Reading, Looking. Beyond Craft: the Art Fabric
This book. Beyond Craft: the Art Fabric was published around 1972 (which I infer from other dates, as there's no date on the publisher page). With essays and commentary by Mildred Constantine and Jack Lenor Larsen, the book offers a selection of outrageously gorgeous, many monumentally large fiber works. 28 artists get individual attention. Of those, I'd known of two women's work and had a vague idea about a couple more. Of the 28, seven are men, reversing the common ratio of men:women in gallery representation (true even today...you can count for yourself).
I discovered this book as I was looking for information about the artist, tapestry-maker, Evelyn Anselevicius. I hadn't heard of her until I experienced one of her exquisite, grand tapestries in a basement auditorium-hall at the Colorado School of Mines. My visit to CSM was to recruit a team of young engineers to work with me on a water recycling system for Dym. I spent a chunk of my time away from my table, staring at, walking along, the Anselevicius tapestry. (There was a kind of jobs fair, with industry folks and others pitching potential Capstone projects to Mines rising seniors. You can read more about that here.)
Home from Colorado, it seems like I lost days trying to find more works by this amazing artist. With one exception, which I found squirreled away in a community college's financial report, her works have vanished. I bought the one book, Beyond Craft, that promised to show me more. Concerning Anselevicius, I was disappointed, because the figurative tapestries the editors chose aren't the ones I sought. Yet so much of the rest of the work is an incredible revelation. And leads to questions: Where are these monumental pieces now? Where are the artists? Where is the institutional memory to support their continued presence? I feel wobbly about how temporary all our efforts really are. (Ozymandias, anyone?)
The writing in Beyond Craft has a tone and intention no longer used in art writing. It's directly descriptive while also describing each artists' intentions in a way that may or may not have anything to do with the artists. Each artist is also given a brief work bio, most of which includes references to craft lineages, to specific teachers. (This struck a chord with me, because that doesn't resonate with my experience, as I did much self-mentoring through extended museum visits when I was in my 20s and early 30s. And, likewise, figured out block printing from others' books and videos. It makes me wonder, and then dream, about what my printers will do with their training here.)
I'm sharing some favorite images with you. Some I enjoy in part because the descriptions of them do everything except describe what's there. I'll let you parse that for yourself.