Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Objects not Pictures . . . or both?

I'm pretty busy lately getting ready to teach a new class here in Santa Fe:  "Collage to Cartoon. . . and Beyond!"  If that sounds familiar, it's because I have taught "Collage to Tapestry Cartoon" a number of times, but this class includes quite a bit of new information and a more in-depth approach.  After creating a bunch of collages with papers we design ourselves, we'll explore techniques including open warps, irregular edges, changeable setts, and using found objects.   The class is offered through the New Mexico Fiber Arts Center (formerly EVFAC) and will take place at Montezuma Lodge in Santa Fe, NM (not Española, NM as originally planned) March 20-22, 2020.  More information and registration can be found HERE.

And because this class is on my mind, this is on my design wall in my studio these days:

 It's a reminder that I want to move my tapestry work more toward being an object than a picture.

(Of course this motto conveniently ignores the fact that one of the series I'm working on right now is pictures of the native grasses and wildflowers in my part of the world.  There is an undeniable magic in weaving recognizable images from the natural world.  So many of us are inspired by nature and want to capture its beauty in our weaving.  Nothing wrong with that at all!)

Sunbelly, Molly Elkind, 2019. 8" x 8" Mixed fibers mounted on painted canvas

Little blue flowers, Molly Elkind, 2019.  24" x 12"  Linen, wool, matted.

Nevertheless.  Perhaps it's the influence of the Objects: Redux exhibit I've seen a few times now here in Santa Fe, a look at contemporary fine craft alongside some of the pieces and makers from the seminal Objects:  USA show of studio craft in 1969.  (I wrote about Objects: Redux HERE).  In this exhibit contemporary craft artists push and stretch the traditional materials and confines of their mediums in challenging and exciting ways.

Perhaps "objects not pictures" is just the natural evolution of my interest in translating the methods and effects of collage into tapestry.  I am increasingly interested in effects like texture and layers and open warps and irregular edges and non-woven elements such as stitch and found objects.

Fold, Molly Elkind, 2020.  7" x 7" Linen, wool. 

Mixed Message, Molly Elkind 2019.  16" x 14"
tapestry with handmade paper, mounted on linen on stretcher bars
Exploring and exploiting these possibilities has been really exciting.  It feels like the resulting pieces, the best of them, are things-in-themselves, objects with their own unique mystery and quiddity (what a great word!).  They are not pictures of something; they are something.  Sheila Hicks' astounding series of 1000 minimes has undoubtedly been a huge inspiration for me, showing the power of the weaver's mind and hands at work, asking questions and experimenting.

Cross Over, Sheila Hicks, 1968.  Wool.  8.25" x 5.5"
from Sheila Hicks Weaving as Metaphor,
ed. Nina Stritzler-Levine (New York:  Bard Graduate Center), 2006

I don't really know where this all will lead.  I'm thinking my next major exploration in this direction will be a woven version of this collage I did a couple years ago.*

Collage, Molly Elkind, 2018. 

I can't wait to see if I can reproduce those irregular edges and make some sort of exciting interpretation of the printed patterns on the paper!  If this sounds like fun to you too, join me in Santa Fe in a couple weeks and we'll see what we discover, using collage to stretch our understanding of tapestry.

*Back story:  I made the collage soon after we moved to New Mexico.  As I looked at it, it felt at odds with the environment I now found myself in.  In fact, my private title for it has been "Peachtree Boogie Woogie",  in a nod to the Mondrian painting evoking the traffic on Broadway in New York City.  My collage seemed to evoke the busy-ness and clamor of the Atlanta we had just left.  So I turned my attention to interpreting our new environment.