Is this true? To what extent have you investigated the limitations and strengths of the materials you use? How can their weaknesses be turned to strengths, and contribute to the conceptual meaning of the work? Has anyone ever asked you: “Why don’t you just paint?”
C. Tapestry has ignored contemporary issues taken on by the fiber and art worlds.
Is this true? Are you familiar with current topics being used by artists in the larger fiber or art world? How would you characterize contemporary tapestry in terms of the subject matter being dealt with? What is your work about?
D. You rarely see much of a transformation of materials in tapestry, the hallmark of most good craft and art work.
Is this true? Does your process of making include steps beyond or in addition to the standard finishing in order to enhance or alter the appearance of the piece? Why is this important?
E. Tapestry continues to remain an essentially 2-D medium, though the rest of the art and craft worlds have been exploring sculptural and installation formats for decades.
This is obviously true, one only has to look at tapestry exhibition catalogs. But why? What kind of subject matter in tapestry would require a 3-D rather than 2-D presentation?
II. If we acknowledge some of these criticisms as true, and if we wish to affect change, there are ways to facilitate that:
A. ATA is in the position to augment the excellent job it already does in supporting and promoting contemporary tapestry and offering educational events such as this one. It could also sponsor or encourage seminars and study groups to expand the knowledge of its members beyond technical and design arenas.
B. Looking at the criticisms of tapestry as a point of departure, topics of these seminars and study groups could be subjects such as: Contemporary Ideas in Art and Craft, the Tapestry Connection; Looking at Tapestry’s History for Conceptual Ideas; Decoration as Subversion: Investigating Conceptual Ideas in the Structure of Tapestry; Materials and Meaning Risk and the Transformed Tapestry; Moving Off the Wall with Tapestry; and so on.
C. Given the dispersal of tapestry artists around the world, and the expense of organizing centralized conferences to present seminars, I would suggest ‘distance learning’ via e-mail and the internet as an ideal means of proceeding. On-line sign-ups at specific e-mail addresses of study group or seminar leaders for particular topics could happen as they do with Complex Weavers’ study groups. The study group could make democratically based decisions regarding seminar/group content, readings, structured assignments and evaluation. I could imagine such groups being tremendously exciting in terms of idea generation and what they could do for the field of tapestry. Reading and discussion would familiarize people with the canons of the larger art and craft field, and would lead to concepts and new approaches for making tapestries which could remove the veil currently obscuring tapestry from curators, collectors and gallery owners.
D. On a local level I strongly encourage artists working in tapestry to form on-going critique groups as a means of obtaining objective feedback about work. Guidelines for proper critique behavior are important in such groups.