Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Summer reading

Where I live it's really hot and humid--perfect weather for staying inside, making art and reading!  I want to share with you some books I've enjoyed since the start of the year.

I've dived deep into reading about tapestry.  For pure eye candy, you can't beat exhibition catalogs.

This is the catalog of the American Tapestry Alliance Biennial 11 2016, a juried show that just opened in South Bend, Indiana.  (The show will travel through April 2017 to Topeka, Kansas and San Jose, California). The catalog is beautifully produced with full-color images of each of the 36 pieces selected by juror Janet Koplos.  It is always good to see what one's fellow practitioners are doing, and for me it was inspiring to see intriguing imagery married to impeccable and, in some cases innovative, technique.  I also enjoyed reading each artist's statement.  You can learn more about the show HERE and order the catalog HERE.

Honoring Tradition, Inspiring Innovation:  the catalog of ATA's Small Tapestry International 4, a juried show dedicated to small format work (no more than 20" in any dimension).  The show, which also appeared in  three venues in 2015 and 2016, has closed.  Again, each piece is portrayed in full color and each artist's statement is included. I was excited by the ways in which many artists working small-scale have big ideas about pushing both the content and the technique of tapestry. Learn more HERE and order the catalog HERE.

I've also enjoyed reading about the lives and work of three contemporary tapestry weavers.

Nezhnie:  Weaver and Innovative Artist by Linda Rees.  This account of the life and work of tapestry artist Muriel Nezhnie Helfman (1934-2002) was fascinating to me.  Nezhnie managed to balance a career producing both commissioned tapestries, woven by herself and several assistant weavers, with doing her own pieces--and raising a family at the same time.  I especially enjoyed seeing how she handled portraits.  Nezhnie is best known for a series of tapestries she did about the Holocaust.  I found it absorbing to read about her technical explorations.  I found the book HERE.

Christine Laffer:  Tapestry and Transformation by Carole Greene.  Christine Laffer recounts her life and work in her own words.  She outlines her struggle to learn to weave tapestry as part of her fine arts studies in the U.S. and at an internship at the Gobelins workshop in France.  She describes the development of her work, which has included both large commissioned pieces and personal pieces. Laffer has worked both in traditional modes and incorporated tapestry techniques into mixed media and 3-D work.  Her thoughtful reflections about the art and social issues that have inspired her and her engagement with questions about the place of tapestry in art history and in contemporary art, are well worth reading. I found the book HERE.

Helena Hernmarck:  Tapestry Artist by Monica Boman and Patricia Malarcher.  Hernmarck is known for massive, so-called photorealistic pieces commissioned for specific architectural spaces. I've been curious about her work since seeing a small piece in a museum show years ago.  She has adapted the traditional weft-faced tapestry weave to create richly textured surfaces in which the warp plays an important role.  It was a pleasure to study the full-color detail photos of several works, to understand how images that read as detailed realism from a distance dissolve into colored pixels up close.  You can read more about her work and her methods in Rebecca Mezoff's post about a workshop Rebecca took with Helena HERE.  You can find the book HERE.  (Yikes!  The price has gone up since I ordered it!)

 I saw a show this spring at the Smithonian's National Museum of the American Indian about the work of Kay Walkingstick.  Since then I've also really enjoyed the catalog of that show.

Kay Walkingstick is a part-Cherokee painter whose work and career resonated with me.  It was easy for me to fall in love with her paintings, such as the one on the catalog cover above, which meld the southwestern landscape with patterns from Native beadwork and textiles.  But I also loved watching the evolution of her work from brightly colored pop-influenced images of the early 1970s, through richly textured abstractions, to her signature diptychs that pair realism and abstract symbolism.  She has not shied away from exploring her identity as a woman and as an Indian in her work.  The events of her personal life and her own spiritual search are also reflected.  She has worked occasionally in
3-D and in book formats as well.  (If you're in DC this summer I highly recommend the show-- the Museum itself is a must-see anyway, in my opinion.)  If you can't get to DC, the catalog is a real treat and can be found HERE.

Books like these are essential nourishment for this artist's soul.  Hope this review whets your appetite for some luscious art reading.  And let us know what you're reading these days!

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