|Debra Dean's book is available HERE.|
Since this is a blog about art, craft, and tapestry, I will not dwell here on Yoors's unconventional family life. Suffice it to say that all three saw themselves and their three-way marriage as ahead of their time, and that both women later invited still other women into the household. The women's personal lives were entirely subordinated to their desire to support Jan Yoors's work in every way possible. For years they all scraped by in straitened circumstances, plowing every bit of cash back into the tapestry workshop.
|Jan Yoors, Tantra III tapestry, no date or dimensions given|
See more work HERE
"an uncommissioned tapestry represented a high-stakes gamble. It was probably no mystery why the Yoors were among the very few practitioners and were unique in opting to work on such a large scale: weaving monumentally sized tapestries hadn't made any kid of economic sense since the days of feudal princes and peasants. Nowadays it was hard to come by artisans like Marianne and Annabert, who were willing to work for nothing or next to it. On the other side of the equation, there were precious few patrons left who had both the wherewithal and the independent judgment to shell out large sums for something that couldn't readily be quantified." (pp. 184-85)Well. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
While Yoors's early work was figurative, the tapestries for which he is best known are mural sized graphic abstractions like the one pictured above. In a discussion of the prominence of Abstract Expressionism in 1950s New York, Dean shares Robert Motherwell's definition of what Ab Ex is not:
"'I allow no nostalgia, no sentimentalism, no propaganda, no selling out the vulgar, no autobiography, no violation of the nature of the canvas as a flat surface, no cliches, no illusionism, no description, no seduction, no charm, no relaxation, no mere taste, no obviousness, no coldness.'" (p. 166)Yes, Motherwell is rebelling here against the artists and movements who came before him. But it strikes me that this could be a bracing description of what contemporary tapestry, and my own work, should strive for. This quotation may have to go up on my studio wall. I do wonder, if art should exclude all these things, what should it include?
Tapestry artist Elizabeth Buckley has written a thoughtful review of Dean's book and I urge you to read it. She helpfully places the Yoors workshop in the wider historical context of the twentieth-century revival of tapestry weaving. Buckley does call Dean out for upholding the old prejudice against "low-warp" tapestry, woven on a horizontal loom. I will not belabor the point but I do agree with Elizabeth's discussion of the issue.
Near the end of the book, Dean gets exactly right, in my view, what constitutes success in the arts:
"This is the compact the artist makes with the universe: to create with no guarantee of remuneration, and yet to live always in expectation and hope. It requires nerve, faith, perseverance, and above all the ability to survive disappointment. . . .
Success, ultimately, is staying in the game." (pp. 234-35).I do urge you to get your hands on a copy of Hidden Tapestry. It's a great read, and if you are a weaver, it is thought-provoking and informative. Now, I'm back to the game.