Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Master Weavers

Mark Goodwin deciding what to install next after hanging My Roof by Bhakti Ziek on back wall at AVA Gallery and Art Center, Lebanon, New Hampshire.

I am currently in two concurrent exhibitions with Cyndy Barbone, Deborah Carlson and Fuyuko Matsubara. It surprises me that many people think we are showing the same work at both venues, since their dates overlap. So just to be clear, the makers are the same, the work is different. The Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, Massachusetts is hosting Grand Tales of the Loom: Four Master Weavers until January 20, 2013; AVA Art Gallery and Art Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire is hosting Affinity: Cyndy Barbone, Deborah Frazee Carlson, Fuyuko Matsubara and Bhakti Ziek from October 19 - November 16, 2012. Since we hung the AVA show on Saturday, I can post pictures from that installation in this post.

Margaret Jacobs, head of exhibitions at AVA Gallery (on ladder) and her assistant, Kayla Gilbert, did an amazing job hanging Fuyuko Matsubara's masterpiece, In the Earth 2, at AVA Gallery and Art Space, Lebanon, New Hampshire.

This is a good time for weaving and textiles in general. Material explorations have exploded and when one sees work using fiber materials in art galleries now it is just identified as art, not ghettoized as fiber art. Most of these artists will roam from media to media, as their ideas or fashion dictate, and I have no problem with this. Nor do I mind that many of them are reworking ideas that have been done before--though I do think it is sad that their education has not informed them of the artists who trod the path before them. And I do mind it when I read statements implying that they are the first ones to combine concepts with fiber materials--a blatant sign of ignorance and self-aggrandizement. On the other hand, one has to excuse some of their ignorance because many artists using fiber materials that express ideas have been excluded from major museums, galleries, exhibitions and catalogs just because they were using those materials.

Cyndy Barbone (left) and Deborah Carlson (right) photographing the installation at AVA Gallery and Art Space, Lebanon, New Hampshire with Cyndy's weaving on the left wall and Deborah's weaving on the wall between windows.

So I think it is a great thing that the walls seem to be coming down (okay, I am skeptical--just like when I think that women have come a long way since my youth, I realize how few women are in the senate or house of representatives or hold positions of real power, and I wonder if they will repeal the woman's right to vote after they take away her right to choose). And I think this is the time for all of us who have been working for years to make an effort to show. So naturally I am thrilled that I can be part of two strong shows happening right now. Thrilled because when I stand in front of the work of Cyndy, or Deborah, or Fuyuko I am reminded of why I love weaving (as a medium, not as a process). Of the awe I feel when I realize that they have patiently manipulated vertical and horizontal threads to create these personal, passionate narrative works that evoke place and spirit and light. I can get lost in front of each work in these shows, whether small in scale or large, mesmerized by their beauty and substance. 

Portrait by Cyndy Barbone (on display at AVA Gallery and Art Center, Lebanon, NH) is woven with inlays of yarns of different densities creating a figure from degrees of transparency. 

And I realize that what I am looking at is the product of years of study, research, exploration and learning. Each of us has been weaving for more than thirty years. We bring knowledge of dyes and dyeing, materials, and weave structure to the table. Double weave or triple weave isn't used because it is complicated but because it is the right method to produce the elements needed for the ideas being expressed. The slowness of a process is not an end goal, but if the only way to produce the idea is slow, then that is the path that must be followed. The fact that I am using a computerized loom ("new technologies") is something I have grown into, from hand manipulated supplementary weft to weft-backed satin structures; it facilitates the making of my current work but it doesn't do the work for me. And our work is informed by the awareness of great works of art in textile form, from Coptic textiles to Safavid to Bauhaus to contemporary fiber art. We know we are the current practitioners of a long lineage of artists who have found their voice at the loom; a practice that dates back to centuries dated B.C. We want people to understand through our work that the expression of woven threads is sublime and spiritual.

Deborah Carlson's woven portrait of a memory, with its golden heart, and surrounding gold leaf will draw you into the room at the exhibition Affinity at AVA Gallery and Art Center, Lebanon, NH.

Just like I have earned the right to use my Thread Controller loom, so all of us have earned the title of Master Weaver. We aren't the only ones. I can name a handful of amazing artists who are also master weavers and could easily be in the shows with us. So I hope this is just the beginning. That our work will travel, that there will be other shows with more people, other shows with more work to dazzle the eyes and entice the contemporary public to appreciate weaving as an art form.

Deborah Carlson's work on left of left wall; Bhakti Ziek's weaving Vowels to right of it; and Bhakti Ziek's My Roof on back wall--on view at AVA Gallery and Art Center, Lebanon, NH.

Fuyuko Matsubara's weaving to the left; Cyndy Barbone's weavings are in the center and to the right--on view at AVA Gallery and Art Center, Lebanon, NH.

If you want to read more about my thoughts, there is an interview with me on the Fuller Craft tumblr site. I don't remember sending it off with all the typos and misspellings and words that should be other words (like wave for weave), but maybe I did. So if you can overlook those things, you might find it interesting to read. Click here.

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