A rich and varied exhibition, Contemporary International Tapestry, opened on Sunday, January 10, at the Hunterdon Art Museum, an historic repurposed stone mill in the middle of Clinton, New Jersey. I was lucky enough to attend the opening. I could write with admiration about the techniques and/or imagery of each of the approximately 40 pieces, but instead, here are mere handful of impressions about some of my favorite pieces. These are some of the tapestries that make me feel like stamping my foot and saying, “OH! I wish I’d woven that.” (Note: the photos are bad cell phone snapshots and don’t reflect the true power and artistry of the pieces. For exceptional photographs and descriptions, I recommend you buy the accompanying book.)
Jo Barker included a small abstract image on which her beautiful tapestry was based. Merely pretty as a small image, the large tapestry exhibits the power of scale, saturated color and intensity made possible by the woven surface.
Susan Martin Maffei wove an amazing abstracted map of Manhattan with taxis and puffy cartoon clouds. Taxis drive off the main plane of the tapestry on long tiny “roads,” a daring convention that would only look silly if attempted by a lesser artist. Since we are staying in Manhattan this week, I had noticed the preponderance of yellow cabs on the street.
My favorite tapestry was Susan Hart Henegar’s surprising tapestry of two horses. The graphic impact of the colors and shapes is strong and signals a very inventive mind. How does she come up with the design? Would she say to herself, “I know; I’ll weave two horse’s hind ends. One will be blue and one will have shiny metallic thread.”?
Seeing the tapestry by Aino Kajaniemi was like visiting an old friend, since I saw her work many times last summer when it was exhibited at the Textile Center of Minnesota. (Here is a review I wrote at that time.) In general the tapestries that captivate me most are ones with saturated strong colors, but I deeply admire Kajaniemi’s use of neutral colors. Her calming palette reminds you that neutral colors are really a myriad of evocative shades.
I love the work of Sarah Swett. And I love this telephone. I want to weave an object in a manner as accomplished at Sarah Swett does.
As I look through the book again to add the dimensions of the pieces, I feel I should include ALL the pieces in my “favorites.” Again, I recommend you buy the accompanying book.