Political Strings: Tapestry Seen and Unseen

Christine Laffer, Coordinator

Political Strings: Tapestry Seen and Unseen was a Speakers Session sponsored by ATA and organized by Christine Laffer. It took place during the Textile Symposium of America’s Symposium, held September 19-22, 2012 in Washington D.C. Shaped by a wide range of political forces, artists working in the medium of tapestry express concern about its survivability. Issues regarding production, valuation, visibility, and politicization are overdue for analysis and discussion. This session will look at contemporary tapestry and changes in its processes to discern signs of viability. Is tapestry seen only through the lens of the past? How can it project a strong position in our predominantly visual culture? If the art world can be viewed as an ecosystem what factors affect tapestry’s sustainability? In what way and within what frame does a textile become political if not as strands of history, belief systems, and identities? Should we become more political?

Four speakers will play upon the dual political strings of art making and art exhibiting. These include an Assyriologist who weaves in the tradition of rug making while living in New York City where he assesses the tenuous position of hand-woven art; a tapestry artist and author who surveys the notable yet rarely acknowledged career of Muriel Nezhnie Helfman and the challenges ahead in recording contemporary issues in the tapestry medium; one of two artists who work in a dialogue that ranges from experimentation to reflection on political engagements with the land and bodies they inhabit; and, a professor of Hispanic American literature speaking on the layered textile practices of Consuelo Jiménez Underwood, a Chicana artist who works eloquently at the borderlands of political struggle.

Read the papers given as part of the Speakers Session:

Stanley Bulbach: Invisible Tapestry — An Assyriologist’s Perspective

Linda Rees: Towards a Proactive Outreach

Clara Román-Odio: Colonial Legacies and the Politics of Weaving in Consuelo Jiménez Underwood’s Fiber Art

Linda Wallace and Dorothy Clews: On the Edge: The Artwork of Linda Wallace and Dorothy Clews