Monday, July 23, 2012

Sourcing The Museum

Mindstream: Bliss -  Polly Barton
Silk warp ikat with viscose coated rayon, silk and metallic in eccentric weft
This work was not part of Sourcing The Museum exhibition.

I was really surprised and excited back in December of 2011 to receive a call from Tom Goehner, Director of Education at The Textile Museum in Washington, DC, who extended an invitation to present a one day workshop during an upcoming show, Sourcing The Museum.   Tom explained that the show had been curated by the internationally renowned textile designer Jack Lenore Larsen and would feature artists selected by Larsen.  Eleven artists were chosen and each was given an opportunity to choose one or more works from the museum collection to serve as inspiration for new work.

The artists included Olga de Amaral, James Bassler, Polly Barton, Archie Brennan, Lia Cook, Helena Hemmarck, Ayako Nikamoto, Jon Eric Riis, Warren Seelig, Kay Sekimachi, and Ethel Stein.  I was familiar with the work of 5 of the 11artists but don't recall ever seeing any of their work in person.  I have given websites for those who have them.  Work by others can be seen on a variety of sites.

Umbra 30 - Olga de Amaral
linen, silver leaf, gesso and acrylic paint
This work was not part of Sourcing The Museum exhibition.

Here are a few of my thoughts and observations about the show.

The first thing that struck me was how different the work looked in person compared to what could be seen online.  While we all have that experience from time to time, the difference in the perceived scale of the work when viewing online and the actual size of the work was striking in this exhibition.  Almost to the piece, work that looked large online was small and the work that looked small online was large.  One example of this was the delicate double ikat woven pieces by Polly Barton.  I had expected a huge expanse of work when in reality the total width of the three pieces was perhaps 6 feet.  Another surprise in regards to size was the weaving by Kay Sekimachi.  I had imagined it to be perhaps 45" square but it was perhaps 18"-24" square.  I am mentioning this because I think textile work is somehow more difficult to photograph and size and scale of work can be deceptive.  Sometimes it works in your favor and sometimes not.

Several of the artists employed a touch of humor in their pieces which I always appreciate.  If you look at the Gallery Guide Notes the work of weaver Lia Cook is pictured.  Without knowing anything about the source of this piece you might think she is working with contemporary cartoon imagery but in fact she was working directly from fragment from a 6-7th century woven band.  The little people and figures look much as Lia has translated them into her jacquard woven piece.

Greed - Jon Eric Riis
Metalic thread tapestry, crystal beads
This work was not part of Sourcing The Museum exhibition.

Jon Eric Riis of Atlanta, GA demonstrated the biggest wit with his Congressional Constraint Tapestry. The work looked like a straight jacket with the symbols of the Republican and Demoncratic parties and little pairs of red and blue boxing gloves!  These dangling elements were made with glass beads.

Another touch of humor came in the woven jacket by James Bassler titled My Letterman Yantra.  The yantra  is a garment with magical and sacred symbols on the surface created to evoke protection and good luck for the wearer.  It occured to James that he himself had worn clothing during marathons he has run that serve a similar function in the form of the vests runners wear.  Bassler is near 80 years of age and still producing art.  (One of the artists is 95 years old!  How excellent! )

The work by Olga de Amaral was the biggest surprise.  I have admired her work for many years but I couldn't tell from the online image what to expect.  This work was inspired by a Buddhist sash and was displayed so the viewer could see both sides.  I appreciated this as the structure was much more visible from the back than the front.  Constructed of silk, rice paper, acrylic paint, fiber and gold leaf, the surface was rich and complex and a great example of one of my interest - simplicity and complexity.

If you live in the Washington, DC area be sure and visit this interesting exhibition of some exceptional artists.  The show closed August 19th.

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  1. Lucky you. I have always appreciated the work of Olga de Amaral and a few of the other artists works you saw IN PERSON! Thank you for sharing your observations. I was not familiar with Polly Barton.

    1. Thank you Christine. It is always such a surprise to see the work of such accomplished artists in person....especially when you know their work from printed media or the internet. I also loved the age factor. You just have to keep working. xo, T