Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Art in Charlotte

Last week a painter friend and I made an overnight trip to Charlotte, North Carolina, mainly to view the exhibit Women of Abstract Expressionism at the Mint Museum Uptown.  We were both blown away by how much great art there was to see in Charlotte's museums and galleries.  I was happy to see a variety of woven and fiber work in the Mint Museum Randolph, where decorative arts and craft and art of the ancient Americas is housed.

What a treat to see ancient Peruvian woven pieces.

Tunic panel, Wari culture, Peru, 600-800 CE
A detail shot shows the incredibly fine weaving:



And how fun is this little hat, with its tassels and cut-pile winged alpacas or llamas?

Four-cornered hat with winged camelids, Peru, Wari culture, 600-800 CE 

When I spot stuff like this I feel awe at the amazing craftsmanship and a sort of kinship across the centuries with other weavers.  Weaving can be a solitary affair and it's fun to feel like you recognize a kindred spirit. even if they've been dead a long time.

Speaking of which, get a load of this weaver's basket of tools and threads and a miniature loom, which was buried with the master weaver in the Wari culture.  The two cactus stalks on the right are wound with brightly colored thread and one is packed with sewing needles.

weaver's workbasket, Wari culture, Chile, 600-800 CE
You might be wondering, did she ever get to the Women of Abstract Expressionism show?  Yes, I did.  In the lobby back at the Mint Uptown, I first had to stop and admire this piece by the incomparable Sheila Hicks:

Sheila Hicks, Mega Footprint Near the Hutch (May I Have this Dance?) 2011
You can just barely make me out, standing at the bottom left of the piece. 
Here are a few of the highlights of the show for me:

Elaine de Kooning, Bullfight, 1959. 
Joan Mitchell, Hudson River Day Line, 1955
While it was a blast to see the work of all the artists represented, I especially enjoyed Mitchell.  Here's another that I looked at a long time:

Joan Mitchell, Cercando un Ago, 1957.
The Italian title means "looking for a needle (in a haystack)"
Here's a couple of juicy details:

detail, Joan Mitchell, Cercando un Ago, 1957
detail, Joan Mitchell, Cercando un Ago, 1957
I was surprised to find that while gazing at work with so much energy, movement, and color, I felt a paradoxical stillness and calm.  A meditative reflectiveness that I feel in front of . . .  weaving.  Of course I started wondering if there was some way to bring the energy, movement and spontaneity of this kind of painting to tapestry weaving.

But that's a story for another day.