Monday, May 5, 2014

Dorothy Caldwell

Flying Over Salt Lakes,
stitching on cotton with earth ochre, approximately 13" x 16",  2013
Dorothy Caldwell has become an icon for textile artists, exhibiting and teaching around the world.  We Canadians claim her as our own, as she has lived in Ontario since the mid seventies, relocating here from the USA.   The images in this post are of Dorothy Caldwell's latest exhibition, Silent Ice, Deep Patience, installed in the Art Gallery of Peterborough March 21 until June 22, 2014.
Left: Map Without Words
9 feet, 4 inches, x 8 feet, 5 inches, Right: Silent Ice/Deep Patience, 23" x 23". both 2013
Upon entering, the viewer descends a long ramp towards the main exhibition space, welcomed by five small paintings made with hand stitch and earth ochres (see top photo) on the ramp's wall.  Then, through an opening in that wall, the two pieces shown above beckon.  Large scale, empty space, intimate marks.   We are in Caldwell country.
Wandering Time,
approximately 24" x 18", wax and silkscreen resist on cotton with stitching, 2011
In many of her pieces, Caldwell lines up coloured patches along edges.  She draws our eye up to the sky, then over to the west and the east, and then brings it back to the centre.  Line drawings are couched onto the surfaces, like trails.  Archetypal vessel shapes resonate.
wandering time, 2011, detail
Dorothy Caldwell's stitches recall the random repetition of the small marks we are familiar with in nature. Leaves fluttering in the wind, ripples in the water.  Some large, some small, some linear, some a splotch, some widely spaced, others packed together.  Footprints on a beach.
wandering time,  2011, detail

"My work is an ongoing investigation of the meaning of place.  I investigate how  humans mark and shape the land and how those human marks interact with the natural geology."  Dorothy Caldwell
Map Without Words,
wax and silk screen resist on cotton, stitching, applique, 9'4" x 8'5", 2013
We often meet in the centre in Dorothy Caldwell's world.  Four corners, four patch, grids, crosses, grid the large unknown to make sense of it. There is order within chaos here.  Human geography.  

This body of work is the result of the artist's travels to the Australian Outback and the Canadian Arctic. Interested for decades in how humans mark the land, (previous exhibitions Field Notes (1998) and Ground Cover (2000) this current exploration of wilderness landscapes is a continuation for the artist.  
Map without Words, detail
Dorothy Caldwell uses cloth as a vehicle to translate her observations because cloth is like the land. Cloth reacts as land does to human intervention.  Simple actions like wearing, mending, stitching and patching make marks on cloth just as farming, road building, and daily walks mark the earth.
A Red Hill, A Green Hill,
 ink wash, earth ochre on cotton with stitching and applique, 9'4" x 9'8" 2012
In the large scale tactile painting shown above, Caldwell applied ink wash and earth pigments to the cloth as a change from her usual resisted dye or discharge methods.   Thoughtfulness is evident.  The aesthetics of time and touch, evident.
A Red Hill, A Green Hill, detail
Small patches and marks that drift into atmospheric hazes when seen at a distance, are unique and very real human habitations upon close inspection.  The big thread used in the waves of rugged stitching along the lower quarter of this wall piece was rubbed with earth and connects with the viewer on many levels.
A Red Hill, A Green Hill , detail
"I am intrigued by maps and by the organization of land through patterns of settlement and agriculture.  I have come to see the dichotomy between conventional mapping that identifies intimate landmarks and simplifies them into abstract shapes and textures."  Dorothy Caldwell
How Do We Know When It Is Night?
wax and silkscreen resist on cotton, stitch and applique, 10 feet by 9 feet 6 inches, 2010
Little patches along each edge and down the centre,
bowls drawn as if with a giant pencil,
duality, in and out
How Do We Know It' Night?  detail
"Caldwell tells students that what an artist needs to learn more than anything is how to make time for their art"  Ann Jaeger
How Do We Know It's Night?  Detail
Caldwell's large pieces have balance, stillness
They cause us to think beyond the gallery
about the vastness of nature and how nature has its own system.
The larger seasonal cycles, the many small parts within vastness.
That human marks are revealed by time and accumulation,
then erased by wind, eroded by water, hazed over by weather.
Stain of earth, footprint of man, animal tracks through the forest,
like poetry, these things occur one by one and resonate with personal experiences that don't always have anything to do with land, more with relationships.
wax and silkscreen resist on cotton,stitching, applique,  8'9" x 8'0", 2014
The artist's most recent large work returns to her preferred methods of marking large pieces of cloth with resist techniques.  The subtle grid of the ground, a new linear shape, and the painted squares and crescents dotting the interior are atmospheric.

"Maps give a viewpoint of the land filtered through what is important to the mapmaker.  I am mapping unfamiliar territory, identifying my personal landmarks through gathering, touching and recording the contents of the landscape.  In this way I form a sense of place for myself."  Dorothy Caldwell
Signs, detail
This post is about the large scale work but there are also many small pieces exhibited as well as an entire room devoted to the artist's collections of shells, lichens, bones, rusty wires, journal pages, iron nails, and her many books of marks and collected earth pigments.  How the artist works with the land to make these 'maps' deserves its own write up.  The video of Dorothy Caldwell (click here) perhaps fills the gap.

Other internet sources for this artist:
Ann Jaeger's informative review of Caldwell;s life and work on trout and plaid online journal,
Barbara Lee Smith's curated exhibition catalog Traces ,
as well as Caldwell's own website and the CCCA artist profile .

The Dorothy Caldwell quotes in this post are from her statement found in Barbara Lee Smith's essay in the Traces catalog.  All photos are from the exhibition and are by Judy Martin with permission from Dorothy Caldwell.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Chiyoko Tanaka

red stripe #262 1988  24 x 18 cm, hand woven ramie, linen, silk, rubbed with brick
"Many of my pieces, once woven by hand, are laid down outdoors on the ground or on a rock.  I then rub them carefully with a stone or brick.  I want to touch the earth through this process, to trace the texture of the ground".  Chiyoko Tanaka

 upper: six squares, indigo blue, W #306 1994  lower: six squares, indigo blue, RF #305 1994
Chiyoko Tanaka, born 1941 Kyoto Japan, is a weaver who thinks about her work philosophically, comparing it to the human condition.   British curator, Lesley Millar's, essay about Tanaka is included in the Telos portfolio about the artist and informs this post.  The images of Tanaka's work are from that portfolio and from Art Textiles of the World Japan also published by Telos.  
six squares indigo blue W #306 detail
Chiyoko Tanaka uses linen, silk, and ramie threads.  She lays out a long warp which gradually disappears during the weaving process, covered by the weft.

Trace of a Leaf #151 1988

She considers the vertical warp threads to represent time and the horizontal weft threads to represent space.
The crossing points of warp and weft physically disappear from view, but continue to exist as integral to the fabric.  The accumulation of the weft threads represents time passing.  When she weaves, she thinks about the process as one of transformation.
Trace of a Leaf #151 detail

By grinding her newly woven cloth with earth, she exposes that original warp.  She unveils the essence of the fabric. "I feel that my woven work is about time and the human condition."  Chiyoko Tanaka
red stripes on white stripes #646 and #647. both 1985
Sometimes, instead of grinding her finished fabrics, she permeates them with mud or oil.  Tanaka distresses her fabrics, as if they were human beings going through a life time of both happy days and days filled with hard ships.
Trace of White Line #641 above, White Line #642 below, both 1985
"I want to see a spirituality behind a piece of my work."  Chiyoko Tanaka
Black Stains on Deep Green Stripes #52 1990
Tanaka uses bricks of clay from different parts of the world.  The brick is rubbed into the back of the fabric until it changes colour and at the same time, the face of the material takes on the patina of the ground.
It's like a performance. 
Three Squares, Blue Threads, Sienna #281 1997
The structural integrity of the warp and weft is revealed.   We can see time passing with the erosion of materials, but it is all done in the present moment. 
Three Squares, Blue Threads and Gray, #671 1997
Tanaka's work makes us aware of time passing, "neither looking for death, nor denying it, but accepting its place in the cycle of renewal"  Lesley Millar
left: red earthy clay #200 1985, right: permeated black #400 1986
Chiyoko Tanaka has an intimacy with nature.  She lives on the outskirts of Kyoto, close to natural space.  She has an awareness of the tempo of the natural world and this is the basis of her work.
Permeated Black #400  1986
When mud is used as a dye, it is left for a period of time so that it can 'permeate' the cloth.  Time is one of Tanaka's most important materials.
wall:  Blue #100-2 1983,  floor:  White, B #100-1 2983
What are you weaving, Chiyoko?
"I am weaving time"
 white mud cross, red thread #652 1992 19 x 19 cm hand woven ramie
"At the still point of the turning world.
...neither from nor towards.
At the still point, there the dance is."  T S Eliot

Chiyoko Tanaka was profiled in 2003 on Culturebase and again in 2010 by Kate Barber who visited her. 

mud dots on brown stripes #742, hand woven linen, ramie, dyed with mud  2009
She is represented by Brown Grotta  source of the above image.  (the most recent I could find)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Agnes Martin

Agnes Martin's  Innocent Love 1999 acrylic on canvas series at the Dia Beacon, New York.  There are eight paintings in this series, four on each wall.  All are 60 inches square.

Q:  How do you start a painting?
A:  "I wait for inspiration.
I ask my mind - What am I going to paint next? and it appears in my mind.  My inspirations are in colour. "

She uses mathematics to decide the scale and relation of the colours.  She draws lines with a small ruler because a big ruler pushes the canvas down.
Happiness.  Innocent Love series 1999


"For twenty years I was not satisfied with my paintings and at the end of every year I had a big fire. "

Love:  Innocent Love series 1999

Waiting for inspiration.

"I was thinking of innocence, and a grid came into my mind, and so I painted it.  6 feet by 6 feet and I liked it.  It looked like innocence.  And I asked the museum of Modern Art if they wanted it and they did."

Contentment: Innocent Love series 1999

"Sometimes I take a year off so I'll know something,
because when you're painting, you just get up and do it.
You don't know it."
Innocent Love series seen through opening,  on the facing wall is The Spring, 1958. 48" square
"Artists are very fortunate.  Other working people have to talk to people all day.
You just can't be an artist if you can't be alone.
When you're alone, you are affected by everything. 
The sky, nature..   You respond."
Untitled #16, 2002.  The thin paint allows the roughness of the gesso undercoating to be more evident.
"It's not really about nature.  It's about what is known forever in the mind.

The environment doesn't have impact on my work.  I don't paint nature."

untitled 1959, 30 inches square

"When I draw horizontals  - it's expanding

I like the horizontal line better than any other.  It's not related to landscape.
It goes out.
When you look at the painting you go in over the horizontal line.

It's like music.
Some musicians compose music about music.
Beethoven composed music about experience.
It has meaning.
Painters can paint about painting, but my painting is about meaning.
I use that horizontal line to get meaning."
left:  untitled 70", 1960 oil, painted when the artist was 48,  right: untitled #17,2002, acrylic, painted at 90 years


"They were non subjective.
No emotions were in the work.
Minimalists tried to be not there. 
They wouldn't put their names under the paintings.
They said to write their names with a number.
People call me a minimalist, but I'm not.
I'm an abstract expressionist.
I sign my name on the back."

The Beach, 6 foot square pencil on white Gesso painting from 1964 - detail. 

Empty mind

"The intellect struggles with facts.
Keep discovering facts, then make a deduction.
But this is just guess work, inadequate.
You won't find out about life.

I gave up facts in order to have an empty mind.
You have to practice an empty mind.
I gave up being intellectual.
I don't have ideas.

I'm convinced that with a soft attitude you receive more."

Agnes Martin (1912 - 2004) quotes from Mary Lance's documentary With My Back To The World. 
Images are of Agnes Martin's 2012 installation at the Dia: Beacon.  
Another excellent interview with Agnes Martin (1997) is here.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Lisa di Quinzio

Left: Wool, Silk and Thread 2010, wool blankets, silk threads, nails, woven, 91 inches diameter
Right: Good Morning Midnight, 2010, burlap, dye, twine, nails, woven, 91 inches diameter

Installed together in the Quiet Zone exhibition, World of Threads festival, November 2012.

They are different from each other.
They are the same as each other.
They are opposite colours.
They are both neutrals..
detail of wool, silk and thread

"My work usually holds some element of gesture"
 detail of good morning midnight

"I think art should demonstrate the immediate on some level."
 Misty Shapes, burlap, dye, thread, glue, 45" diameter

" I am inspired by literature"

Lisa speaks of the clown as an underlying theme for much of her work.  She says that clowns are about our own self consciousness.  They are both foolish and wise,  aggressive and passive.
 Ruff, cotton, dirt, thread, 45" diameter

How does the repeated use of the circle in Lisa di Quinzio's textile work connect to her concerns about immediacy, gesture and the dualities personified in clowns?
 Pussy Willow, pussy willows, thread, pins 25" diameter

Jung  thought of the circle as an archetype of the psyche and  the square as an archetype of the body.
Pussy willow detail

Note that Lisa's circles are not set within squares but are pinned directly to the wall.  The unprotected and solitary large circles exude a kind of  strength.
Dummies, 67" h, cotton, foam and wire by Lisa di Quinzio

aggression and passivity 
wise and foolish
white and black
archetypal form
dualities in  life
Spill, jute with metal base, 1985 by Claire Zeisler, (1903 - 1981)

Lisa di Quinzio sites Claire Ziesler (above) as an  influence. More images of  Zeisler's are here.
All quotes and many of the images in this post are from the World of Threads interview with the artist.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

John Paul Morabito

tonal warp stripe, 2010, linen, ramie, weaving, burning, 96" x 27"  see artist's website, john paul morabito
 "Of late my work has concerned itself with the actions of hand weaving and systematic burning. The process of weaving cloth by hand and then repeatedly burning it is an act of creation juxtaposed with an act of destruction. This sacrifice of cloth woven by my own hands is not a violent act. It is rather a quiet meditation.   
tonal warp stripe, 2010
 The holes are not burned quickly with ravaging flames. Instead each hole is made individually and slowly to create a contemplation of each moment that has been burnt away."  John Paul Morabito
Plain weave with stripes, 2009, see artist's website
John Paul Morabito turns 30 years in 2012.  He is a MFA candidate (2013)  in fibre and material studies at the school of the art institute of Chicago. 
plain weave with stripes, detail 2009
The patterns of dots on the neutrally coloured hand woven grounds are intriguing. On some pieces they seem like a natural kind of dis-colouring, like mold or insect holes.   On other pieces, they are measured and precisely placed.  But however beautiful they are, these marks are definitely not decoration.  There is a depth in this work that hits you in the heart.   
 "Perhaps left over from when we first realized our mortality, we have built into us a yearning for all things impermanent. To be human is not only to create but also to destroy. Called Thanatos, the death drive draws us to the end. I find myself in some ways ruled by Thanatos.
There is a need to make and a need to destroy, neither can be ignored. "     John Paul Morabito
strip construction, 2010  silk, rayon, handwoven, burned 33 x 69.  image from fibrearts magazine spring 2011
 Psychologists tell us that it is all part of the creative process.  It is necessary that we destroy what we have created in order to re-create. This is natural.  Creation and destruction and re-creation.  It is how change happens

But this young man isn't going so far.  He creates in order to destroy and stops there.  He says: " Humanness lies in the failure. The work then becomes a quiescent space of penance and finally acceptance."

It is compelling to think about this.  My body thinks about it. 
burned textile, detail of strip construction, 2010
John Paul Morabito's  work has been part of two most recent fiber art internationals that are held in Pittsburgh every two years.  In one of the final fiberarts magazines (spring 2011) he was featured in the emerging artist showcase.
Warp Faced Plain Weave, 2009, cotton, linen paper, weaving, burning, 55" x 47"  from Fiberart international 2010 catalog
 Drawn by the simple beauty of the marks, I respond emotionally to the slow, determined method the artist used to create them, one by one.  It is then that the philosophical ideas inherent in those marks work their way into my head.   It's all about human mortality.  This work is calm acceptance of that undeniable fact.  
After Penelope 2011
In After Penelope, the artist deconstructs an industrially woven textile with the idea of reconstructing it.  This is a switch from his earlier burned pieces.  The destruction happens first, then the idea of re-creation.  Is the artist becoming more positive with his meditations?

No.  John Paul Morabito abandoned this project.  See more images on his website.

"I work in repetition. Finding inspiration in the devotional mindsets of religion and masochism I undertake monumental tasks often impossible to complete. Simple, seemingly useless actions are repeated to the point of absurdity and stopped only when the possibility of going on without end is suggested. The work is concerned with the impossibility of eternity."