Last week I presented a webinar for Vesterheim Norwegian American Museum, “From Kindness to Cutting Satire: Lila Nelson’s Tapestries Embraced the World and Its Politics.” A Conversation with Robbie LaFleur.” Afterwards, several of Lila’s friends wrote to tell me how meaningful it was to see her works–and how much they miss her. (She lived from 1922-2015.) Even though I much prefer speaking to a live (and lively) audience, it went well and the viewers asked many questions. Several of them made me think, “Oh my gosh, more research is needed.” I’m on it.
The webinar is now up on the Vesterheim YouTube channel (for a month), and can be seen here. There are many interesting programs on Vesterheim’s channel–you should subscribe! One short video I recommend is “Tour Vesterheim’s Collection Behind the Scenes- Textile,” with Curator Laurann Gilbertson.
On Sunday, I presented a longer Zoom program on Lila’s works, with more weaving-technique content, to a weavers study group in Rhode Island, the “Warped Weavers.” Only one of the members, Barbara Stam, knew Lila, but she was sure her friends would be interested in amazing tapestries about protest, mythology, poetry, and animals. After the slides, one of the members commented on the cat tapestry whose eye looked like a figure in academic dress. ??? Sure enough, here is the one she saw.
I was happy for the opportunity to lecture about Lila’s life and works. I see new elements in her images all the time (an academic cap for a cat’s eye!?). She wove a lot of serpents and snakes. This one is my favorite, a long spiraling serpent with amusing feet.
Lila left an amazing legacy–her cataloging and acquisition of textiles for Vesterheim Norwegian American Museum, her building of a Norwegian weaving education program at the museum, her mentorship and encouragement of many weavers over several decades, and the tapestries she wove.