I have returned to the city of Lodz, Poland again and again. It is home to an extraordinary group of weavers and textile artists whose innovation and creativity inspire me. Its history haunts me.
I first visited Poland in 1992 and have had the privilege to return a number of times over the years. In the late 1990s I worked with Polish and American colleagues to develop an exhibition of contemporary Polish fiber art that toured the USA, called Different Voices: New Art from Poland. When I returned to Lodz after a hiatus of almost twenty years, the monuments and memorials to the victims of World War II struck me.
When I revisited Poland in 2014 to teach a workshop on ikat we stayed in the Baluty neighborhood of Lodz. This neighborhood was clearly demarcated in present day Lodz as the site of the Litzmannstadt Getto of 1940-1944, stenciled on curbs around the perimeter and marked with a granite marker. The Lodz Ghetto was the second largest Jewish ghetto in Poland. The Nazis changed the name of the city to Litzmannstadt in November 1939 after a German general who invaded the city in World War I.
This brief immersion in the Lodz Ghetto has propelled me to return to my research about World War II, this time examining the European causes and consequences. The ikat technique, my interest in text and image, and the desire to grapple with history in visual terms have come together.
The weaving, Litzmannstadt Getto, 1940-1944, 2016 is the first in this group of works, a major undertaking in which I have been able to combine text and pattern using an innovation of the Indian method of preparing the threads for dyeing.
I explore the world through woven fabric, constructed thread by thread, infused with color from plant and mineral sources. Inherently a slow process, I wind lengths of thread to become warp yarns, secure them around a frame to bind the desired pattern, immerse them in mordant and dye solutions so they can achieve a specific color, remove the binding to free the threads so finally I can transfer them to the loom to weave a fabric, inserting the weft yarn, row by row.
The Litmannstadt Getto weaving is currently on view in the 15th International Triennial of Tapestry, at the Central Museum of Textiles in Lodz, Poland as part of the American contingent. Judith Content, Susan Iverson, Jill Nordfors Clark, Kathy Weaver
To learn more about the history of the Lodz Ghetto you can find a number of on-line sites, including: