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In her opening statement for the catalog to the 2014—2015 traveling exhibit, The Art is the Cloth; a Series of Reflections, Micala Sidore writes,
About twenty years ago, Helena Hernmarck faxed me the comment, The art is the cloth. Her statement opened up a way for me to understand tapestries, both historic and contemporary. It made me aware of how they gesture toward their nature.
—how they gesture toward their nature—
Tapestry weavers observe that in tapestry the physical substance and imagery of the artwork are created as one—in the same time, in the same action of the maker: as one entity. This observation makes sense when contrasting tapestry to any medium that normally involves a substrate/ surface to which an image is applied; it might not be true for electronic media; and it makes tapestry kin to a positive sculpting processes like modeling. This quality of tapestry can be described in many ways, including unity of making and idea; integration (integrity); gestalt; and treating composition as an entirety of structural and visual development.
There is symmetry, or balanced tension, in the unity of a tapestry’s structure and image, as well as between the structural components of warp and weft. Symmetry describes other aspects of the process of construction—side to side and shape-by-shape are straight-forward; bottom-up, on-its-side, weaving from the back and working from cartoons require a heightened sense of symmetry that enables the weaver to keep sight of an image divided horizontally by strings, tipped on its side, reversed, flipped, repeated, staggered—and combinations of these. Techniques used in joining shapes, such as dovetailing, and weavers’ knots used in joining threads employ symmetrical balances, as do choices of yarns and threads for weight, ply and twist. Looms and hand tools of tapestry weaving have repetitive and bilateral symmetries, from the most basic to the most complex designs. It is fair to say that all of these symmetries in some way reflect the bilateral symmetry of the artist’s body, our two hands, one on either side, and our stereoscopic vision, which allows us to see one image comprised of two perspectives.
An image of a tapestry
might depict the
gesturing of a
working at her loom.
The English word, weave, has three V’s, counting the two in the w. Weaving has valleys. One can imagine how weft (to weave) and warp (to throw) might have begun as ancient echoic words by listening to their sounds, like sounds of the motion of tensioned strings. Speaking these words, they sound almost like breath, and with our eyes, we experience structures made of the cleaved shapes of V’s. In weaving, the vveft thread rhythmically cleaves and fills the face of the vvarp. In Tapestry weaving, this integrating action, like plying the waves of the sea, is both metaphoric and physical—that is to say, original; we steer for and establish our selvedged shores. Working threads into images is slow, focused and contemplative. Through practice and puzzling-out by the hands and brain, we come to know weaving as enactments of warp and weft, as natural a response as rowing to the oarsman and swimming to the swimmer; we experience the self in weaving, and how weaving is self: integration, unity, wholeness, connection.
—m. sunday 2015
next: automatons, simulacra, stuck in the mirror, me and my selfie, definitions, the uncanny valley
* see more of Elizabeth’s tapestries: http://www.elizabethbuckleytapestryartist.com