Contemporary Weaving (Part One)

Added on by Clare Nicholls.

Sitting at a loom is connecting to the origins of things-- that's how I feel about weaving.  As a practice both ancient and modern, weaving creates an intangible community: we use many of the same tools, have the same issues with spaces, time, process, geometry, and more. However, there are as many ways to weave as there are weavers; this post is merely a mini-survey of weavers who are currently working that caught my eye. 

A caveat: I haven't seen any of this work in person. So much about weaving is the materiality of the work, the desire to get up close and see every weft pick. I think once I do, each of these blurbs could be expanded into an entire post of its own!

Erin M. Riley

Erin M. Riley is a contemporary artist and tapestry weaver known for smutty content including nude selfies (herself and others) and screenshots of porn. The contrast between weaving's connotations of domesticity and the shocking images would be interesting by itself-- but Riley is so much more than that. There's also images of guns and drugs, laid out as if they were a police photo of evidence or a still from a music video, car crashes and roadside memorials. Riley turns these images on the nexus of excess and desperation into huge tapestries that could grace the halls of a contemporary Versailles.

She also collaborates with Eric Patton on To Dødsfall, a brand of rugs that investigates material and texture, in black-all-black-all-the-time (a favorite color scheme of mine).

Brent Wadden

Brent Wadden is an artist who relies on weaving's grid structure to produce geometric abstract works. When work is made on a grid, diagonals become key; Wadden uses that to make sweeping triangular shapes. I love that this work isn't complete when it comes off the loom-- panels get collaged together so that shapes and colors interact with each other. Piecing together panels of fabric is a deeply embedded weaving tradition; it is a method used to create fabric that is wider than the loom upon which it originated. Wadden's work is beautiful and huge.

Herron Clothier (Dee Clements)

Herron is home textiles by Dee Clements, and are full of eye-popping color palettes and Bauhaus-inspired geometry. Clements is dedicated to producing quality goods on traditional hand looms in Chicago, but her Instagram indicates there's a collaboration with The Weaving Mill in the works! She also recently finished up a brief residency with A-Z West, Andrea Zittel's all-in-one home/studio/institute. Her mix and match of colors is so inspiring (I am afraid of color; color is an animal that will devour me) and the influence of the greats like Gunta Stölzl isn't just evident in the motifs like repeated horizontal stripes, but also in designing and creating manufactured goods.

Sasha Baskin

Sasha Baskin's Woven Portraiture series are the missing link between hand weaving and larger, computer-controlled looms. Hand dyeing and painting every skein of yarn, taking advantage of the natural sheen of silk and tencel, Baskin has painstakingly drawn  these portraits on a 16-harness loom. Hand-controlled damask is a technique that controls how much of the weft shows using a pickup stick and different pattern setups across the span of the warp. I love the confusing nature of these portraits-- ghostly yet solid. The Shroud of Turin meets anonymous thrift store photographs.

Andrea Donnelly

Andrea Donnelly's MFA Thesis catalog was passed around my weaving class like it was scripture. We all knew the amazing time and effort her large-scale painted warp pieces involved; we were in awe at her dedication and the sheer beauty of it all. The process of weaving-and-unweaving-and-reweaving that some of that work entails speaks to a commitment to getting a piece to be just so. The exactitude!  Her more recent work still explores color and process, rejoicing in mirror-image Rorschach abstraction, as well as connecting to writing. (The link between weaving and text is also another post, or a body of work, or a life's work.)

Robin J. Kang

Kang's work fuses the handwoven and the digital, not shying away from the uncanny chimera that results. Images of circuit boards and stylized animals remind me of Giger, but the luscious colors speak to a different imagining of the future. Using a jacquard loom gives her the ability to draw such complicated, dense compositions. I wish I could see these up close, in person; the materials list of hand dyed yarns, plastic bags, and other materials, are so fascinating and I'm sure make up a lot of the kinesthetic (kin-aesthetic?) experience.

This is part of a series on contemporary weavers, originally published March 2016 on Read part two here.