A new direction is being woven into the fabric of the Metro arts community. Tapestries, prints, and carpets by Mary Zicafoose are being featured with the opening of Gallery 72’s new space at 1806 Vinton St. “Her work speaks volumes about what we want to do here,” said John Rogers, Gallery 72 owner and Director. ”Her work helps define what we hope to accomplish.”
Nationally recognized and internationally known, Zicafoose has spent over 30 years developing a signature style in the world of contemporary tapestry. Characterized by bold color and form, the work blends archetypal symbols with thematic interpretations of surrounding geography. “Ikat”, the ancient and complex technique of resist dyeing assists Zicafoose’s creation of intricate patterns. This method uses resist bindings to dye the pattern into the thread before it is woven.
While Zicafoose uses this technique literally, she metaphorically incorporates it into the meaning of her process. The word “Ikat” is derived from the Indonesian word mengikat ‘to tie.’ Zicafoose writes in her artist statement of “the infinite and repetitive ways cultures, rituals, and collective memories bind us all together. By evolving and transforming timeless motifs and visual language into a contemporary (con)text, I seek to engage my viewers – as well as myself – in dialogues and discussions that reawaken and tie us all to one another.”
The weft faced Ikat tapestries are interspersed with the prints and carpets. “Prairie #1”(2010) is a gray and white balance of bands of grass like shapes. The vibratory rhythm of contrasting values amplifies the qualities of the Ikat technique. Woven with hand dyed silk on linen warp this piece particularly speaks to Zicafoose’s belief in “the power of cloth.” “Tall Grass Clouds”(2011) with alternating bands of white and gray creates an equally effective, yet different sensation of grass moving in a field. The curves and circles in “River #1”(2010) optically distance themselves from the horizontal gray bands. Evoking subtle currents or whirlpools, the shapes seem to play “peek-a-boo” in the tapestry’s overall geometry.
Each of the weaving techniques on display has its own unique quality. The hand-knotted wool and silk carpets are made with Tibetan Highland Sheep wool, prized for its long fibers. These carpets are woven by Inner-Asian Khawachen weavers trained in the tradition of generations of Tibetan weavers. The color and shape of Zicafoose’s designs feel contained within the dense fullness of the carpet’s weave. The larger proportion of yellow variations in “Prairie Field #1” balances a thin red stripe hovering above a blue rectangle. The color and surface is rich and vibrant. It is visually satisfying to see a similar design produced by two different processes in two different studio settings, one the personal work space of the design’s originator and the other a weaving center in Lhasa or Kathmandu.
The monoprints being shown present a range of themes. “Tools for a Trade”(2008) evokes tools used by cave painters 25,000 years ago. “Return to the Mantra”(2008) has similar shapes with a different configuration. They are hung side by side. The vibrant color of one contrasts with the dark gray and black of the other. The timelessness Zicafoose seeks to communicate is captured in the dichotomy between these two images.
“Shifting Embers”(2003) and “New Fire: Triple Helix”(2003), both slit tapestries, achieve this timelessness as well. The orange and violet designs of each carry a beautifully proportioned color frequency communicating an aesthetic moment of insight.
Zicafoose’s work has been shown extensively in venues such as the Phippen Art Museum, Prescott, AZ, San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles, San Jose, CA, and the American Textile History Museum in Lowell, MA. Her tapestries have been shown at The American Tapestry Biennials #7 and #8 and the 13th International Triennial of Tapestry in Lodz, Poland. She is co-director of the American Tapestry Alliance. As an artist in the Art in Embassies program, her work has been placed in many U.S. Embassy permanent and lending collections. In 2008 three weft-faced Ikat tapestries were placed in the permanent collection of the U.S. embassy in Quito, Ecuador.
Given the record of Zicafoose’s accomplishments, the venue is setting its sights high. The pristine white walls of the gallery’s brand new 1800 square foot,L-shaped space showcase her fabric art and prints to great effect. It appears that this inagural exhibit is a good fit for Gallery 72’s rebirth, as its DNA is deeply woven into the Metro art scene.
Mary Zicafoose: Tapestries, Prints, and Carpets, Feb. 1- March 9, 2013, Gallery 72, 1806 Vinton St., Gallery Hours Wed. – Sat. 10 am – 6 pm, 402.496.4797, http://gallery72.com/index.cfm