Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Woven, Crumpled, Suspended: Sheila Hicks

Unpublished photo by Cristobal Zanartu,
Cour de Rohan, Paris 2010. Photo courtesy of Sheila Hicks.

Sheila Hicks with her linen tapestry bas-relief
 for a California beach house.
(This is a detail from the photo, above)

A few weeks ago, I saw an ad in Art New England for the Hicks 50 Year Retrospective Show at the Addison, and the next day, I scurried up to see the show. You can read more about it on boston.com. The show is up in Andover until February 27, and then traveling to:

University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
March 25 - August 7, 2011

Charlotte, NC
October 1, 2011 - January 29, 2012

Dimanche; made in Paris, 1960
wrapped leather, linen, paper; 3 1/2 x 5 inches

Hicks was born in 1934 in Nebraska. From 1954 to 1959 studied at Yale University with Josef Albers and Rico Lebrun. She has lived in Paris and New York since 1960's.

Josef Albers, Homage to the Square

The show is wonderfully curated, with a range of work from small weaving studies to large scale suspended or piled work, some of her tools and sketchbooks, and video. Because photography isn't allowed, I  have to find images on the web and and give you some reference links and some images from the show. 

I found my voice and my footing in my small work. It enabled me to build bridges between art, design, architecture, and decorative arts.
                             — Sheila Hicks

This was the first time I had in-the-fiber exposure to Hicks' work. She is a pioneer in making objects and large scale (wow!) commissions of fiber and color. Hicks has worked all over the world, and has work in the permanent collections of museums such as the Museum of Modern Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, to name a few.

Prior to this, I just kept leafing through the Sheila Hicks: Weaving as a Metaphor book, (about which I recently posted). I have poured over images of her work in this book. Many of them are small-scale hand woven pieces that she did during the 1960's. Some images of her small works:

Ringlets, Made in Paris, 1993
Saint Louis Art Museum

1979,  9x6
Synthetic, metallic fiber, wool

Rue Des Marronniers, 1973
slit woven, wrapped, reversible

Roulade Amazon, 1965
6 3/4 x 3 1/2 in.
Printed paper reversible

crumpled, rolled pages from a natural history book,
a concept for larger works

Roulade 1965
7 x 3 1/2 in.
crushed, rolled and sewn
Printed paper reversible
planning for larger hanging forms

This piled piece is one of my favorites, in a room with a couple of other similar ones, but with different color palettes. They have such exciting material value! (the pic doesn't do justice...)

He/She 1967-68
Linen and silk, Dimensions variable.
Museum of Modern Art

The Silk Rainforest, about 1975

silk, linen, and cotton, Smithsonian American Art Museum

Kneeling Stones
silk, wool, linen and other fibers

Lianes Nantaises, 1973
linen, wool, silk, synthetic raffia
Musée Jean Lurcat

Baby Time Again, 1979
Private Collection

Here's the cover of 50 Year Retrospective catalogue, below—also a very nice book, but more traditional in design.

I had a tinge of sorrow while at this show. My dear lifelong friend and mentor, Birgit, would have loved to see this show. She died last August, at the age of 85.Throughout my lifetime, Birgit supported me and my work. She jumped into her car and drove 3 hours to my open studios up until she was 81. She was a nurse at the UN in NYC, also in Paris, and my mentor in so many ways. Later in her life she became interested in weaving and fiber. I really miss her. When she is was in her 50's she revisited weaving and for several years enjoyed her loom. This is post is dedicated to you Bibban, with love.

Birgit at the Eiffel Tower in the 50's

Bibban in the 60's

Lynette and Birgit, 2009

Here are some of Birgits' weavings. I think most of them were done in the 1970's and 80's. They look like wool and found objects, mostly...

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Artist Interview: Deborah Barlow—Boston

Artist Deborah Barlow

Lynette Haggard (LH): Can you share with my readers a little about yourself?
Deborah: I am a painter, culturally curious and a bit of a hermit in my work habits.

LH: Where did you grow up and what (if any) were there any early influences on your work?
Deborah: I spent my childhood in the western half of the U.S., born in Utah and then raised near San Francisco. Now I reside in Brookline, near Boston, with a studio in South Boston.
My cultural heritage did not encourage the visual arts, but it did place high value on hard work. That isn't trivial. I have spent my life grateful for that aspect of my inheritance.

20 x 50”
Mixed media on Stonehenge

detail from Cartoga (above)

LH: Did you receive any formal art training? If yes where and what did you major in?
Deborah: I studied art at a number of different colleges in Utah, France and California. I graduated from University of California at Santa Cruz with a double major in art and literature. Right after college I moved to Manhattan and ended up living there for 10 years.

LH: At what point in your life did you become interested in making art?
Deborah: I loved to make and to draw when I was a child. With 7 children, my mother kept us plied with unlimited paper and pencils. My favorite gift every Christmas was the big deluxe 64 color set of Crayola crayons. The names of the colors still delight me--maize, copper, goldenrod.

As is commonly the case, that form of expression went underground for me during adolescence, a time when illustrative skill becomes more valued. Representation was never my interest, so I shifted my focus during those years onto academic interests, like math and physics.

Kempie 5
10 x 10” (part of a 6 piece matrix)
Mixed media on wood panel

LH: Was there a certain point when you decided you were primarily an artist?
Deborah: As fate would have it, I took my first official art class as a freshman in college. It happened almost on a whim. But in the very first session, everything in my life realigned in an instant. I've never looked back.

16 x 16 inches
Mixed media on wood panel

LH: Can you describe bit about your work in general?
Deborah: Non-representational, non-political and non tethered to any particular tradition. But the final artifacts are definitely that age old form called paintings.

One young Irish lad who visited a show I had in Beara said to me, "I get what you are up to. You are painting the backside of everything." Good description! There is all that stuff you can't see but you know is there. That's what interests me most and why I find abstraction profoundly evocative.

My materials are constantly changing and range from acrylics, inks, powdered pigments, oils, cold wax, alkyds, metallics and paper to shaving cream and sand. I'll try incorporating just about anything.

LH: What is your current work about? 
Deborah: I'm not so good at analyzing what my work is embodying when I'm in the midst of it. I have better luck looking back on a body of work years later. I've always liked the advice from Louise Bourgeois--do your work, then put it in a warehouse in Long Island City for 20 years. Seems about right.

Barlow's studio at dawn

LH: What is your workspace like? 
Deborah: I've had the same studio for 12 years. It is an isolated spot that is wonderfully messy and where I feel completely at home. One half of my studio is a work space, the other is a gallery. My studio is in South Boston.

LH: Are you involved with any arts groups or communities? 

Deborah: I would have to say no to that question. I'm not a joiner, by nature. In fact I dodge anything that remotely resembles a gaggle of artists or a club.

LH: How do you develop a sense of community with other artists, and how do you support your art colleagues? 
Deborah: As a quasi-hermit, I maintain contact with a select passel of individuals, both in real life and online. I think we mutually inspire, support, provoke and accompany. But it happens mostly one on one and in an informal manner.

In/Out 48 x 54”
Mixed media on canvas

LH: Describe how you work in your studio. How do you get "in a groove" and what inspires you?

Deborah: I hope to be in the studio every day. When I arrive I usually spend some quiet time getting centered. One wise friend advised me to just think about getting comfortable in my skin. I like the simplicity of that thought.

Do you have any web links/site/blog etc. you'd like to share that show your work?

My website is www.deborahbarlow.com

Other work can be seen at:

Snap 1, 2 (diptych)
36 x 72"
Mixed media on wood panel

LH: Do you ever get stuck with your work and how do you remedy this?
Deborah: Of course I get stuck. It's an occupational hazard, and I expect it to happen periodically. I have gotten better at taking it in stride, however. It happens. It ends. It happens again. I go to the Stoic on that particular topic.
I wish I had a magic remedy to share, but I don't. Time. That's the only thing that seems to works for me.

LH: Do you have particular habits that you think support your art practice?
Deborah: I'm disciplined about putting the time in, whether things are going well or not. There is a steadiness to my practice, which I have come to believe is important for me.

LH: What are you reading right now?
Deborah: I read a lot, and I write about books and poetry on my blog, Slow Muse (slowmuse.wordpress.com). I usually read about 20 books at the same time. It's an extreme personal passion.

Recent favorites are: Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen; Night Train to Lisbon, by Pascal Mercier; Portraits of the Mind: Visualizing the Brain from Antiquity to the 21st Century, by Carl Schoonover; The Black Swan, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

Seo 3
24 x 48 inches
Mixed media on canvas

Do you have other jobs other than making art?
From time to time I do marketing consulting, primarily for start-ups.

LH: Where would you like to be in 5 years as far as your art making?
Deborah: My goals are simple: Make great art, and find those people who connect with what you do. I am deeply honored and grateful for every show and every sale that comes my way.

LH: Do you have any upcoming shows that you'd like to mention?
I am having two solo shows in 2011—at Zane Bennett Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico opening February 25, and at Lyman-Eyer Gallery in Provincetown Massachusetts opening June 24.

Thank-you, Deborah!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Good news, a few minutes of self promotion...

Last year I was invited to be an artist featured in a book being put together by Ashley Rooney. This morning I learned that the book is now available for pre-order on Amazon.com! I am pleased to note that I'm on the cover, as well as my colleague Ellen Rolli (who emailed me to say we are both cover girls).

photo from Amazon.com

This description is taken from the Amazon site:
One hundred artists have come together to share the distinctiveness of New England. Oil paintings, glass and metal sculptures, and works in wood offer a fresh look at this region's long, rolling hills and famous autumn colors. Learn histories of the art colonies, including Rockport-Gloucester and Provincetown, Massachusetts; Monhegan Island and Ogunquit, Maine; Old Lyme and Cos Cob, Connecticut; and North Conway, Cornish Colony, and MacDowell Colony, New Hampshire. A great resource for artists, collectors, and art dealers, as well as art historians.
About the Author 
E. Ashley Rooney has extensive writing background on various topics, including landscaping and architecture. She lives in Lexington, Massachusetts.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Peter Millett: Seattle Artist

Silver Girl, 2010
64 x 19 x 19  galvanized steel 

Lynette Haggard (LH): Peter, can you please tell us a little about yourself?
Peter Millett: This week I'm putting together a large steel sculpture. I've been working on the interior structure. I spend as much time figuring out what you won't see as what you will see.

I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, middle child of an architect father and a musician mother. We all grew up drawing on the backs of blue-prints,visiting buildings, listening to and playing music. In high school I enjoyed designing and making theater sets. After finishing RISD ( BFA sculpture 71 ) I traveled West and found myself in Seattle. I loved the water. The fishing was great and so were the blackberries. Space was really cheap and I really wanted to isolate myself and just have a lot of time to make artwork.

3, 4, 5
galvanized steel, 2010

LH:  Please describe a bit about your work and your studio practice.
Peter: I make sculpture in wood or metal from simple geometric shapes. This language allows me to render experiences I've had in a visual and tactile way. With form I search for the essence of the experience. In an abstracted way I can revisit places and reference objects. A curator once called my work “deconstructed architecture” I'm not sure what exactly that means, but I like the sounds of it. In some ways my work is like writing music, trying to evoke a feeling from a melody. I constantly rearrange shapes until I find some kind of surprise, something I never expected, some chord that resonates.

Best Laid Plans
38x40x6 steel 08

LH:  Can you tell us a bit about where how you work in your studio and any other artist community/support activities you're involved in?
Peter: We live in a great space designed by my brother Mark. Sherry has a studio upstairs. Mine is downstairs with a nice big garage door. Our son, Jacob works all over the place. I enjoy getting out for a little teaching. I like working with the people at the Frye Museum offering a series of drawing workshops responding to the exhibitions.

Carpet 20
11 x 66 x 48 steel

LH: What are your most recent projects, and/or shows?
Peter: After laying low in 2009, just finishing some projects, I opened a show this last July with Greg Kucera in Seattle. I showed work in wood, rusted steel, and some new pieces made of galvanized steel. In September I composed an exhibition for the Chiaroscuro Gallery  in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

72 x 28 x 12 steel 2008

Addendum: at the end of December, Peter sent me this paragraph to describe a job that he has part time, in addition to making art and teaching:

Court drawing by Peter Millett

This has been an interesting couple of months. I work as a freelance news artist for TV and the Associated Press. I do courtroom artwork when they won't allow cameras in the courtroom. You have to be quick and tell the story of what goes on in the courtroom. I don't work often, but it is always interesting and I get a birds eye view of what's happening in the federal courts. I covered the “don't ask don't tell” reinstatement of Major Margaret Witt into the Air Force. This led to the congressional action to repeal the policy. I was there for the arraignment of the so called “Barefoot Bandit” Colton Harris Moore, the bad boy feral child from Camano Island. He was a big deal out here. The most intense and tragic stories this last November have been the court-martial hearings down at Fort Lewis. These are investigations into war crimes that have been committed in Afghanistan by U.S. Soldiers based here . They are holding these young 20 year olds responsible for the crimes of the last administration. I can get all wound up seeing how the news, and the law, and the government work together. Perhaps my studio work is a sanctuary from what I witness in the courts. 

To see a picture of Peter sharing a court photo with the press, click here.

Thank you Peter!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Sheila Hicks (Part One):
The World's Most Beautiful Book

Early in 2010, my studiomate brought a book into the studio and left it on his desk. OK I admit it, when he's not there, I read his books. But Dan doesn't mind. I couldn't stop reaching for Sheila Hicks, Weaving as a Metaphor. Though I had NEVER before heard of this woman artist (now 73 years old), I was in love with her work of small weavings and the book that was designed by Dutch designer Irma Boom.

The thing is, this book has a very white and beautifully textured cover. What would I tell Dan if my coffee or paint prints landed on the cover? There would be no hiding it. I finally ordered a copy for myself. I'm a book user, though I try to take care of them— I'm not going to go nuts if  it gets a little used. But what could be more ridiculous than me in my studio slurping my coffee over a white book.

My very own Hicks book...

This book feels good, it's a nice and not standard size. It's got presence. The imagery is vibrant. The photos of Hicks' weaving are perfect. The paper and typography are lovely. I was new to Sheila Hicks' work and her sense of color and balance are wonderful. Not only that, but in my "outside the studio" world, I design science textbooks. And I do love books. 

the title page typography

some examples of the work as I thumb through

Here's a photo from a design site stepinsidedesign.com showing the book and interior together.

It turns out that this book WAS actually voted The Most Beautiful Book In the World at the Leipzig Book Fair in 2006. Here is a video interview with the designer Irma Boom.

Stay tuned for Part 2: my take on the Hicks Retrospective Show at Addison Gallery Museum of Art.

[for anyone interested in purchasing the book, here's the info]
editor: Nina Stritzler-Levine
text: Arthur C. Danto, Joan Simon

designer: Irma Boom
publisher: Yale University Press
publication date: August 2006
isbn: 9780300116854
This book has been published as the catalogue
of the exibition'Sheila Hicks: Weaving as Metaphor'
at The Bard Graduate Center for Studies in
the Decorative Arts, Design, and Culture, 2006.