Always Greener came out of my developing awareness of how the two sides of tapestry weaving, pictorial and geometric, relate to each other. It always seems like there’s just a shade of jealousy about “the other side” having it easier, either making or selling their work, or just getting respect for it. And I really am uncomfortable with any kind of “us versus them” mentality.
This piece was about taking naturalistic shapes and making them geometric. It’s about how they relate to each other. So I revisited this body shape that I’d done in a handful of pieces before. And I let the bodies do things. They float, they play with the lines that encompass them, and they turn into geometric shapes. I was told that the upper right body is doing something akin to “downward dog.” I even divided bodies up for their geometric components.
It was woven in 2000. It uses all natural dyes, and it’s here in the shop at the moment on consignment from the owner.
Clearly we are solidly in the camp of geometric tapestry weavers. Pictorials have been around in our tradition, but, other than things like thunderbirds and roadrunners, haven’t really been a big part of it. It isn’t that our techniques aren’t amenable to imagery, but they really are very much designed around things like symmetry and pattern, and our techniques train our brains around logical thinking that just doesn’t much apply to naturalistic forms. These thought process are certainly a big part of what I like so much about weaving.
Weaving imagery requires having something to say in imagery. That “picture painting a thousand words” thing is something I have always found mildly intimidating. And I’m sure I’d always have the nagging sense that maybe just painting it would be faster and more appropriate for whatever I would want to say with an image.
And once, a few years after I completed this weaving, I was told that what we do wasn’t actually tapestry weaving. She had learned a different kind of methodology and apparently couldn’t mentally encompass what we do as being tapestry, despite the fact that it very much fits the definition of tapestry.
So, in my mind, getting respect for tapestry as an art form is challenging for all of us. I’ve watched people talk about it as an issue, a challenge, for tapestry artists, but I don’t have any answers as to how such a thing is ever going to come about. I know that there are tapestry weavers that promote their work really well, so I guess it could happen that someday a tapestry weaver, or a few really great ones, will push the envelope of artistic respect beyond where it sits today. I don’t know that there’s any reason to think that geometric forms or traditional design should be any more or less likely to garner respect for tapestry than imagery or boundary pushing new tapestry forms.
I’ve heard from pictorial weavers that those of us weaving in a tradition have it made, that we have an already developed market. Which is, sort of, true. But I’d argue that, as individual artists, we have to build a market for our work in precisely the same way that any other artist does. Our work has some credibility as an authentic outcome of an old tradition. I wouldn’t say that that was really a simple thing to achieve, but it is something that adds value to our work based on work done by those that have gone before. So maybe they have a good point there.