Woven on a small painting stretcher, this 5 x 2.5 inch weaving reflects my fondness for making small art-- fiber, paper, compost. Sometimes I think it's related to my body size; I also like to live in modest-sized rooms, ceilings not too high.
"I'm always having a good time. There's no difference between what I'm doing now and what I do in my studio." Sheila Hicks, Bard Gallery, September 26, 2006
In September and October, I made three visits to Sheila Hicks: Weaving as Metaphor at the Bard Gallery on West 86th Street. It was a handsomely mounted exhibition of 150 miniature woven works she has produced over the last 50 years. She describes her hand held loom as "...a page of inquiry [with] invented language." A tall woman, her reason for working on this scale is unlike mine:
I found my voice and my footing in my small work. It enabled me to build bridges between art, design, architecture, and decorative arts."
Thanks to a New York Times review, many were alerted to the show. first I went alone, took many notes (no photos allowed). Next two fiber friends joined me for a presentation by the artist, the curator, and an art historian. Though she has lived all over the world, created installations--using the small weavings as studies for the larger work-- in India, Mexico, Paris, Sheila Hicks is remarkably down to earth.
In Paris (where she has a studio in the Latin Quarter), she was interviewed at length about the journey from her Nebraska childhood to Yale Art School in the 1950s studying under Joseph and Anni Albers, to early commissions by Knoll Furniture. Her straightforward responses--including her selection of Syracuse University for college--reveal much about attitudes and assumptions at the middle the 20th century.
Tempted to scan the Bard handout for the images, I've restrained myself--which is why there's only my own piece here. On the final visit, Ron, who has been thinking about weaving with his handspun yarn, came along. The work excited him too. He's about to make a 9 x 6 inch frame like Sheila Hicks' from scrap wood. At her own website are images of large work. We returning to look again at pages in the gorgeous catalogue produced for the exhibit. With its 150 color illustrations excellently reproduced (not an easy feat for fiber), it appromaximates fairly well the texture of the work itself.
[More on small work in "Bigger Isn't Always Better",Summer 2003 issue of Fiber Arts magazine. Includes Sheila Hicks in a survey of artists working small--and rare online image.]