It was Deirdre's idea that we would try to do something in New York City every week that reminds us why we choose to live here, but neither she nor I ever imagined this would involve two back-to-back exhibits of textiles. After seeing Ikat textiles at the Met last week, we visited the Bard Graduate Center on West 86th Street this past Thursday afternoon (largely intrigued by a September 4th article in the Times) to see an exhibit entitled "Sheila Hicks: Weaving as Metaphor."
Sheila Hicks (who has a Wikipedia entry and her own Web site) is a textile artist who has had prominent commissions for public spaces and commercial products, but who also makes small weavings on a handmade frame. Through the use of a variety of materials and techniques, these weavings break free of any utilitarian value in often whimsical designs, colors, and shapes that ultimately blur the line between textiles and sculpture. (The Times article is on her Web site here.)
The exhibit at the BGC spans 50 years and has about 200 works, many of them about 8" by 4" in size, framed, and arranged in arrays on the walls of the gallery. As is customary, each piece is identified with its name, date of composition, and materials, but also, more unusually, where the piece was made. Ms. Hicks lives in New York and Paris, and made some of the works there, but she also travels around the world studying textiles, and takes her tools on the road, so many of these miniature weavings were created as far away as Chile, Venezuela, Mexico, India, Tangiers, Morocco, and Japan.
The materials that go into her work are similarly varied. Handspun wool seems to be one of her favorite materials, as well as silk and cotton, but some of the pieces mix in vicuna, linen, paper, goat hair, rubberbands, razor clam shells, shoelaces, Chinese cellophane noodles, and — in some more recent works — a stainless steel fiber that has the sheen of fine silk.