Women Working

Marthe Armitage Working

Marthe Armitage began printing linocut wallpaper in the 1960's with three babies at home. She was inspired to make her first design, "Angelica," while pushing a stroller along the Chiswick riverbank.  

 "Angelica"

"Angelica"

 "Gardeners" installed in Marthe's sitting room, along with a lamp designed by her late husband, featuring "Solomon's Seal" on the shade. A  new version of this lamp  is being produced by her grandson Joe. Both photos of Marthe's home from  Bible of British Taste . 

"Gardeners" installed in Marthe's sitting room, along with a lamp designed by her late husband, featuring "Solomon's Seal" on the shade. A new version of this lamp is being produced by her grandson Joe. Both photos of Marthe's home from Bible of British Taste

Now in her mid-80's, Marthe still prints her wallpapers herself with the help of her daughter Joanna Broadhurst. They are available through Hamilton Weston Wallpapers & Design and made to order with your own color specifications, though her preference is for soft greens, blues, dull blacks and ochres.

 One of two linocut blocks for "Chestnut."

One of two linocut blocks for "Chestnut."

 "Chestnut" on the press.

"Chestnut" on the press.

 Marthe hand printing "Chestnut" the sore back way.

Marthe hand printing "Chestnut" the sore back way.

 A  bathroom in Dinder House  with "Chestnut" installed. 

A bathroom in Dinder House with "Chestnut" installed. 

 Martha on her staircase. Then a lucky little girl's bedroom with the same wallpaper, in blue, picked out by her mom,  Miranda Brooks . 

Martha on her staircase. Then a lucky little girl's bedroom with the same wallpaper, in blue, picked out by her mom, Miranda Brooks

A wonderful short film, Back to the Drawing Board, by Sue Haycock in which Marthe explains how to design for repeat and the virtues of doing so on paper. 

Gertrud & Otto Natzler

  Photo by   Lotte Nossaman  .

Photo by Lotte Nossaman.

Yahrzeit Cup (1964), then Gertrud and Otto working in their summer studio at the Brandeis Institute in Santa Susana, California, where they spent the summers of 1956 to 1960 as artists-in-residence. Then then an earthenware bowl (1955).

  1958

1958

Over four decades of collaboration, Gertrud threw 25,000+ pots. Otto glazed and fired them, developing 2,000+ complimentary glazes. They were both self-taught.

This post originally appeared on the Gravel & Gold blog

Beatrice Wood Working

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“I feel this is a great privilege and blessing to live the way I do now in beauty, near wonderful mountains, with many friends. And freedom to do as I wish, which happens to be pottery. And chasing men, though they don’t know it.”

Mixing glazes in 1950 and teaching students at the Happy Valley School in Ojai, California in 1960

Photo of reclining Beato by Carole Tapolian, 1996.

This last saffron-hued photo of Beatrice by Jim Hair, 1985.

“And I say, women who have diamonds—it can’t touch the joy and excitement of opening a kiln.”

Beatrice Wood! Major Arcana artistic and whole life hero, of course! Duchamp buddy, sister-friend to Anaïs Nin, wearer of sarees, chronic flirt, in her mid-life became a luster glaze master following an adult ed ceramic class at the Hollywood High School, and lived to tell the tale of her 105 years in her indispensable memoir, I Shock Myself: The Autobiography of Beatrice Wood.

I took her book home to Virginia one year during the Christmas holiday and pretty much refused to leave the couch until I got through it. I probably missed out on the largest and most elaborately adorned sugar cookies of the season, but it was worth it!

Also a nice biography to be found at the Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts website—a center I have long-wished to visit but have not yet. Next time I go to check in on our corner region at the Ojai Rancho Inn, I hope to check it out. And I hope that all happens soon!

This post originally appeared on the Gravel & Gold blog

Lucie Rie Working

Lord Snowdon’s photograph of Lucie’s hands and Sam Haskin’s portrait of Lucie taken around 1990.

Lucie Rie and Hans Coper pottery upstairs at 18 Albion Mews in 1950. Then Lucie sunbathing in the 1960s. Photo by Stella Snead. Then her pink porcelain conical bowl, c. 1978.

Lucie, around 1935, in her Vienna studio. Then a shot of her London studio with her glazing materials.

Lucie in her London studio. Photo by Hansi Böhm. Then a page from her Vienna-days glazing notebook, 1920s.

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A busy schedule filling orders in 1946 and Lucie getting it done in her London studio.

The group of vases were on display at London’s Berkeley Gallery, 1962. Photo by Jane Gate. Then Lucie potting in the 1980s.

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Volcanic bowl with manganese border, c. 1986, then stoneware bowl with volcanic glaze, 1990 (from last firing), then yellow porcelain bowl, 1967, then turquoise bowl with bronze rim, 1983. These images from Galerie Besson.

Lucie Rie at her front door, photo by Jim Hair. ThenLucie’s pots arranged on the Plischke shelves at Albion Mews, 1950.

Lucie Rie was born on March 6, 1902 to a prominent family in Vienna. In 1922 she entered the Kunstgewerbeschule, a school of arts and crafts associated with the Wiener Werkstätte, where she was, she said, instantly ‘”lost” to the potter’s wheel. She developed quickly, combining a taste for a clean, modernist aesthetic with daring technical skill.

In 1926, she married and commissioned an apartment from a young Viennese architect, Ernst Plischke, on Andreasgasse. Lucie had purchased a chair from Plischke and like it so much that she asked him to furnish her entire apartment. It was his first commission. Plischke designed every detail of the flat to suit the young potter, including studio space with a gas-fired kiln and, in the living room, walnut cupboards with versatile shelves that could be rearranged to display her work. When Lucie fled to London in 1938, she had the entire interior shipped over and re-erected in a mews house in Bayswater, where she lived and worked, to great renown, for the next 50 years. After she passed, the studio was moved and reconstructed again, this time in the Victoria and Albert Museum‘s ceramics gallery.

Lucie is often described as steely and too rigorous to be a good teacher, though she had a lasting mentorship turned creative partnership with Hans Coper and always made time to meet with anyone with a serious interest in pottery. Those who qualified for her time were invited over to her studio for tea, cake, and serious conversation, so long as it wasn’t technical talk about pottery.

Read more about this great dame on the VADS essay site set up for her in a nice timeline format and with lots more great images. The best spot to check out images of her work is through Galerie Besson, which represented her.

Pouring bowl, c.1952 and another portrait of Dame Lucie by Snowdon.

This post originally appeared on the Gravel & Gold blog

Philip Guston Working

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Dickens in the studio, then a portrait of Philip Guston in 1929. Photo by Leonard Stark. And The Studio, 1969.

Guston in 1942, painting celestial navigation murals for the Navy. And, in 1957, painting in his loft on 18th Street, New York City. Photo by Arthur Swoger.

Two shots of Guston’s studio by Denise Hare, then The Painter’s Table, 1973.

A wall in Guston’s Woodstock studio showing several paintings from 1968. Photo by Denise Hare. And The Rest Is For You, 1973.

More great studio shots by Denise Hare.

The Canvas, 1973, then a shot of Guston’s studio by Denise Hare, then Painting, Smoking, Eating, 1973, then another shot by Denise Hale of Guston in the studio.

A solid many of these images were published in A Critical Study of Philip Guston by Dore Ashton. I’ve read it and it’s a great beginning! You can read it online and check out some more images here.

Looking forward to lots more on Guston from Drummer Neal Morgan TOMORROW NIGHT. See ya then. Also, it’s not so much worky, more like the ultimate dream of leisure, but who can resist—

  Roma (Fountain)  , 1971

Roma (Fountain), 1971

This post originally appeared on the Gravel & Gold blog

Alice Parrott Working

  Orange Form  , then   Fiesta  , and   Alice at the 1964 New York Worlds Fair.

Orange Form, then Fiesta, and Alice at the 1964 New York Worlds Fair.

Alice Kagawa Parrott grew up in Honolulu, the youngest child in a large Japanese family. She studied art at the University of Hawaii and went on to study weaving with Marianne Strengell and ceramics with Maija Grotell at Cranbrook, one of the best art schools anywhere at the time. Her long journey to Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, where Cranbrook is located, was her first trip to the mainland.

Here is Alice in the weaving studio at Cranbrook and pottery she was made while a student there from 1952 to 1954.

While she was at Cranbrook, she interviewed to teach at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, and lodged that possibility in her mind. After completing her first year, Alice taught in Michigan and had a short stint winding warps for Jack Lenor Larsen in New York over the Christmas holiday.

She enjoyed her time at Cranbrook very much and didn’t have much notion of what do afterward, so she just accepted the New Mexico job offer to teach weaving and ceramics and made her way down South and West. This proved to be a good move.

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  A killer early hanging from 1969. Then Alice weaving in 1964.

A killer early hanging from 1969. Then Alice weaving in 1964.

Dry, dusty New Mexico was a completely unfamiliar landscape for this Honolulu girl, but Alice took to it right away. She visited nearby Navaho reservations, where she learned to card and spin yarn, traveled and studied in Mexico. The summer after her first year, she also went up to Pond Farm in Guerneville, California, and did ceramics with the great Marguerite Wildenhain for a month (more on Marguerite to come soon).

Alice met her husband Allen Parrott on a field trip with her students to the International Folk Art Museum in Santa Fe where he was a curator at the time. They were married the day after the semester ended, in 1956.

About three months after the wedding, the couple moved into their home on Canyon Road in Santa Fe, where they lived the rest of her lives. Alice set up a shop out of their living room where she sold her woven fabric and solicited commissions, like the one to make a whole bunch of ponchos for the ushers working at the Santa Fe Opera. These are ponchos I wish I could see whilst enjoying an evening I would like to experience. Also, she had her babies.

   Orange Hanging   , then Alice with her husband Allen and two of their sons, then    Orange Hanging with Circle Motif .

Orange Hanging, then Alice with her husband Allen and two of their sons, then Orange Hanging with Circle Motif.

Over the winter of 1971-1972, Alice was an artist-in-residence in Puunene, Maui. While there, she took on a couple large public commissions and she taught workshops to high school teachers from several islands. She also got a nice juice up of the Hawaiian shave ice colors she loved—the great blue sky, flowers, the ocean turquoise—which always show up in her work.

This last shot honors the installation of Maui County Seal at the Maui County Council Chamber, Wailuku, Maui. I would like to take a quiet moment to honor all of these outfits.

Back in Santa Fe, Alice kept teaching, weaving, and radiating happy contentment.

  Palaka , then Alice at the loom, then  Blue and Green Forms , 1968

Palaka, then Alice at the loom, then Blue and Green Forms, 1968

Her work was well-admired and she began showing in the mid-1960s. At the same time, she kept her day job working on making wearables and small things like eye-glass cases for her shop, which eventually found it’s own home out of her home. I admire this high-low smartiness.

These two beautiful shots of Alice weaving were taken by Nina Leen for LIFE. And the orange shawl in the middle is one that Alice wove—one of many handwoven items she made available at her dreamboat shop, The Market, in Santa Fe. Droolola….

What I wouldn’t give to be able to shop at this marvelous shop! Just like Sam Maloof and his beloved wife Freda used to do. Alice met Sam at the 1964 New York World’s Fair, where they were both exhibiting with the American Craft Council. Alice had brought these weavings, among others:

And Sam was no fool! After meeting Alice, he’d ask her to make wool shirts for him to wear and fabrics to cover his chairs.

That’s a pile of Alice’s pillows on a sofa Sam built in the 1950’s and kept for himself. Below, Freda is wearing one of Alice’s shirts. Photos via Esoteric Survey.

  Milagro

Milagro

The top image of Alice weaving in an amazing striped muu-muu (always with the stripes!) was taken in Maui in the mid-70s. The detail is from a hanging with wool warp, weft of maguey strings, hand-spun wool, and silk. Published in Craft Horizons,May:June 1964. Via Cathy of California. And the bottom image is Alice in her studio in Santa Fe.

How sparkly is this lady?! It’s been a real delight spending some time digging around for information and pictures of her, always flashing that beautiful smile. There doesn’t seem to be too much information out there about Alice and I for sure would like to know more. Thank goodness (again) for the foresight of the Smithsonian Archive and their brilliant oral history initiative.

Unless otherwise noted/linked, the lion’s share of these images come from a wonderful page set up by Paul Kagawa that has lots more family-style pics of Alice and examples of her work. What a very, very lovely-seeming woman and a true inspiration.

This post originally appeared on the the Gravel & Gold blog. 

Frida Kahlo Working

Inevitably-

  Photo by Lucienne Bloch, 1935

Photo by Lucienne Bloch, 1935

  Frida in her Coyoacán studio, 1931.

Frida in her Coyoacán studio, 1931.

  Nickolas Muray, “Frida Kahlo painting ‘The Two Fridas'” (1939)

Nickolas Muray, “Frida Kahlo painting ‘The Two Fridas'” (1939)

When was Frida not working? That’s what I’d like to know. She worked through a great deal of pain, illness, and her recoveries from never-ending surgeries.

By all accounts—her own included—she was a true blue born artist. There are pictures to prove this.

Here she is at 18 with her sisters, photographed by their father Guillermo Kahlo in 1926. Come on—the droopy hankie at 18! This is not a Christmas card sesh; she is working.

  Photo by Guillermo Davila, 1929

Photo by Guillermo Davila, 1929

Just like this is not a smoke break. This cannot be what a smoke break is! Come on! This is working, in that it takes a lot of work to be the one to come up with this whole lewk that the rest of us have been trying to copy for the next century.

  Photo by Nickolas Muray, 1941

Photo by Nickolas Muray, 1941

Also not a smoke break. That is a mustache, though, which has been copied by fewer folks than some of the other elements of this ensemble. And sadly those majority imitators don’t seem to understand that the unibrow and the stache make the lewk, totally!

OK, these two pic might actually be smoke breaks for real. But still, so chic and so beautiful—more beautiful in a way. Pet hawk, hair flowers, uh huh. And who knew cowboy boots looked perfectly wonderful with pajamas? So now let’s copy that too!

  Photo by Lucienne Bloch, 1933

Photo by Lucienne Bloch, 1933

This post originally appeared on the Gravel & Gold blog. 

Jay DeFeo Working on The Rose

  Jay in her Fillmore Street studio, 1960

Jay in her Fillmore Street studio, 1960

There’s still some time yet to catch the Jay DeFeo show at the Whitney if you, like me, missed it at the SFMoMA. I had read about The Rose, but it was even heavier IRL.

Jay was, like, the hottest Beat chick on the San Francisco scene. She co-founded Six Gallery, which hosted Allen Ginsberg’s first reading of Howl in 1955, and was an original member of Bruce Conner’s Rat Bastard Protective Association. Her own work, combining unorthodox materials into hybrid sculptures/drawings/collages/paintings, positioned her among the vanguard of the Abstract Expressionists. Five of her paintings hung alongside groundbreaking work by Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and Frank Stella in the important Sixteen Americans show at MoMA in 1959. She was on top!

One work that was requested for the MoMA show was a painting Jay had recently begun that was then called Deathrose. It was the concave, darker sister to another painting, The Jewel, that she began at the same time, working on “an idea that had a center to it.” Jay declined to include it in the show, but the MoMA curators knew that she was on to something and included a photo of it in an early stage in the exhibition catalogue.

Here’s Jay at work on The Jewel

  Working on   The Jewel   at 2322 Fillmore Street,  SF CA. 1959. Photos by   Jerry Burchard

Working on The Jewel at 2322 Fillmore Street,  SF CA. 1959. Photos by Jerry Burchard

   The Jewel   , 1959

The Jewel, 1959

Jay took two years to reach a place with The Jewel that pleased her. Deathrose, which was later retitled The White Rose, and finally The Rose, took nearly eight years to complete, from 1958, when she was 29 years old, to 1966. She installed the canvas in a large Victorian bay window and worked up a tremendous surface of oil paint, carving it, adding mica chips, hacking at it, sometimes scraping it back altogether and starting again. There was broken glass in the window and no electricity in her studio, so both she and the painting were totally vulnerable to the damp. She worked by the daylight that steamed in from smaller side windows and against the tightening and loosening of the canvas that occurred as the seasons changed. (“Seasons” is hers. Isn’t it lovely?)

  Photo by   Burt Glinn  , 1960

Photo by Burt Glinn, 1960

The painting went through many forms which Jay associated with the different cycles of art history from Primitive, to Classical, Baroque, and back to Classical. There is a wonderful collection of images documenting these changes on The Jay DeFeo Trust website, and here’s some I especially like:

  Jay full on with   The Rose  , then a still from    The White Rose   , and a nice clear shot of the finished painting by Ben Blackwell.

Jay full on with The Rose, then a still from The White Rose, and a nice clear shot of the finished painting by Ben Blackwell.

Jay was made to call a truce with the already legendary painting in 1966 when a rent increase forced her from her studio. By then, The Rose had grown to nearly 12 feet high, up to eight inches think in places, and weighed over 2,300 POUNDS—far too large to fit out the studio door. It took sixteen guys a full day to cut out the window and some of the wall of the building, mount the painting to a larger canvas, and lower it down two stories with a forklift onto a flatbed truck. Bruce Connor documented this in The White Rose (1967), a film I’d like to see.

From San Francisco, the painting was transported to the Pasadena Museum of Art, and Jay went with it to keep working at it for another three months. When she really was done she dropped out to Marin and didn’t work at all for three years….

It was only after The Rose was briefly shown in 1969 at the Pasadena Art Museum, then traveled to the San Francisco Museum of Art (now SFMoMA) the same year, that she began painting again.

  Jay with   The Rose   at the San Francisco Museum of Art in 1969.

Jay with The Rose at the San Francisco Museum of Art in 1969.

Unable to find a permanent museum home for her great work, The Rose ended up in a conference room at the San Francisco Art Institute. Conservators there estimated that it would take over 100 years for the thick oil paint to fully dry. In 1974 they applied a protective coating to the surface as that was intended as a temporary measure. The next stages of the planned conservation never happened, and in 1979 a false wall was built in front of the painting. There it remained, out of view, until 1995 when the Whitney Museum acquired it and took on the huge job of restoring it. By then Jay had been gone for six years.

It was all worth it.
Obviously there’s a lot more to this story. You can get started with the Smithsonian archive interview and with the Jay DeFeo Trust, but mostly make sure to see it if you can.

P.S. Jay on the left in 1986, photographed by Christopher Felver. Remind you of a certain hair hero, Wendo? Yeah, that’s “Lee” on the right with “Elliot” in Hannah and Her Sisters, also 1986.

This post originally appeared on the Gravel & Gold blog. 

Lenore Tawney Working

Night Bird (1958) and Lenore in her South Street NYC studio working on Vespers, 1961. Photo by Ferdinand Boesch. Then Lenore at work on a tapestry circa 1966. Photo by Nina Leen.

  Lenore in her NYC studio, 1958. Photo by David Attie.

Lenore in her NYC studio, 1958. Photo by David Attie.

The Bride Has Entered (1982) and Lenore at work on a tapestry. Photo by Nina Leen, published in LIFE, July 29, 1966. Then Yellows (1958) and Yousuf Karsh’s portrait of Lenore, 1959.

Union of Water and Fire (1974), photo by Tom Grotta. Then, Union of Water and Fire II (1964) and Lenore’s first solo show at the Elaine Benson Gallery in Bridgehampton NY in 1967. Eye spy Noguchi!

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Bound Man (1957), photo by Ed Watkins. Then another photo of Lenore by Nina Leen, this one from 1969. Then a picture of something I know about but I don’t know who captured it.

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“I’m not just patiently doing it,” she said of such work. “It’s done with devotion.”

Waters Above the Firmament (1976) and Lenore in her NYC studio with Dove (1974). Photo by Clayton Price. Then a view ofLenore in her studio.

Verdi (1967) then Four-Armed Cloud (1979), pictured with dancer Andy de Groat at the New Jersey State Museum. Then Discours Historique (1966), photo by George Erml.

  Lenore working in 1979. Photo by George Erml. Then Lenore’s loft in 1994 as photographed by William Seitz. And a   blissed out working Lenore   dressed to match her loom set up.

Lenore working in 1979. Photo by George Erml. Then Lenore’s loft in 1994 as photographed by William Seitz. And a blissed out working Lenore dressed to match her loom set up.

Lenore Tawney, a great and tough beauty, lived to see 100 years. She studied sculpture with Alexander Archipenko, drawing with Laszlo Moholy-Nagy and weaving with Marli Ehrman at the Art Institute of Chicago. Later she studied tapestry with the Finnish weaver Martta Taipale at Penland School of Crafts, where the weaving studio is heaven on earth. After some personal turmoil and travels, she went to New York and stayed working there for the rest of her day, breaking art rules. “I left Chicago,” she later wrote, “to seek a barer life, closer to reality, without all the things that clutter and fill our lives. The truest thing in my life was my work. I wanted my life to be as true. I almost gave up my life for my work, seeking a life of the spirit.” Sound familiar? She and Agnes Martin were close.

There is a really nice corral of images at the American Craft Council site, along with an article published in American Craft Magazine, in 2008, called “Lenore Tawney: Spiritual Revolutionary.”  I wish I could meet Lenore.

“I’m following the path of the heart. I don’t know where the path is going.”

This post originally appeared on the Gravel & Gold blog. 

Sheila Hicks Working

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Sheila holding Éventail in 1989 in Cour de Rohan, Paris. Photo by Cristobal Zañartu. Then Convergence I (2001) and Linen Lean-To (1967-68).

   M’hamid    (1970)

M’hamid (1970)

Sheila in Guerrero, Mexico, 1964 from Weaving As Metaphor, the book I would most like to purchase but am too intimidated by the out of print price. Learning to Weave in Taxco, Mexico (c. 1960) and working on Solferino Tacubaya in Taxco el Viejo, Guerrero, Mexico, 1960-61.

   Blue Book Blocks  (2008)

Blue Book Blocks (2008)

  Wil Bertheux   (1973), photo by Bastiaan van den Berg.

Wil Bertheux (1973), photo by Bastiaan van den Berg.

   La Memoire    (1972) as it was originally installed at IBM headquarters in Paris.

La Memoire (1972) as it was originally installed at IBM headquarters in Paris.

  Self portrait, 1961

Self portrait, 1961

Proust Visits the Brooding Winter Tree (1999), Lianes Nantaises (1973), Wow Bush / Turmoil in Full Bloom (1980), The Silk Rainforest (1975), Tahoe Wall (1970), and a study for Fugue Rothschild Bank Headquarters, Paris, 1969. Zaaaaannnnnngggggg -Holly Samuelsen

  Sheila at Yale. Photographed by Ernest Boyer in May, 1959.

Sheila at Yale. Photographed by Ernest Boyer in May, 1959.

   Grand Prayer Rug  (1966),    The Double Prayer Rug    (1970), and a portrait of Sheila by   Martine Franck  , 1971.

Grand Prayer Rug (1966), The Double Prayer Rug (1970), and a portrait of Sheila by Martine Franck, 1971.

  At Sheila’s Paris studio and  Wrapped and Coiled Traveller  (2009)

At Sheila’s Paris studio and Wrapped and Coiled Traveller (2009)

  Photo of Sheila by Ryan Collerd for   The New York Times   (also a wonderful article).

Photo of Sheila by Ryan Collerd for The New York Times (also a wonderful article).

I’m heading down to Philadelphia today, and all my life, Philadelphia will mostly just mean Sheila Hicks, ’cause I was one of the lucky ones to see her big show at the ICA a couple years ago. It completely spun me out. Sheila is our great head honcho, the top fiber arts dog of all time. She studied at Yale with Josef Albers in the mid-1950’s, then went down to learn weaving in Mexico. Since then she’s been based in New York and Paris, basically laying down the category of fiber arts both small and largescale, for both industrial use and for the purpose of just mind-melting wizardry.

One thing I noticed when I was at the show was how many of her pieces were commissioned for corporate lobbies, like at IBM, and corporate spaces, like a bank in Mexico City, an insurance company in Milwaukee, and the poshest Air France Boeing 747 ever. This got me thinking: 1. I often skip looking at woven panels and carpeting in public spaces because BART is so gross, but sometimes it’s magnificent and I should pay more attention (and I do). 2. If big corporations are the only guys with enough cash and foresight to commission crazy big fiber installations like hers, then suddenly I’m all for big corporations.

There is much to read and learn about Sheila. Check out Sikkema Jenkins & Co., her gallery in New York, for even more images of her work. The Smithsonian has also done an oral history with her and there are many nice books out—Sheila Hicks: 50 Years is one we carry at the shop.

  Sheila Hicks, photographed by   Giulia Noni .

Sheila Hicks, photographed by Giulia Noni.

This post originally appeared on the Gravel & Gold blog. 

Claire Zeisler Working

Still from a film by Patricia Erens I’d like to watch, Claire Zeisler: Fiber Artist (1979), then Symbolic Poncho (1971).

A polaroid from the Smithsonian archive, then Coil III- A Celebration (1977).

Claire’s got her back to us and her assistant all tied up. Photos by Jonas Dovydenas.

Stela II, Red Preview (1969), unknown title, Tri-color Arch (1983-84), Free Standing Yellow (1968), Private Affair I (1986), Blue Vision (1981), Totem III

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Claire with Dimensional Fiber, c. 1980, a sketch for Hirise on graph paper, ca. 1983, and two study samples (1950).

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Breakwater (1968) and Claire putting pegboard to excellent use in her studio.

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Red Forest II (1971) in it’s full 38 foot long majesty and a detail, then Coil Series I (1977) (I’m with you Cathy.)

 From   Beyond Craft: The Art of Fabric   by Mildred Constantine and Jack Lenor Larsen, 1972.

From Beyond Craft: The Art of Fabric by Mildred Constantine and Jack Lenor Larsen, 1972.

Listen to wonderful Claire talk about the challenge of free-standing fiber sculptures!

And read more from her Smithsonian oral history interview. Also, many of the images of these works come from the Art Institute of Chicago archive. Check that out too!

Kiki Smith Working

Photo by Chris Sanders (2008), Worm (1992), Valerie Hammond’s photo of Kiki’s back (2012), Eldridge Street Synagogue rose window (2010)

 Photo by  Lina Bertucci  (1993)

Photo by Lina Bertucci (1993)

Eyes and hands scarf on rayon (1982) and photo of Kiki by Peter Sumner Walton Bellamy (1984).

Tony Smith’s witchy daughters (Seton, Bebe, Kiki on the right), Night Vision (2011) and Tom Warren, Kiki Smith (1981)

   Free Fall  (1994)

Free Fall (1994)

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Born (2002), bottom photo of Kiki by Chris Sanders.

   Carrier  (2001)

Carrier (2001)

Working on etching plate for Ginzer at Harlan & Weaver, NY, Photo by Gavin Bond (2000), Kourai (2005), and at Mayer’sche Hofkunstanstalt (2007).

Kiki Smith, obvi an auntie, was also born in Germany like Eva Hesse, but really she is the boss of the Lower East Side (See:This 1994 profile. “I was happy at Fawbush, but my astrologer said I had to make a change”). See also: Tony Smith /Seton Smith. Lili—ink like this, yeah?

This post originally appeared on the Gravel & Gold blog

Eva Hesse Working

  Eva Hesse then in her   Bowery studio, NYC   (1968)

Eva Hesse then in her Bowery studio, NYC (1968)

  This group-   Henry Groskinsky   for LIFE (1969)

This group- Henry Groskinsky for LIFE (1969)

   Sans II  (1968)

Sans II (1968)

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  Top is Gretchen Lambert,  Eva Hesse in her Bowery studio  (1965) then  Ingeminate  (1965) and   Hess   with it.

Top is Gretchen Lambert, Eva Hesse in her Bowery studio (1965) then Ingeminate (1965) and Hess with it.

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  At an opening in 1965, then    Ascension      (1967).

At an opening in 1965, then Ascension (1967).

   Untitled  or  Not Yet  (1966)

Untitled or Not Yet (1966)

If you’ve made it this far without cracking your heart open like a watermelon and you need to obsess some more about Eva, check out her archive at Oberlin College. That’ll do the trick. And then this sweet letter from Sol to finish you off.

This post originally appeared on the Gravel & Gold blog

Anni Albers Working

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“Every beginner should be afforded this freedom of creativity. Courage is a key factor in every form of artistic creative process, it can best unfold when it is not curtailed too early by knowledge.” (I like imagining the tricks Anni taught Ruth.)

click to LISTEN TO WONDERFUL ANNI!

I’m not entirely sure that Anni is in this circle of the Bauhaus weavers, tho she was certainly one of their best and anyway it’s a beautiful thing. If you would like to see more of Anni’s work, and of course you do!, definitely check out the websites for theJosef & Anni Albers Foundation and the MoMA archive.

This post originally appeared on the Gravel & Gold archive. 

Ruth Asawa Working

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Ruth Asawa is a living national treasure of the San Franciscan variety (and I was pleased to learn that there’s a classy and detailed website going for her). Born to a family of migrant workers in Southern California with whom she spent six months interred in horse stables during the war, she managed to attend Black Mountain College at its height between 1946-1949. There she studied with Josef Albers, Merce Cunningham, Buckminster Fuller (who was a fan- See: Bucky at home), and the rest of those geniuses. During that period, in the summer of 1947, she went down to study in Mexico on a trip sponsored by the Quakers and learned techniques for crocheting baskets that she went on to fantastically translate to wire for her sculptures.

Ruth also met her husband, architect Albert Lanier, at Black Mountain and the two of them moved to San Francisco in 1949. Ruth was 23; Albert was 22. They soon had six babies.

Ruth and Albert raised their family on Castro Street and both were majorly involved in arts education in San Francisco throughout their careers. When their kiddos were young in the mid-60’s, Ruth founded the Alvarado Arts Workshop with a $50 grant. There she put into practice many of the participatory arts education ideas she learned at Black Mountain. Come 1982, she spearheaded the founding of our public high school for the arts, now called the Ruth Asawa SF School for the Arts.

And she kept good friends, too. Imogen Cunningham was a dear friend and documented Ruth’s work. Lucky us.

This post originally appeared on the Gravel & Gold blog. 

Helen Frankenthaler Working

Helen Frankenthaler, on the other hand, broke the Lee mold and was such a crazy genius that I think some people don’t even know that she was married to Robert Motherwell. Or they do know that and they think to themselves, Was he worthy? This beautiful series above was taken by Ernst Haas in 1969.

Now, it’s Helen, who was an Uptown Girl from birth, so you have to understand that there was also a little bit of this-

  Photo by Gordon Parks, c. 1957

Photo by Gordon Parks, c. 1957

   Helen Frankenthaler with Alexander Liberman, in her studio, New York City, 1967 , Photo by   Dan Budnick

Helen Frankenthaler with Alexander Liberman, in her studio, New York City, 1967, Photo by Dan Budnick

And at the end of the day, she was coming home to Motherwell and this-

  Photographed at Yale by Sedat Pakay

Photographed at Yale by Sedat Pakay

Photo by William Grigsby, originally published for the article “Artists as Collectors” in the November/December 1967 issue ofArt in America. Drool. But always, she was back at this-

  Photo by   Hans Namuth  , 1987

Photo by Hans Namuth, 1987

  Photo by   Hans Namuth  , 1984

Photo by Hans Namuth, 1984

  Photo by Alexander Liberman

Photo by Alexander Liberman

  Photo by Alexander Liberman

Photo by Alexander Liberman

  Helen Frankenthaler in her studio in Darien, Connecticut, 2003. Photo by Suzanne DeChillo.

Helen Frankenthaler in her studio in Darien, Connecticut, 2003. Photo by Suzanne DeChillo.

This post originally appeared on the Gravel & Gold blog

Lee Krasner Working

  Lee Krasner painting   Portrait in Green  , 1969. Photos by Mark Patiky.

Lee Krasner painting Portrait in Green, 1969. Photos by Mark Patiky.

  Hans Namuth  ,   Lee Krasner  , 1962

Hans NamuthLee Krasner, 1962

  Lee Krasner in her studio, 1956 (Waintrob-Budd, William Morrow)

Lee Krasner in her studio, 1956 (Waintrob-Budd, William Morrow)

Lee Krasner is another Lee famously in peril of always being overshadowed by the man with whom she was associated, this one because she was married to Jackson Pollock. I say “famously” because I greatly prefer Krasner’s work to Pollock’s and I feel like the whole underdog wifey-artist hype is distracting. So OK, let’s do this:

Lee Krasner
-Vs.-
Jackson Pollock

You decide! And remember there’s two E’s in Lee, boys.

This post originally appeared on the Gravel & Gold blog

Lee Miller Working

  © Lee Miller Archives, England 2013. All rights reserved.  www.leemiller.co.uk

© Lee Miller Archives, England 2013. All rights reserved. www.leemiller.co.uk

Lee Miller is another one of my big fascinators and another American woman who caught big waves in Europe. She was both a photographer and great collaborator with photographers, most notably Man Ray. It doesn’t sit right to call her a model, though that is how she got herself out of Poughkeepsie.

The top portrait of Lee was taken by Man Ray in 1929; then in 1941, Lee took “Women in Fire Masks”. Clearly those two had things to say to one another. There is a book about this called Man Ray | Lee Miller, Partners in Surrealism (via Mondo-Blogo).

When the war came, Lee became a war photographer. She entered the U.S. Army as a correspondent for Vogue and was dispatched weeks after D-Day to report from St. Malo, the liberation of Paris, Alsace, and the concentration camps at Buchenwald and Dachau, where she was the first woman photographer to enter. Her reports were unusual for Vogue, andVogue, to its credit, published them.

Then comes the Hitler bathtub shot. Lee was an absolutely legit photographer, both of beautiful things and of war, but because she looked as she did, her most famous work has her in it. “I looked like an angel on the outside. That’s how people saw me,” she wrote. “But I was like a demon inside. I had known all the suffering of the world since I was very a little girl.”

  © David E. Scherman.  Courtesy Lee Miller Archives, England 2013. All rights reserved.

© David E. Scherman.  Courtesy Lee Miller Archives, England 2013. All rights reserved.

This image was taken by David E. Scherman, a Life correspondent with whom Lee traveled and worked throughout the war. It was the night after the two of them had photographed Dachau—that same day, Hitler had committed suicide in Berlin and they had entered Munich with American troops liberating the city. They came upon a regular-seeming apartment building at Prinzenregentplatz 27 and realized, upon entering, that it was Hitler’s Munich apartment. They stayed there for three days amid the swastika china and linen monogrammed A.H. Scherman slept in Hitler’s bed and Lee took this bath.

The New York Times described the image like this: “A picture of the Führer balances on the lip of the tub; a classical statue of a woman sits opposite it on a dressing table; Lee, in the tub, inscrutable as ever, scrubs her shoulder. A woman caught between horror and beauty, between being seen and being the seer.” Yes, there is the Hilter pic prop, and the figure prop, and beautiful Lee, but there is also the filthy boots.

Lee said she was only trying to wash the stench of Dachau away, though apparently there was also a reverse setup, now lost, with Scherman in the tub. So she was definitely after art too, and perhaps through it, the survival ofher sense of humanity despite the atrocities she was seeing and documenting. She wrote to her Vogue editor Audrey Winters:

I was living in Hitler’s private apartment when his death was announced, midnight of Mayday … Well, alright, he was dead. He’d never really been alive to me until today. He’d been an evil-machine-monster all these years, until I visited the places he made famous, talked to people who knew him, dug into backstairs gossip and ate and slept in his house. He became less fabulous and therefore more terrible, along with a little evidence of his having some almost human habits; like an ape who embarrasses and humbles you with his gestures, mirroring yourself in caricature. “There, but for the Grace of God, walks I.”

Lee carried the experience of the war with her forever. She described her life as a “rotten puzzle, whose drunken pieces never match in shape or meaning.” Throughout it, though, she made great pictures.

We thank the Lee Miller Archives for allowing us to use Lee’s pictures and David E. Sherman’s pictures in this post.

This post originally appeared on the Gravel & Gold blog

Lee Bontecou Working

This image is always at the front of my mind. It’s 1958 and Lee Bontecou is in Rome on a Fulbright working in her studio. There’s so much that is dear to me here—the widow, the shutters, the light, the shadows of the sculptures on the wall, her blue jeans, her turtleneck, her little nun haircut which she still keeps, how she seems like she’s jamming so much work into her time. It looks like a Vermeer portrait but instead of doing needlework or pouring water, she’s sculpting. Lee learned to weld steel frames that year and then she did insane things with them over the next 50+ years.

These images, including the badass blowtorch shot, by Ugo Mulas show Lee in her Wooster Street studio in 1963. The closeup of Lee at work was taken by Hans Namuth in 1964.

If it’s OK to focus down a bit more on her lewk, which is so blessedly consistent, I’d like to point out that here she is back in NYC at her Wooster Street studio, probably freezing, owning zōri + socks + blowtorch. And then, like, here she is now and I bet you she’s got slippers on underneath that table.

Lee in her Pennsylvania studio in 2003. Photograph by Will Brown. It pleases me.

This post originally appeared on the Gravel & Gold blog