Wendy Weiss weaves three dimensional spaces in which viewers interact. She collaborates with Jay Kreimer to create interactive sound environments, sculpture, and projected images. Natural dyes sourced directly from her garden are the primary coloring agent for the fibers, which are a combination of cellulose, such as cotton and linen; protein, primarily wool and silk; and nylon mono-filament (which dyes beautifully with natural dyes.
This weaving was the last of a series of “At the Fence” weavings. Originally from NJ, I live in the Midwest and shortly after moving to Nebraska in 1986 I learned that I was living in what some have termed “the nuclear heartland.” The first four weavings from this series examined the human toll of the use of nuclear weapons during WWII and the devastating impact the two bombs, Fat Man and Little Boy, had on the residents of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Heroic individuals dedicated their lives during the cold war (and beyond) to protest our government’s continued development and stockpiling of nuclear weapons.
In October 1987 I spent the night as part of a missile vigil in the Kadoka, South Dakota area, sleeping alongside an MX missile with my two female companions and an armored personnel carrier. The organizers of the vigil alerted the Air Force we would be camping out at selected missile sites in the area.
The image of the fence was my way to pay tribute to the people who sacrificed their freedom to protest and practice civil disobedience at the fences of various facilities in the USA and abroad. This last weaving in the series brought the imagery to the current time in the early 1990’s, with faces of people engaged in human rights struggles, or perpetuating those struggles in the name of the armed forces, around the world—for example in South Africa, Honduras, and Panama.
This weaving is included in Fiber Arts IX. Sebastopol Center for the Arts. Aug. 2- Sept. 8, 2019.
This weaving was included in Further Evidence | The Art of Natural Dyes at Penland School of Crafts, in Penland, NC, May 28–July 14, 2019 and will be auctioned at the Penland Benefit Auction, Aug. 9-10, 2019. I began a series of four letter word weavings in 2017. I hope once the viewer sees the words Soul Full, hidden in the checkerboard, a shift in attitude is possible. As with any dyed fabric, this weaving should be kept out of direct sunlight when choosing a place to hang it. Absentee bidding is available at the Penland website link above.
Further Evidence | The Art of Natural Dyes featured the work of sixteen international artists working with natural dyes. Co-curated by textile artist and dyer Catharine Ellis, who, along with Danish textile engineer and chemist Joy Boutrup, recently published a long awaited book on the subject and will be co-teaching at Penland School in 2019. The resurgence of the use of natural dyes in both studio practice and commercial dyeing was recognized in the exhibition, including works on paper with ink and pigment, and woven and printed textiles.
The North Platte and the South Platte Rivers meet near the city of North Platte, Nebraska, and form the Platte River, which flows 310 miles across the state where it meets the Missouri River. In the Kearney, NE area, it serves as a staging ground for the annual migration north of the Sandhill Crane. They feed in nearby cornfields by day and roost in the river by night, adding up to a pound of fat to their body weight before they take flight again toward their nesting grounds.
In 1714 Etienne Veniard de Bourgmont (born 1679) was the first recorded European to come upon a river which the Oto people called the Nebrathka, meaning “flat water.” The French word for flat is plat and eventually the river became known as the Platte.
Teliza Rodriguez, the curator of the Musuem of Nebraska Art, invited Jay Kreimer and me to create a piece for an exhibition titled “A River Runs Through It,” (February 26 – July 21, 2019) and requested we develop a work to place underneath the central skylight in the main exhibition space. The premise for the exhibition is the “Platte River – from the sounds and sights of the land, flora, and fauna that surround, inhabit, and visit it to the sky that stretches far above.”
This work began in October 2018. I designed the weaving using software called ProWeave. I wanted to use a weave structure that would show movement, like the current or movement of water, and I wanted the color to reflect the colors of a setting or rising sun. We often think that water is blue, but when looking at a river, the color is always changing and relates to the light in the sky, the depth of the water, the time of year and any number of other details.
Once I determined the size of the weaving—I calculated how big each weaving would need to be—I discovered it would take up to 30 lbs. of cotton thread. For the dye, I used plants I have collected. Fortunately I have been harvesting flower tops for many years and had dried marigolds, cosmos, and other traditional dye plants, weld and madder root, that I had on hand to use.
I modified a weave structure by Franz Donat, published in 1890 in Bindungs-Lexikon fur Schaftweberei downloaded from Handweaving.net. If you look at the ends of the weavings you can see the strips, but the diagonal nature of the weave structure, along with the red/orange of the weft color, alters the perception of the strip, so it is not clear to the eye.
I worked on the yarn preparation for this project for 1 1/2 months: winding over 4,000 warp threads; binding the warp so when I dyed and wove them they spelled out the word FLAT; preparing the yarns for dyeing, including washing the natural cotton to remove any natural oils and debris, mordanting them in a tannin bath followed by an alum bath; soaking the plant material to make the dye; filling big pots of water to cook the dye; dipping sections of the yarn into a ferrous pot to create the dark strips of colors; drying the yarn and rinsing it. The next step was to remove all the binding.
Meanwhile, Jay Kreimer worked on developing the clouds and the eight foot legs of the crane, dropping from the sky. He also created a score that combines natural and created sound to complete the piece. We consulted on color and how to work with the space of the skylight. When we deinstall the work in late July 2019, I will be able to see how the color holds up to the natural light coming into the space from the doors and skylight.
This weaving presents three compelling words in response to bloody and deadly protests taking place in Gaza from March to May 2018. “Gaza, Scar, Camp” speak to experiences both Jews and Palestinians have lived with in profound ways. For millennia Jews endured the scars of hate, ostracization, and pogroms. The horrific experience of the Nazi death camps is indelible and enduring. Palestinians in Gaza have lived in desperate straits over decades and generations. Israeli and Egyptian blockades, checkpoints and roadblocks make access to basic necessities such as school, food, health services, and work extremely difficult. A solution to the Palestinian crisis is a humanitarian necessity and needs to be addressed in the larger context of a volatile, destabilized region.
Fiberart International is a benchmark exhibition presenting the best in contemporary fiber art. FI2019 is the 23rd in an ongoing series of triennial exhibitions. I will be showing this new work called “Gaza, Scar, Camp.”
EXHIBITION DATES: May 31 – August 24, 2019, Pittsburgh, PA
Five Textile Society of America members are represented in this year’s exhibition, which runs April 14 – June 9, 2018 at the Yeiser Art Center, 200 Broadway St, Paducah, KY 42001, (270) 442-2453. Arturo Sandaval was the juror. You will find a complete list of artists on the Yeiser Art Center web page. Liztmannstadt Getto won Best of Show award.
Robert Mertens wrote about his impressions of the Surface Design Association 40th Anniversary Conference, Making our Mark SDA at 40. He wrote he didn’t expect to see immaterial fiber arts that center on ephemerality. Read his full text at the SDA Blog.