, study, and discussion of the most important books of the Western tradition. There are no majors and no departments; all students follow the same program.
Students study from the classics of literature, philosophy, theology, psychology, political science, economics, history, mathematics, laboratory sciences, and music. No textbooks are used. The books are read in roughly chronological order, beginning with ancient Greece and continuing to modern times.”
So nice to know there are still students interested in getting this kind of education, but of course, we were there for something else entirely.
I took James Koehler’s workshop “Layers of Meaning.” The other workshop was Lynne Curran’s “Hand and Heart.” I wrote an article about James’s workshop for the ATA newsletter, Tapestry Topics. It should be coming out soon so you’ll have to read about it there.
I can tell you that I came home with a folder full of notes and handouts, and a head full of inspiration and ideas.
A high point of the retreat was a field trip to James’s studio.
We carpooled over there and admired his looms, yarns, workspace, tapestries, art collection and garden.