Middle Horizon Nasca-Wari, from Stone-Miller, To Weave for the Sun: Ancient Andean Textiles. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1992.
Maffei’s tapestries have grown larger and more complex. In Deux Mille Yeux, Deux Milieux the image of a movie theater grows row by row on the loom from the back of the theater to the front. The crowd is built from similar, but not identical shapes. The image is at one and the same time a theater full of people and an abstract pattern. A similar effect operates in the tumultuous and crowded battle scenes from the 15th Century “The Trojan War” series. In both cases the placement of color organizes a dense and crowded image into a lively mosaic. In a similar way, the overall pattern in this Late Horizon mantle is animated by the random placement of hues and values among the repeated figural motifs. Maffei thought about what would be playing at the theater as she was weaving the audience, settling finally on this recognizable scene from “Casablanca”. The stylistic contrast between the colorful, abstract pattern of the crowd and the black and white photo realistic rendering of the movie points out the cultural conventions that define different styles of representational imagery.
Susan Martin Maffei, NY Times Series – Home Money and Business, 85" x 30", 1996
In the New York Times series each tapestry focuses on one section of the Sunday New York Times and a particular person, usually a relative of Maffei. The character of the person is developed through the setting and the accompanying objects. Although she used an actual newspaper as a maquette, in Home, Money and Business the rest of the image was woven without a full scale cartoon. In this tapestry a jumble of toys and newspapers litters the floor where a cat eyes an unsuspecting cockroach. The profusion of pattern and the strong colors calls attention to details and individual objects, rather than developing an image with a single focus. The uniformity in the size of the floor tiles tips the plane of the room up so that it is coincident with the surface of the tapestry, but the compression and extension of the patterned motifs on the clothing and high chair cover suggests the three dimensionality of the the chair and the little boy. Many Medieval tapestries, such as these pieces from “The Devonshire Hunting Tapestries” [next page] exhibit a similar combination, in which the shading on the clothing suggests the volume of the body but the space of the image remains relatively flat. The high horizon line, or lack of horizon altogether, the elaborate detail of the imagery, the combining of different parts of a story and the often cavalier use of scale and spatial relationships flattens the space of these gigantic panels, despite the careful rendering of folds and drapery in the clothing.