Tuesday, April 26, 2016

fibery food for thought

A few passages struck me in my reading recently of Beyond Craft:  The Art Fabric, a classic book about the origins of what became known as fiber art in the sixties and seventies.  A friend generously let me borrow it.  Thanks, Debby!

From Anni Albers:  

"I think of my wall hangings as an attempt to arrive at art, that is, giving the material used for their realization a sense beyond itself. . . . Breathing does not express anything; one's work should be just like breathing, essential to just being." 
Anni Albers, study for wall hanging

I do hope that when I weave tapestry I am elevating yarn to something greater or beyond itself, by creating an image or pattern.  My goal is always to make work that has a strong sense of its own inevitability, of an inherent right to exist, uncontrived and at ease in its own skin--much like a living breathing human being.  (I do know that making work does feel essential to my own being!)

Here's another excerpt that resonated with me:

"Technology, plus time to explore, yields unorthodox forms of abundance.  The rich records of the past, plus time to explore, yields unexpected inspirations.  . . . leisure leads to play and play to creation. . . ."

What a wonderful description of the creative process!  This was written by Edgar Kaufmann, Jr.  in 1964, in the introduction to the catalog for the 13th Milan Triennale and quoted in Beyond Craft.   It seems more relevant than ever today.  We have technology undreamed of in 1964 that makes possible all sorts of innovative textiles.  Weavers are inserting LED lights in fabric.  Quilters are designing and printing fabric digitally.  The Internet places art images from across the globe and throughout history at our fingertips.

For myself, while my own techniques remain mostly low-tech, the "rich records of the past" are a source of endless inspiration.  Looking at religious icons, old manuscripts, and ancient woven textiles allows me to connect with artists who have grappled with themes and content that is timeless.

Here's one last quotation for you to ponder.  Henri Matisse published some of his boldly colored paper cutouts in a book called called Jazz in 1947.  He quoted a musician in that book:
"In art, truth and reality begin when you no longer understand anything you do or know and there remains in you an energy, that much stronger for being balanced by opposition, compressed, condensed.  Then you must present it with the greatest humility, completely white, pure, candid, your brain seeming empty in the spiritual state of a communicant approaching the Lord's Table. 
You clearly must have all your accomplishments behind you, and have known how to keep your Instinct fresh."  
Matisse, cut-outs

Wow.  I'll be mulling that over for a long time.

I'd love to hear your thoughts about any or all of these quotations.  Share in the comments below.


  1. Must confess I didn't get much out of that last quotation. Maybe geniuses like Matisse think of their work as spiritual experiences but I think we journeyman artists seek to understand what we do and know. And I just don't get what it means to "have all your accomplishments behind you." Maybe I'm being too literal, or too crabby, but this one leaves me cold.

    The cutouts, on the other hand, are fabulous!! I particularly love the motif of the oak leaf (the black shape at the bottom of the left-hand panel); have been using that as a stitching motif for decades and it always works. I call it my "Matisse quilting."

  2. I will keep an eye out from now on for your Matisse leaf quilting!
    I agree that his quote--wish I knew which musician he was quoting--is a little opaque--I love mainly the very first part, perhaps because these days I am leaving behind what I know and playing with new techniques and ideas. As I'm sure you know he did the cutouts at the very end of his life; maybe that's what he meant about having his accomplishments behind him. Thanks for reading, Kathy.