Thursday, October 31, 2019

Lenore Tawney: Mirror of the Universe

In Utero 1985  mixed media  25 x 11.5 x 11.5 inches (chair only) Lenore Tawney
"...to seek a barer life, closer to reality, without all the things that clutter and fill our lives.  I left friends whose preconceptions of me held me to their image of me....The truest thing in my life is my work.  I want my life to be true.  Almost gave up my life for my work, seeking a life of the spirit."
 Lenore Tawney, 1967 journal entry
Installation of Lenore Tawney's weaving at John Michael Kohler Art Centre, Sheboygan Wisconsin.  On wall from left to right:  Dove 1974  linens  118 x 108 inches,  Waters Above the Firmament 1976 (small 36 x 36 " version),  In Fields of Light 1975 (orange) linens, 108 c 100.5 inches, Little Spring 1962 linen 48 x 23.5",  Tau, 1974  linen 80 x 108 inches, Hanging in foreground left to right are: The Megalithic Doorway, 1963 linen 204 x 28 inches, The Path, 1962 linen and gold, 90.5 x 24.5 inches, The Bride 1962 linen and feathers 138 x 15 inches, and in front of Tau is Untitled (Bird) 1963 linen, feathers
and wood 65 x 30 inches.
"When I was doing the woven forms, I was dancing with joy all the time.  They were so spontaneous, I didn't know what they were - they just kept going higher and higher.  I thought, No one will ever show these, they're too tall for a gallery.....so I'll keep going"      Lenore Tawney
Cloud Labyrinth 1983, canvas and linen 16 x 24 x 18 feet
An entire gallery at the John Michael Kohler is devoted to the monumental Cloud Labyrinth,  made when the artist was 76 years old.

"I sometimes think of my work as a breath"  LT

Thread can be woven into shields and cruciforms, it can also be, improbably and delicately, unwoven.  A cloud is a visible amassing of solid, liquid and gas, water at its most diffuse. The threads dance and vibrate, shifting the light, tickling the eye. The eye  follows the thread up like vapour invisibly evaporating into a cloud and then comes down, a string of droplets, back to earth.
 (wall text at JMK art centre)
cloud labyrinth 1983  detail
"It is impossible to describe the range of expression in this work.
 But it can be said that trembling and sensitive images are brought before our eyes even as we look, and also that deep, and sometimes dark and unrealizezd feelings, are stirred in us. 
There is penetration.
There is an urgency that sweeps us up, 
an originality and success that holds us in wonder.
This work is wholly done"         
Agnes Martin 
assemblages and collages made by lenore tawney, displayed at the John Michael Kohler art centre
"You have to forget time entirely, and live in eternal time"  Lenore Tawney

She was 50 when she moved to New York but looked young and passed for 30.
She let time be erased from her life story for a while.
Bach 1967  collage 12.5 x 11/5"
She operated without assistants until the very end of her life at age 100.
shelves with objects from Lenore Tawney's New York studio/home
'The weaving just grows and keeps coming.  It's all inside of me.
It was really thrilling.
I used to sing and dance all by myself there at night. 
Then I'd get up very early and work all day"
 Lenore Tawney
egg shells in a basket
Lenore Tawney's studio is now part of the unique permanent collection of artsts studio/homes that have been transformed into art environments at the John Michael Kohler Art Centre.  Until this year the studio's contents were in the care of the Lenore G Tawney foundation in New York.  Kathleen Nugent Mangan, one of Lenore Tawney's close friends is the director. 
objects from Lenore Tawney's studio
"My work is my pleasure.  It's my life, it's what I live for."       Lenore Tawney
cloud labyrinth detail
Lenore Tawney transcended any distinction between art and craft.
Her work is an important part of the visual language of 20th century art.
Lenore Tawney's studio detail

Lenore Tawney's believed that there is no division between art and life, and she created a quiet environment for art making, meditation, yoga, and focusing on the inner, deeply personal world.  Tawney is among the most impactful artists of the last half of the 20th century.  She dedicated herself to a devotional interdisplinary practice inufused with ideas of Buddhism, Zen philosophy, Jungian psychology, wanderlust and nature.  She believed that art making has the potential to usher in a lightness akin to a spiritual awakening.   (from the wall text at the Kohler Art Centre in Wisconsin)

'so new and personal that it does not have a name or classification'   (new york times  1963)

2 comments:

  1. thank you for introducing me to Louise Tawney ... wanting to know more, I turned to the public library in Austin and found this book, which I have put on reserve:

    Identity Unknown
    Rediscovering Seven American Women Artists

    and what wouldn't I give to return to Kohler, Wisconsin (a beautiful little town last visited a quarter century ago) ... the better to gaze at the assemblages especially

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  2. Daunting really, the magnetic quality of Lenore's art. The weaving and art we see here is masterful, and yet all, drawn of the inner spirit and self searching that led her forward every day of her life - alone and yet surrounded with a practice that brought her work from the innermost thoughts and hand laid artsmanship, to a place where her devoted fans will seek out the mystical, profound joy she created for all of us.

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