Sears I

Sears I

Sears I

Richmond II

Richmond III

Richmond III

‘Tapestries’ at JAYJAY

Modern digital technology meets traditional craft in Magnolia Editions: Tapestries, an amazing marriage of weft, warp and imagery. Thick, painstakingly woven textiles have been utilized throughout the ages; the Egyptians and Incas wrapped their dead in them, the Greeks and Romans adorned their homes with them, and later Europeans draped castle walls with them. When the Jacquard loom was invented two centuries ago, perforated cards were used to direct the weavers to pull up or keep each warp or vertical thread to create an image. Up to 36,000 cards could be perforated for one tapestry, with each time-consuming hole equating one stitch.

Fast forward to the twenty-first century, when artists Donald Farnsworth and John Nava, working at the Oakland art press Magnolia Editions, developed a method replacing the time-consuming card weaving with digital technology. After capturing contemporary artists’ works digitally, instructions are fed to the computers in modern Jacquard looms that successfully and beautifully translate the detail, nuance and palette of the original pieces into textiles. The tapestries here were woven at a small family-run mill in Belgium of cotton, viscose, a cellulose-cotton blend, or wool and viscose. And given some the artists behind them-—Squeak Carnwath, Bruce Conner, Leon Golub, Mel Ramos, Nancy Spero, William Wiley and Katherine Westerhout-—they’re certainly not your typical rugs.

From afar, Golub’s large Reclining Youth offers an atmospheric background with a watercolor like quality. Elsewhere, it appears the artist used a heavier hand with the “paint” that was absorbed quickly into the “canvas.” And then there’s an effect that has to be attributed to the viscose in the fabric, a shimmer that’s reminiscent of water’s reflective illusion. But combined together, it’s all very curious, so much that you have to step closer to get the nuances of color and then you can really see it’s all woven into the canvas.

While Golub’s piece is painterly, Alan Magee’s pile of rocks in Cairnis so realistic that, again, you just have to step closer to really see how the artist did it. It is not a photo impression screened over the canvas, but rather a woven image. Ramos’s Martini Miss, a voluptuous babe in his trademark style, is not a surprise. What is, though, is how the loom picked up the graduated shadow of the martini glass stem, and the light source reflecting off the back of the woman’s thigh. Spero’s Black and the Red III references Egyptian antiquity with hieroglyphic figures marching across the panel through chambers of light and dark and red. The loom picked up the essence of thousands of years of aging that Spero offers, but with a rich depth born under that finely honed computerization of weft and warp. The selection of works here highlighted a range of artistic styles, each translated beautifully into textile and confirming the prescience and precision of Farnsworth and Nava’s union of old and new.

Saunthy Nicolson-Singh, April 2005

Magnolia Editions: Tapestries closed in February at JAYJAY, Sacramento. Other artists in the Lia Cook, Lewis deSoto, Guy Diehl, Robert Dunahay, Donald Farnsworth, Era Farnsworth, Rupert Garcia, Josph goldyne, Anthony Holdsworth, Robert Kushner, Hung Liu, John Nava, Dan McCleary, The Art Guys and Darren Waterston. 
Magnolia Newsletters regarding Katherine Westerhout's Tapestries: (PDF format)

Winter 2005-2006

Spring 2004

October 2003

June/July 2003 Press Release
© 2023 Estate Katherine Westerhout Mann (Contact). All rights reserved.