Friday, October 03, 2014

Re-Dressing a Wall.

Close up detail, photo by Joe Lewis
September 18-October 5 2014
Craft Ontario
990 Queen Street West
Toronto Ontario 
Opening reception: Thursday September 18 2014 6-9pm.

With a plethora of shapes and a multiplicity of colour and textures, Fate, Destiny and Self Determination spreads itself across the wall of Craft Ontario’s gallery space in a riotous constellation. Aesthetically exciting and intellectually inviting, this project is a celebration of tapestry weaving and its history, interpreted through the hands of many, using many techniques. Felted, knitted, crocheted, woven and mixed-media pieces from fibre enthusiasts from more the 22 countries are featured in this community creation, conceived of and executed by Canadian tapestry artist, weaver and educator Line Dufour.  

Although Fate, Destiny And Self Determination as a title speaks to many things in life, in this case, the focus is on tapestry as medium of expression, and its history and development as a decorative technique.  Despite the philosophical interpretation of the title, pessimism or optimism, the individual’s ability to exist with in a master plan, that regardless of individual self has already accommodated your difference, not unlike a “factory” produced tapestry built on an artist cartoon, there is an over all cohesion of structure provided by the technique itself. The technique of tapestry is to use the weft threads (compacted to hide the warp threads) to create an image on the surface/ front of a piece of cloth. You are born, you breathe, time passes and you die, what philosophy you chose the end result is the same. Some may find that a pessimistic outlook that disallows the individual’s choice to have any influence on the outcome, the “deity” / designer / structure holding the whole in place unalterable, others may have an optimistic security in knowing/ believing there is a structure that will bare the weight of their existence. Either way there is a beginning (anchor 1), a middle and an end (anchor 2) and in the case of the “Fate, Destiny And Self Determination: Tapestry Project, I can quote Gertrude Stein and say “but not necessarily in that order.”      

Line Dufour, from her base of operations the Toronto Weavers School, brought this project about through what I see as five separate components: the cartoon, the segmenting and distribution of those segments, the bringing together of these dispersed elements, and the mounting / design of the exhibition itself. The fifth component, or possibly the first, is the entire process being documented in a journal of sorts, which exists online in numerous postings on Tapestry Blog. You can see the individual shapes along with the creation of the two anchors.

The creation of these anchors speaks of a period of European tapestry production dating back to the Middle Ages, when tapestry manufacturing produced large scale pictorial wall hangings rather than small decorative works, rugs, or elements on garments. With many individuals working side by side across the warp, making a single Tapestry hanging, the uniformity of the whole piece was the goal along with a low price point in a growing and competitive market place. Individual skill and creative imagination were not the point, speed and accuracy were.  These types of “wall hangings” inform our collective knowledge of what a tapestry is, but have shifted from the position of dominance they held over painting as an art form, which prior to and  through the renaissance was a decorative face to a wall or furnishing, not a portable flat canvas or board that we associate with painting. While a portable painting from this period may be thought of as a finished product today, then it was only the sketch from which a scaled up cartoon was made in order to create the tapestry which was the end result of choice, since   hanging a textile based upon a painted image had been a less expensive way to decorate if you could not afford a fresco. Frescoes came along, (replacing hung textiles which provided a form of much needed insulation as well as décor), as a marker of permanence and power, but lost ground to tapestry as a marker of wealth along with power. The imagery was predominately narrative, whether mythical, religious or depicting actual events such as specific battles, and spoke to the shoppers/ clients/ patron’s ego, not the makers, and as in earlier frescos and latter painting, the client’s likeness was often incorporated into a dominant figure in the tapestry. This type of many-handed “manufacturing” had been ongoing since the renaissance, with the same “commemorative” function, however, by the mid-Victorian era, the gain of a secondary market of collectors, along with commissioning patrons, allowed for the shift of tapestry into the merely “decorative” market rather than its previous dominance of the pre-fine art European marketplace.

The individual submitted shapes mark the post world war two Studio Craft movement which for tapestry weavers began earlier in the 20th century when a combination of trends in modern architecture, construction materials and the newly invented job of interior designer made renaissance tapestry blasé (not to mention  too large for smaller domestic space the rich came to inhabit).  While the tapestry factories, which had become fewer, continued to shut down, the encouragement for individual experimentation and weavers to work independently with their own designs came to dominance in design schools in Europe, most notably, the Bauhaus. At this time, architects of featureless cement and steel buildings (the form over function world) called for tapestry to add warmth/ colour and deaden sound in their creations, whether large scale corporate lobbies or stark individual homes or apartments.  Tapestry weavers moved out of the factory and into their own studios, and after WW2 entered the Art versus Craft world, which was a location they had not previously inhabited, being that Tapestry had been located in its own territory for nearly five centuries as handmade decorative objects and as status symbols. Tapestries were one of the few fibre based products that had not been changed or mechanized by the industrial revolution, yet they proved to be inspiration for the assembly line.

In Fate, Destiny and Self Determination, the right and left sides of the cartoon, which are the full height of the cartoon, were worked on as complete pieces, by many individuals who were students of the Toronto Weavers School, along with invited guests and people who just dropped in.  I, myself, dropped in twice: once by myself, and once to bring California based fibre artist Valentyna Royenko Simpson, whom I had met at the European Textile Network’s 2011 symposium in Kaunas Lithuania during the Kaunas Textile Biennial, who was visiting Toronto and I was showing her around.  The rest of the “shapes” were sent to individual textile artist, weavers, knitters, felt makers etc. from across the planet, which were invited or responded to a call to participate.

While choosing to remain independent of the industrial world, the current users of this technique dedicate their individual imagination and creative energy to making unique and individual objects.  The restriction of shape (but not size) for this project has produced results ranging from definitive expression of their practice and/or bold leaps in experimentation from the tapestry weaving to very interesting creations in other fibre based manipulations.

With the installation of this concept and its components across the gallery wall Line Dufour present a first sighting of a work in progress. Seeing this seductive community tapestry live has been a breath taking experience. Craft Ontario needs to be thanked for choosing to allow this project to come to life on their wall, To Line Dufour for proceeding from concept onward and to all those who participated to make this object into the event it became.

The installation of this concept and its components streak across the gallery wall creating a universe of colour and texture it succeeds

Links related to this story

Line Dufour: Tapestry Line Unlimited
Tapestry Line Blog
 Toronto Weaving School at

Craft Ontario

Canadian Tapestry Network
American Tapestry Alliance

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Everything old is new: Textiles on the Cutting Edge of Time

Ying Gao, Science is Fiction, 2013, silver- coated medical cotton. Photo: Dominique Lafond Image provided by Textile Museum of Canada  (TMC) used with permission

Fashioning the Intangible: the conceptual clothing of Ying Gao
May 7, 2014 - September 1, 2014
The Eternity Code: Archaeology, Textiles and Preservation
June 11, 2014 - September 21, 2014
Curators: Shauna McCabe, Executive Director Natalia Nekrassova,Curator, Collections and Research, Roxane Shaughnessy, Curator, Collections and Access and Sarah Quinton, Curatorial Director
Textile Museum of Canada
55 Centre Avenue, Toronto Ontario
Cairo Under Wraps: Early Islamic Textiles
June 21, 2014 to January 25, 2015
Curators: Anu Liivandi, Assistant Curator (Textiles & Fashions), Karin Ruehrdanz, Senior Curator (Islamic Decorative Arts), Lisa Golombek,Curator Emeritus (Islamic Art) Retired
Patricia Harris Gallery of Textiles & Costume, Level 4
Royal Ontario Museum
100 Queen's Park, Toronto, Ontario
Reiko Sudo + NUNO, Textiles from Japan
July 11 to November 22, 2014
Curator: Alan Elder of the Canadian Museum of History
Norah Rosamond Hughes Gallery
Mississippi Valley Textile Museum
3, Rosamond St. E. Almonte, Ontario

Mantel panel fragment with figures wearing hats and tunics, Peru, 1350 to 1540 CE, cotton and camelid hair, T2005.17.7. Gift of Pascal Muzard and Nieves Carrasco, Image provided by TMC used with permission

Eternity Code: The Eternity Code: Archaeology, Textiles and Preservation, an exhibition at the Textile Museum of Canada in Toronto, beings with a time line. The following findings date to the pre-Christian era of archaeological time:

-30,000 BCE Oldest evidence of textile fibres, discovered in Dzudzuana Cave, Georgia. (*a)

-27,000 BCE, Earliest evidence of woven textiles, found on clay figurines at Dolni Vestonice, Czech Republic.

-8,600-800 BCE Plant fibre basketry in practice, discovered in Guitarrero Cave in the Andes.

-3000 BCE Date of earliest complete garment found anywhere in the world, an Egyptian Linen Shirt.

-3000 BCE Evidence of domestication of fleece-bearing camelids (Llamas and alpacas) in highland Peru.

-1500 BCE earliest evidence of wool in Europe, recovered from Danish bog burial.

 - 400 BCE Every weaving technique is present in pre-Hispanic Peru.

 Eventually it brings us up to modern day with:
-2013 CE Discovery of the first unlooted imperial tomb of the Wari civilization that build South America’s earliest empire.

During the summer of 2014 in Ontario. there is an opportunity to see some of the oldest textiles in Museum collections in Canada and some of the most cutting edge industrially manufactured textiles. Along with The Eternity Code: Archaeology, Textiles and Preservation at the Textile Museum, there is: Cairo Under Wraps: Early Islamic Textiles at The Royal Ontario Museum. You can see the innovative cutting edge fashion textiles in Reiko Sudo + NUNO, Textiles from Japan at the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum in Almonte Ontario, and medical textiles in Fashioning the Intangible: the conceptual clothing of Ying Gao at the Textile Museum of Canada.

TMC: Fashioning the Intangible: the conceptual clothing of Ying Gao, installation shot, 2014. Photo: Jill Kitchener Image provided by TMC used with permission
While few of older textile fragments are ever shown en mass because of conservation necessities, they are a valuable research asset to the institutions that house them. Exhibiting older textiles along with contemporary fibre art and design is often used to add context or show inspiration/ influences on the contemporary work. In this case these four exhibitions in the three different institutions are independent of each other and have four different curatorial frameworks. For me to write about them for a reader who may not have the opportunity to see the exhibitions, I need to find a connection beyond the obvious one of textiles. The connection in this case is the use of metallic - not because they are omnipresent throughout - but they provide a route into the relationships and approaches to industrial R&D, technical production and the science of fibre behaviour. I have seen three of the four exhibitions. I have not seen the Reiko Sudo exhibition in Almonte yet; however, I have seen an exhibition of this work at the Kuneo Textile Biennial in Kaunas, Lithuania, in 2011, and I have just received the exhibition catalogue the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum produced to accompany the exhibition and it is work of NUNO studio that made metallics the starting point for this essay.

Naomi Polllock, an American architect, lives in Tokyo where she writes about design. In her essay, “A Short History of NUNO,” about the early training of NUNO founder Junichi Arai, she comments:

“The scion of a long line of textile producers, Arai hails from Kiryu, a historic textile manufacturing town northwest of Tokyo, where his family has lived and worked for generations. Although Aria toyed with a career in theatre, he remained home and entered the family mill. There he learned the nuts and bolts side of the industry and oversaw the production of cloth for both Western- and Japanese-style garments. This included a local version of Lame made by wrapping silk yarn with gold or silver threads- the birth of Aria's fascination with metallized fabrics”

Spatter Gloss, 1990, Designed by Reiko Sudo, Alloy spattering; 100% polyester. Image provided by MVTM used with permission 
She then writes “One of (Reiko) Sudo’s first independent endeavours borrowed a plating technique from the automotive industry. Called “Spattering” the process is often used to coat door handles and frames with a plastic substance resembling steel “I really wanted to make shiny, metallic textiles, so I began experimenting with this technique.” says Sudo. Working closely with technicians at the textile plant, she experimented with ways to apply this plating method to various types of polyester. Aptly named 'Spattering Gloss,” Sudo's astonishing finished product has a sheen of polished steel but the fluidity of fabric” [1]

a Qasab fragment (Gauzy linen tabby with silk and gold tapestry, Egypt, Mid-11th century, 980.78.111.A Wilkinson Collection, Gift of Albert and Federico Friedberg Image provided by the ROM used with permission 
These two methods of creating a metallic surface; weaving metallic wrapped yarns and the seemingly modern method of adhering/ applying the metal foil/leaf directly to an already constructed surface can be seen on textiles from the range of time represented in all of these exhibitions. At the ROM, in Cairo Unwrapped, there is a Qasab fragment consisting of a Gauzy linen tabby with silk and gold tapestry (Egypt, Mid-11th century [980.78.111.A]), and a Tiraz fragment from 10th century Iran of Glazed mulham, (warp of fine raw silk floss with weft of heavier Z spun cotton in a tabby weave [2], ink, gold leaf (963.95.3). At the Textile Museum of Canada, Ying Gao's piece Science is Fiction, 2013, is made of silver-coated medical cotton, silver having anti-bacterial properties (b). This textile, like Sudo’s “Splatter Gloss" which consist of three powered metals, chrome, nickle, and iron the compotes of stainless steal, are produced in industrial situations with patented processes that aren’t readily available to textile/ fibre artists. There are, however, a large number of makers using metallic on the surface of their work using products available in the market place. Sparkly things that attracted the eye and reflect light have been in use for millennia. When it comes to contemporary products, the actual amount of the metal in the product ranges greatly. One can estimate the amount of metallic content of the metallic threads and foils and leafs you can buy at art, craft and sewing supply outlets from the price. The life span of these products will also be a guide to their content. The gold on the Islamic fragments on display at the ROM speak to the longevity of the real thing.

Tiraz Fragment, Glazed mulham, ink, gold leaf, Iran, 10th century, 963.95.3. Image provided by the ROM used with permission 
The journey the 80 textile fragments on display at the ROM have taken to get to this destination is quite varied. The early Islamic textiles, dating from the 7th to 14th centuries (including rare examples of clothing) have been gifted from individual private collections. Some of the earliest pieces were collected by Charles Trick Currelly (January 11, 1876 – April 10, 1957) (* c), the founding director of the Royal Ontario Museum. A small selection of fragments came from a 1980 archaeological dig at Fustat where approximately 300 Fatimid textiles were excavated by the American Research Center in Egypt under the direction of George Scanlon, with ROM participation. These pieces have yet to be conserved, and their being shown in this exhibition gives the public the opportunity to see the starting point of the process of conservation. A major theme of The Eternity Code: Archaeology, Textiles and Preservation at the Textile Museum of Canada, is conservation – a topic that is much on the minds of museum curators today. Indeed, at the press preview for Cairo Under wraps show at the ROM, I had a very interesting conversation with Jenny Poulin of the Canadian Conservation Institute who is analyzing dyes, glazing material and the materials/techniques used to produce the gold decoration on the Tiraz pieces. A paper on this will be published on the ROM website when it is ready.
TMC Flat Storage: The Eternity Code: Archaeology, Textiles and Preservation, installation shot, 2014. Photo: Jill Kitchener image provided by TMC used with permission [see below for more information]
The overview of the exhibit at the Textile Museum discusses both preservation of old textiles and their survival into the present, as well as conservation:
“How have textiles – among the most fragile and vulnerable artifacts – survived over centuries? Learn about the materials and techniques found in archaeological textiles and the conditions that have allowed for their survival through this exhibition of Peruvian and Coptic textiles from the Textile Museum of Canada collection… By their very nature, archaeological fibres are among the most fragile, extremely sensitive to environmental conditions. In 2013, the Textile Museum of Canada began research and development of new approaches to the conservation and storage of archaeological textiles to ensure enduring access to valuable artifacts of global heritage for future generations. Innovations introduced into the exhibition demonstrate the science of conservation as well as state-of-the-art advances in archaeological textile storage developed by the Textile Museum of Canada to provide the essential care and security of some of the most valuable and cryptic of human evidence”. (TMC exhibition overview)

Returning to the time line of events within the Christian era:
-1200 CE Irrigation canals transform Peruvian coastal desert allowing cultivation of cotton

-1476 CE Inca Empire established

-1534 CE Spanish conquer the Inca Empire in Peru

-1798 CE Napoleon Bonaparte and the French army invade Egypt

-1822 CE Jean-Francois Champolion deciphers the Rosetta Stone

-1911 CE Hiram Bingham rediscovers Machu Piccu, Peru

-1922 CE King Tutankhamen’s tomb discovered by Howard Carter
TMC Border fragment, Peru, 100 to 300 CE, camelid hair, T97X0010b, Image provide by TMC
used with permission

One of the oldest pieces on display in Eternity Code is a Border fragment, (TMC T97X0010b) from Peru (Nazca, 100 to 300 CE), made of Camelid hair. Its method of construction is described as cross-knit Looping. This particular technique was first diagrammed in Raoul D'Harcourt book Textiles of Ancient Peru and Their Techniques (1934) (in French) and is featured on the TMC, and Gardiner Museum’s 2010 co-presented web project “Cloth and Clay Communicating Culture” on the Government of Canada’s Virtual Museum website.This piece has been researched by independent scholars such as Rebecca Nelson Jacobs in her Archaeological Experiment: Re-creation of a Nasca Textile, Presidential Scholars Project” (*4) in 2004, under Dr. Bethany Usher from the Potsdam Anthropology Department. Jacobs attempted to create an archaeological replica of the border piece. Other pieces in the show have also been the subject of research projects instigated by the museum. For example, an Incan bag from Peru (1476 to 1534 CE) was also made of Camelid fibre using warp-faced, complementary warp, cross-knit looping was part of a materials study done in 2005. It is from the Opekar / Webster Collection (TMC T94.0999).

In 2005, curator Roxane Shaughnessay in partnership with researchers Dr. Christine White, Dr Andrew Nelson and Dr, Fred Longstaffe of the University of Western Ontario conducted isotopic analyses on camelid fibres from this Inca bag preserved on the coast of Peru, and other selected ancient Peruvian textiles in the TMC collection. Among the lines of inquiry that have been used to identify and contextualize pre-Hispanic textiles is isotopic analysis of camelid fibre (llama, alpaca) to determine diet, which can give us information on habitat of the animals whose fibres were used to create the textiles in the TMC collections. In turn, such information allows us to understand more about the habitat that the makers and/or users of the bag knew, as well as something about exchange networks in the Andes.

“The study attempted to shed some light on the question of whether the camelid fibre was brought to the coast pre-spun and pre-dyed from the highlands for use in weaving coastal textiles or whether llamas (and perhaps even alpacas) were imported to the coast from the highlands and raised there for periods of time. The tests analyzed fibres to determine if the animals ate a highland diet of plants and grasses, or a coastal diet of maize resources. The test showed that the samples from the bag showed highland dietary influences, which demonstrates a highland source of fibre, probably alpaca. The bag could have been brought from the highlands to the coast, or woven as an Inca tax obligation on the coast with wool imported from the highlands.” (TMC didactic)

TMC ‘Rolled Storage” The Eternity Code: Archaeology, Textiles and Preservation, installation shot, 2014. Photo: Jill Kitchener image provided by TMC used with permission [see below for more information]

The main impetus behind Eternity Code was the re-housing of the TMC’s oldest textiles. In 2011, the TMC requested a facilities assessment by the Canadian Conservation Institute in Ottawa that looked at every aspect of the Museum from lighting to security to temperature control and included the storage area. The TMC is a small museum with limited resources and at this point in time had done the best with the resources they had to secure the collection and in finding the smartest ways to best improve the pieces. The result of this assessment provided the museum with a list of suggestions for the improvement of the storage of the collection. This became a blue print to follow. With the assessment, the museum was able to apply for funding for improving in the ways their oldest textiles were being stored. An existing digital photographic data base gave them a head start on this project in that a good record of past conditions of individual pieces was available to compare with the current condition of the artifacts. The earlier photographing of the collection had occurred in the mid-2000s using the then state of the art technologies. Even today, this is one of the best museum digital archives around. As this was done, many pieces that had never been shown or removed from the packaging they came to the museum in were returned to the same packaging – which seemed the best thing to do in the absence of a standardized system. As the project got underway in 2013 it became obvious that an exhibition could be built to showcase this work and the textiles that they would be re housing also provided the broader theme of symbolic meaning and cultural use, as well as the importance of conservation.

"In 2013, the Textile Museum of Canada began research and development of new approaches to the conservation and storage of archaeological textiles to ensure enduring access to valuable artifacts of global heritage for future generations. Innovations introduced into the exhibition demonstrate the science of conservation as well as state-of-the-art advances in archaeological textile storage developed by the Textile Museum of Canada to provide the essential care and security of some of the most valuable and cryptic of human evidence. Curated by Shauna McCabe, Natalia Nekrassova, Roxane Shaughnessy and Sarah Quinton and organized by the Textile Museum of Canada. Archaeological storage upgrades undertaken with the support of the Museums Assistance Program of the Department of Canadian Heritage". (TMC website exhibition overview).
Tunic fragment, Egypt, 6th to 7th century, wool, T90.0236a-d. Gift of Lloyd Solish Image provided by TMC used with permission

These four exhibitions offer a series of windows into an important human innovation that has been in use at least 30,000 years of human time, and probably more. Textiles are a locus on which humans apply imagination, skill and beauty. If you need one reason to go and see any or all of these exhibitions it is simply because textiles are beautiful to see. This is the first response one has to each of these artifacts. The information on technique, material, age, symbolic meanings are all secondary to that first response. The value of that information and the ways and means they are assessed and understood adds to our ongoing knowledge base -- but they don’t alter what you first see -- and what you see will engage you in as many ways as you allow it to do.
Praying Saint, Linen and wool tapestry, Egypt, 7th -8th century 980.78.37 Wilkinson Collection, gift of Albert and Federico Friedberg Image provided by the ROM used with permission



[1] REIKO SUDO + NUNO Textiles from Japan, Catalogue ISBN 978-0-9938427-0-2 (pbk)

Details for images of TMC storage displays

Follow the links to see images of the artifacts being stored from the TMC digital archive 

Display of Flat Storage Top right to left

Tunic Border, Peru, Central Coast, Chancay, 1200 to 1550 CE, cotton, camelid hair: slit tapestry woven, Gift of Thomas Kalman, TMC T82.0107

Band, Peru, Chimu, 1000 to 1476 CE, Cotton, camelid hair: tapestry woven, gift of Thomas Kalman TMC T82.0108

Bottom: right to left

Tunic decoration, Egypt, Coptic 7th century, wool, linen; Tapestry- woven, sewn, Gift of Andrew Vodstrcil, TMC T87.0407

Tunic Decoration Egypt, Coptic, 7th to 9th century, Linen, wool; plain-woven, tapestry-woven, gift of Andrew Vodstrcil TMC T87.0401

Tunic band Egyt, Coptic 6th to 7th century, linen wool; tapestry-woven, plain-woven, braided, sewn, gift of Mrs. Herta Vodstrcil, TMC T86.0137

Rolled Storage Box:

Left side of box
Belt, Peru 1000 to 1476 CE cotton camelid hair: warp-faced, complementary warp, gift of Pascal Muzard and Nieves Carrasco, TMC T2005.17.24

Fragment, Peru 1000 to 1476 CE cotton camelid hair: warp-faced, complementary warp from the Opekar / Webster Collection. TMC T94.1010

Right side of box

Belt Peru c.1000 CE Camelid hair: plain-woven, warp-faced, gift of Thomas Kalman. TMC T83.0241 (no image available) Belt Peru c.1000 CE Camelid hair: woven, TMC T97X0013 (no image available)

Belt, Peru 1000 to 1476 CE camelid hair: Plain-woven, supplementary warp, from the Opekar / Webster Collection TMC T94.1008

Mississippi Valley Textile Museum
Royal Ontario Museum
Textile Museum of Canada

Web project
Cloth and Clay Communicating Culture

Interesting Reads

(*a)  Dzudzuana: an Upper Palaeolithic cave site in the Caucasus foothills (Georgia) by Paul Goldberg published in Antiquity Volume: 85 Number: 328 Page: 331–349

(*b) “Antibacterial Activity Of SilverPhotodeposited Nepheline Thin Film Coatings” by Talieh Rajabloo;  Ceramics International Volume 38 Issue 7 2012 a journal published by Elsevier

(*c)  Researches in the Sinai. by Petrie, Flinders ( with chapters by Currelly, Charles Trick) New York: E.P. Dutton, 1906

(*d) Rebecca Nelson Jacobs ‘ “Archaeological Experiment: Re-creation of a Nasca Textile, Presidential Scholars Project” 


Sunday, May 04, 2014

Of the Earth, Looking at Dorothy Caldwell: Silent Ice/ Deep Patience

Dorothy Caldwell: Silent Ice/ Deep Patience
March 21 to June 1, 2014
Art Gallery of Peterborough
Peterborough Ontario, Canada

Gallery view, with A Red Hill / A Green Hill, 2012 at far right.
photo by Lesli Onusko © 2014 Art Gallery of Peterborough
Dorothy Caldwell is an American born Canadian artist. Dorothy Caldwell is a master mark maker. Dorothy Caldwell’s practice is based in the use of textile techniques to colour, mark and embellish the 2D picture plane with the essence of (what is) landscape. Beginning at time in the early 1970s when late abstract expressionism and pop art are being displaced by the conceptual and the feminist art movement has established itself. Inspired by the surface treatment in the staining in Mark Rothko’s painting, “staining so light the weave of the canvas came through” *1 and influenced as many were by the 1971 exhibition "Abstract Design in American Quilts" at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York which is now consider instrumental in igniting the quilt renaissance of the 20th and 21st centuries. She has built a career on staining and stitching cloth. She has met the challenge of working in this way and transcended what the contemporary art world has considered the limited boundaries of the medium of textiles.
Dorothy Caldwell with work How Do We Know When It’s Night? 2010, wax & silkscreen resist on cotton with stitching and appliqué photo by Lesli Onusko © 2014 Art Gallery of Peterborough
Spending time in Australia’s Outback and in Canada’s Far North she has, with this exhibition, reached a new level of expression that strips the nonessentials away from documenting the land leaving shape, colour and line to work in concert much like Cezanne. Working with what was there as did the unknown cave painters in Lascaux Caldwell presents both an “I MAX” vista and the entire minutia of the vast landscapes she is encountering in each piece of work.  Some of this work was seen in the fall of 2013 in London, Dublin and Harrogate as a feature exhibition in the Knitting and Stitching Show.  Her audience holds her in high regard and has been building through sold-out workshops and lectures spanning her over 40 year career as an artist exhibiting in Canada, the United States, Japan, Australia and the UK. This new body of landscape images is a game changer in contemporary landscape art.  

Detail of “A Red Hill / A Green Hill” photo by Joe Lewis taken with permission
I felt this work somewhere in the pit of my stomach, a pit of ochre mud perhaps, Stendhal Syndrome perhaps. While it’s all in the details the whole surface of these works envelop you, they take your breath away, and your heart rate accelerates. You feel the atmosphere of the “Where”. Dorothy Caldwell: Silent Ice/ Deep Patience is an exhibition that engages the senses. Your eyes travel constantly across the surface.  When you try to pause to examine a detail, a stitch, a stain; suddenly a mark of colour draws your eye elsewhere. You breathe deeply to still the motion. Caldwell's signature repetitive marks stitched or discharged spread across the walls in piece after piece after piece, hypnotically holding your attention and driving you mad with distractions as you try to take it all in. The dryness of the air, the harsh light that washes out colour, these depictions of the Australian Outback and Canada’s north exist side by side, nothing really signifying its specific locale. You take another breath, give up control, and enjoy the dance you are taken on.

Gallery view (large work at left is called Map Without Words, 2013; the work at the far right is called Walking on Tundra, 2013) photo by Lesli Onusko © 2014 Art Gallery of Peterborough
Colour rubbed off rusty bits of found metal and dirt of different minerals make up the stained cottons that have been made velvety smooth. The colour, both muted and rich, is occasionally blurred with quiet spots of grey that read greasy as if vaseline has been smeared on the surface.  These are lustrous, almost luminous like mother of pearl or dirty ice.  They stand out and float above the densely marked surface. These smears appear in several pieces. They stopped me in my tracks because of the lack of an instantly identifiable process. Are they burnished, as their smoothness suggests; or satin, which has been embedded rather the appliquéd; or merely tarnish? Is this some chemical reaction brought on by exposure to the air? So much in these works seems like a natural reaction, a growth (like lichen on a rock) rather than separately applied embellishment.
View of collection from above photo by Lesli Onusko © 2014 Art Gallery of Peterborough
Done within a very short time span (2010-2013), this show represents work done in, and inspired by two distinct landscapes.  While there is noticeable difference between overall dark and overall light pieces, this work is about the geography not the geographic location. Off to one side is a meticulously organized collection of specimens/ artifacts presented steampunk style with curio cabinetry and shelving all holding debris/ castoffs/ garbage gathered on-site in both locales. Rusty tin cans, bones, rocks (chunks of red ochre) shells, slate (which she has scratched marks into, suggesting both follies and aboriginal pictograph). There is a collection of “notebooks” of her explorations. As Jennifer Angus in her fictional Victorian ethnographic explorer series “A Terrible Beauty” invented a decor for her explorer to inhabit, Caldwell herself is in this case the explorer.  She is both the navigator and the one doing the “Scientific” documenting, always aware that she is the intruder rather then the inhabitant. This may explain the frantic motion of her marks, her stitching the need to take down in short hand the essentials of the sites and removing herself from the surface of the land before she causes an impression and leaves yet another scar of human interference.

 view of collection box and books; works on wall from left to right are Comfort of Fog, 2013, History of Stone, 2013, and Red Hill/Black Hill, 2013. photo by Lesli Onusko © 2014 Art Gallery of Peterborough
There is an incredible peaceful beauty to this body of work which will cause the viewer a moment of awe, understanding process or imposing meaning on the work will not alter the effect it has you. I can only call this experience an intimate moment of connection. The landscape is not captured; it is experienced. Dorothy Caldwell: Silent Ice/ Deep Patience is organized by the Art Gallery of Peterborough in Peterborough Ontario Canada opened on March 22 2014 and will tour to other venues. An exhibition catalogue is in production and will be available later this year.


*1 Dorothy Caldwell Interview Surfacing Journal volume 5 Issue 1, 1984

Art Gallery of Peterborough
250 Crescent Street
Peterborough ON K9J 2G1

Dorothy Caldwell: Silent Ice/ Deep Patience March 21 to June 1, 2014, Art Gallery of Peterborough then touring to St Mary's Art Gallery in Halifax, then the Cambridge Galleries, exhibition catalogue is in production.

Dorothy Caldwell is a graduate of Temple University, Tyler School of Art, Philadelphia, PA, 1970, the 1990 Recipient of the Prix Saidye Bronfman Award, Associate Fellow University of Nebraska, Lincoln as of 2005 her influence on the current and coming generation of artist and crafts persons working in textiles, with textiles in book making and surface exploration grows daily, she is represented in Toronto by David K Gallery.

Monday, March 17, 2014

March 2014 Textile Signtings on Facebook

" Unravel: A meditation on the warp and weft of militarism" is a sit and chat participatory work by York University PhD candidate Hellene Vosters at Cross Sections 2014 an interdisciplinary art exhibition that will be held at the Modern Literature and Culture Research Centre (MLC) at Ryerson University from March 14-26th, 2014, it is part of Intersections 2014: Thinking|Feeling a York and Ryerson University Communication & Culture Graduate Student Association Conference

Sunday, March 02, 2014

changing gears, new ways to share, different delivery platforms This is a test

Gateway Ribbons of Galla Placidia, 1996 collection of Artist
Quilts by John Willard: A forty Year Retrospective Feb 15th - Mar 30th, 2014 Burlington Arts Centre, 
Curator: Denis Longchamps
Well lets just start with facebook's way of embedding photo albums into different non facebook delivery systems and since it is a new year I will start by sharing the January and February Textiles Sightings Albums I posted on face book.

fQ January 2014 Textile Sightings.

Post by fibreQUARTERLY Canada on-line Textile and Fibre Arts and Crafts magazine.

while not knowing what this will look like i also have the option through e Blogger to format for a number of different cell phones so I will try that out, but it will be up to you to tell me what it looks like on your phone, since I don't have one. 

"Northern Spring"  joe lewis 2001 layered organza over stitched