Creative Crossroads: The Art of Tapestry
Irvin Trujillo in front of the Denver Art Museum on the night of the opening.
Once upon a time I taught about our weaving tradition to a group of weavers who were all tapestry weavers from a guild in a distant part of the country. I totally enjoyed the experience, but one thing about it stands out in my memory more than all the joys of that teaching experience. We all were at the old Victorian-era home of one of the students for dinner. The hostess was very gracious, but made the statement that what I was teaching, and what the group was learning at that workshop, was not tapestry. I was pretty taken aback. By all definitions of tapestry weaving, it is what we do. That is, we weave a discontinuous weft. To my knowledge, most of the other students agreed that we were weaving tapestry, but I have wondered why she felt that way ever since. Most of what we do is geometric tapestry, and we simply don’t use a lot of joins that other tapestry weavers do because we have to have both sides be equally useful, but it is definitely the same weaving technique that people have used for many centuries and within a wide variety of cultures all over the world.
Sadly, most of the tapestry shows that I have been aware of have been put together by tapestry weavers. I don’t want to think that nobody else ever thinks to put together these shows, or that shows organized by other tapestry artists somehow have less to offer. But a show curated out of a love of the art form by someone whose expertise is in a full range of textile traditions across the centuries, and who can present it in the context of a world-class art museum is a very special thing I haven’t ever experienced such a thing before
Here is the text from the opening invitation.
Creative Crossroads: The Art of Tapestry displays more than twenty tapestry-woven wall hangings, rugs, furniture covers, garments and sculptural forms that illustrate the creative possibilities of this technique. The selection includes historic European tapestries made by large ateliers, twentieth century collaborations between artist and weaver, and works by solo artist-weavers who use tapestry as their creative medium. While some designs are culturally specific, others borrow from, transform, or transcend tradition. Contemporary tapestries join historic weavings from Europe, Turkey, China, Peru, Mexico and the American southwest in the main gallery, complemented by a selection of smaller tapestries in the Nany Lake Benson Thread Studio.
And Irvin has not one, but two, tapestries in the show.
Here are some other magnificent tapestries from the show:
This is an English tapestry about the five senses.
And a detail of the center panel.
This very large tapestry was from Belgium, if my memory serves me correctly.
And an entertaining detail.
Detail of a Peruvian tapestry.
A Rio Grande Saltillo that has been identified as a “slave blanket”, because it has “lazy lines."
These three pieces are from contemporary, Santa Fe area weavers. On the left is an early piece by James Koehler, in the middle is one by Ramona Sakiestewa, and the one on the right is by Rebecca Bluestone.
A Navajo weaver created this from the artist-provided image seen to the right of the weaving.