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Woven Records: Stories from the Shelter exhibition

Posted December 04, 2018 by Ann Sinfield

Woven Records: Stories from the Shelter exhibition

This fall the Chazen Museum of Art will host the exhibition, Shelter: Crafting a Safe Home. Organized by Contemporary Craft, an arts organization in Pittsburgh that has been presenting craft media by international, national, and regional artists for over 40 years, the exhibition signals a new direction for the museum. As an art experience that aims to increase awareness and create dialogue around an urgent social issue, Shelter engages the Chazen as a forum where artists respond to issues of home and housing insecurity that are global and local in scale, public and private in scope.

As an introduction to the exhibition, let's look at the work of three of the artists who are included: Kathryn Clark, Consuelo Underwood, and Tali Weinberg. All of these artists work with textiles, each uses a different process and materials, yet all tackle difficult subjects in complex and thoughtful ways.

Tali Weinberg, It’s Not Just About the Rain, 2015, California-grown organic cotton dyed with madder root and cochineal, 20 x 145 x .5 in., photo by Phillip Maisel.

Weinberg is represented in the exhibition by the work It’s Not Just About the Rain, a woven interpretation of historical climate data sourced from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Using regionally-produced cotton, locally-sourced natural dyes, and minimalist visual terms, the artist presents--in six woven panels--average temperatures in California from 1895–2014, a span of about 120 years.

The work is a visual expression of the warming temperatures of the region. It is also a landscape in the abstract—anyone who is familiar with California will recognize the oranges, reds, yellows, and browns that color the state’s topography, plant life, and destructive fires. In addition, the work forms a new kind of documentation: created by a Californian who experiences the effects of higher temperatures every day, it is a personal exploration of historical data using local materials that, because of their origin, have also been impacted by the very data they are put in service to represent. In this work, Weinberg turns a very large dataset into a localized narrative. She considers her immediate environment and what is known about it, and lays bare a startling story. In our changing climate, what happens to daily experience, to our ability to create shelter for ourselves, or to live safely and securely?

Kathryn Clark, Before/After Night Sky of Aleppo, Syria, 2016, embroidery and acrylic on linen and cotton voile.

Another artist who turns to textiles to represent data is Kathryn Clark. Utilizing embroidery and quilting, Clark develops art work about topics such as migration and housing. Although it seems an unlikely pairing, in the work from her Refugee Stories series that is included in the exhibition, the artist adapts a medieval narrative form to explore the current Syrian refugee crisis. Reaching back almost one thousand years, Clark looks to the fragile format of the embroidered, storyboard-like Bayeux Tapestry to tell the powerful story of a contemporary humanitarian catastrophe. Hand-sewn panels convey the overwhelming numbers pictorially; through careful handwork and layered fabric the experience of over 11 million people displaced by violent conflict is articulated, mapped, explored, and recorded.

Consuelo Jimenez Underwood, One Nation Underground, 2013, fiber, fabric, leather, threads, 56 x 90 x 1/4 in., photo by Bill Apton.

A different kind of story-telling is evident in the work of Consuelo Underwood. Calling upon her experience of the US/Mexican border Underwood explores identity and expands the boundaries of what can be understood as “home.” With family in both countries, the borderline, la linea, splits her existence and snakes through her weavings. A constant fixture of daily life within the region, Underwood reconsiders this almost 2,000 mile-long political division via imagery of the constellations that stretch over both countries, plants and flowers that flourish throughout the region, the barbed wire that marks the rift, and the flags of the neighboring nations. With indigenous ancestry, the artist’s heritage resides on both sides, she is from both countries. Her work defines home and self in a way that encompasses a multi-national knowledge and represents a complicated identity that is held by people all over the world.

In transforming data and experience into textiles, these artists create something personal and intimate that is also immense in reach. Fabric and textiles are the things we wear next to our skin, they are the rugs in our homes, they cover the furniture that supports our bodies in rest and in sleep. When information about the world or large amounts of data are transformed into woven form, the hard realities and cold numbers become approachable. Textiles bring the abstract formulas and spreadsheets into a human scale, they make visible the stories of people and environment that are hidden, obscured within the columns, formulas, and abstractions of lived reality.

Shelter: Crafting a Safe Home will be on view at the Chazen Museum of Art from November 24, 2018 to January 6, 2019.

Ann Sinfield
Exhibition Manager
Chazen Museum of Art

Ancestral Modern: Australian Aboriginal Art

Posted January 26, 2018 by Chazen Education

Collection Connections

WILLIAM KENTRIDGE
(South African, b. 1955)
Il Communicato N. 81
2006
India ink on book pages
63 x 47 1/2 in.
Joyce and William Wartmann Fund purchase
2007.3

The son of two anti-apartheid lawyers, South African artist William Kentridge has been engaged in the defense of anti-apartheid activists from a young age. In the 1980s, his animated films created from “erasure” drawings gained international recognition. Deeply personal and complex, his narratives reflect his own journey through the aftermath of Apartheid and Colonialism and document a legacy of abuse and injustice in his homeland. The rhinoceros is a recurring motif for Kentridge who uses the rhino as a symbol of an exploitative colonialist view of Africa representing the subjugation of a continent whose resources were stripped away by European colonizers. 

William Kentridge has said “forgetting is natural, remember is the effort one makes”. What techniques do Aboriginal artists employ to make outsiders “remember” their legacy?

 Ancestral Modern: Australian Aboriginal Art from the Kaplan & Levi Collection

Portrait of Lady Spencer: The Chazen’s connection to Diana, Princess of Wales

Posted August 30, 2017 by Michelle Michiko Prestholt

In honor of the twentieth anniversary of the tragic death of Diana, Princess of Wales, the Chazen Museum would like to highlight our portrait of the Princess’s great-great-great-great grandmother, Margaret Georgiana Spencer (née Poyntz), the Countess Spencer (1737–1814). The enamel on copper Portrait of Lady Spencer was completed in 1833 by Henry Pierce Bone (1779­­ –1855) after an earlier work by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723–1792).

Georgiana, as she preferred to be called, was married to John, the first Earl Spencer (1734–1783). Their marriage was a love match, a rarity for their time. Despite not possessing a title himself at the time of their courtship, John came from a noble family and was the most eligible bachelor in Britain after inheriting an enormous fortune from his great-grandmother. The Spencer family disapproved of Georgiana’s lesser wealth and her family’s connections to trade, but the couple persisted, waiting until John’s twenty-first birthday, at which time he no longer required his family’s permission to marry. In 1755, John and Georgiana married in a secret ceremony in the Oak Bedroom of Althorp, the traditional seat of the Spencer family, where Princess Diana herself grew up and is interred.

John’s loyalty to the Whig party in the House of Commons earned him the reward of an earldom, allowing him to become the first Earl Spencer in 1765. The Earl and the Countess Spencer were both highly educated and were enthusiastic patrons of writers and artists. They spent lavishly to build a London home, named Spencer House, to hold their art collection. The Countess Spencer was well known in London society as a fashionable hostess and philanthropist, giving her time and money to various charitable organizations.

Further breaking with the traditions of their era and status, the Earl and Countess Spencer were demonstratively doting parents to their three children. Lady Spencer’s favorite child was her eldest daughter and namesake, the infamous Georgiana Cavendish, the Duchess of Devonshire (1757–1806), who was portrayed by Kiera Knightley in the 2008 film The Duchess. After the Earl Spencer’s death in 1783 at the young age of 48, Lady Spencer took an active role in the education and upbringing of her numerous grandchildren. Lady Spencer maintained her reputation as an influential and esteemed member of British society until her death at the age of 76 in 1814.

Henry Pierce Bone, (English, 1779­­–1855), Portrait of Lady Spencer, 1833, enamel
on copper, Gift in memory of Mrs. Frederick W. Miller, 1992.332

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