Weaving Together History and Now in 'Woven World'
From mid-October to November, the Schick Gallery is hosting Woven World, an eclectic collection of self-taught indigenous artists redefining historicism through their creations. From sacrificial masks to delicately woven baskets, this exhibit showcases the process that connects each artist: one of knotting, contorting, and wrapping. A process that changes even the strongest materials to malleable ones.
The Schick website claims the pieces are “potent artworks of refinement, poise, and richness of detail.” The exhibit develops a conflict between redefining indigenous art forms according to mainstream identities. Woven World begins in no specific way, but each piece creates a new narrative; yet always in proximity to the weaving together of present concepts and artists’ histories.
On the gallery’s right wall, there are three baskets woven into existence with paper. The baskets symbolize a fortitude, an image of daily life dependent on their stability. However, these baskets are fragile and require a gentle touch. Ultimately, the artist has created art out of the once mundane -- turning culture into show.
Many of the art pieces seem to represent this conflict between new artists and their indigenous pasts. Lizzie Farey’s Deep Joy is a narrowing sculpture of woven willow branches. These branches are seamlessly braided together so that onlookers cannot see where each begins or ends, even when sections stick out it is unclear where the branches have come from.
This piece’s intensity is contrasted by a piece called Random Order by Dawn Walden, a basket woven together with cedar bark and roots. Unlike Deep Joy, this exterior is spontaneous with branches bursting and spreading -- a sort of galaxy. However, the basket’s insides reveal the same stitching technique used intricately by Farey. Even with a contemporary exterior, Walden had to build upon tradition.
Artist Sylvain Gorentin creates a dreamy home built within nature with White Tower. A community of sorts is built into woven branches that hoist the sculpture up. The tower seems to fantasizes about life with Mother Nature, not against. Gorentin’s other piece on display, Bird in a Temple, melds an animal’s body and a temple to create a natural worship.
The exhibit also hosts pieces more traditionally based off the artists’ histories. Sylvain and Ghyslaine Staelens use traditional battle figures pieced together with hammered nails, rocks, and wool, as protective spirits. In Cavalier, a warrior complete with bow and arrows is saddled on a horse-dragon hybrid, frozen in anticipation. An unknown African artist depicts three Ewe people wrapped around wooden stakes awaiting an oncoming death, perhaps punishment or sacrifice; as well as a singular captive figure with either a look of anguish or praise fixed on his face.
In my case, I ended Woven World on a Sachiko Itabashi piece entitled Tsubami No.V. After walking through sculptures made of woven woods, rocks, torn wool fabrics, metal, and yarn, I was astonished to see a honeycomb of clear vinyl. Each plastic bubble was held to one another with green yarn. The piece struck me as a sort of look into the immediate future of woven arts -- one using new, man-made mediums to connect to a traditionally organic past.
This exhibit offers a glimpse into the merger of orthodox and contemporary worlds in indigenous art. Woven World will be on display at the Schick until Nov. 19, concluding with a panel discussion between Shari Cavin and Randall Morris of the Cavin-Morris Gallery on the 15th.