The idea of “tapestry” has placed itself deep into the psyche of most Westerners as any fabric-based image that hangs on the wall. For those who create such objects, collect them, or simply admire the work and craft inherent in them, tapestries are wondrous things produced by many different cultures spanning both history and geography. The persistence of this kind of object hints at its romantic appeal.
Artists creating tapestries today are faced with formidable obstacles both historically and technically. On the one hand, tapestry weavers labor under the burden of familiarity. From the Hunt of the Unicorn tapestries to Navaho rugs to Bauhaus textiles, people know certain types of tapestries. Creativity is gauged simultaneously as homage to these divergent traditions and as an ability to find expressive possibility outside these parameters. On the other hand, the ability to weave tapestry is a hard-won skill. Each image is built thread by thread, creating an oddly post-modern conundrum in which an image and an object are identical. Furthermore, the weaver often faces virtual obliteration in the overwhelming number of technical decisions during the creative act.
For these reasons, Tapestry on the Edge merits special consideration. Such juried exhibitions should be viewed not only as a celebration of existing work but also as a promise for further exploration of tapestry as one important way for artists to meld technical and historical precedents to a promise of deeper exploration of the contemporary human condition.
Curator of Contemporary and Northwest Art
Tacoma Art Museum