Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Basketry: Traditional To Contemporary Woven Art at the Pickens Museum

Two days ago, I began relating to you about my visit to the Pickens Museum in Pickens, SC, for the exhibition, "Basketry: Traditional To Contemporary Woven Art." Sorry, it took me an extra day to get this little blogpost finished and ready to publish! But here goes, finally!

The exhibit was curated by Pati English, known for her weaving and teaching in throughout the southeast US. I have enjoyed knowing Pati at the North Carolina Basketmakers Association Convention each March, where she usually teaches. Here is Pati, walking through the gallery of baskets, surrounded by reception attendees:

Evidently, the Director of the Pickens Museum, Allen Coleman invited Pati to curate a basketry exhibit at the museum. What a wonderful idea, and such a fabulous opportunity for the weaving community! Pati decided to highlight basketmakers from SC and the neighboring states, showing a range of basketry from the traditional, functional use baskets, all the way to the strictly modern-style, non-functional baskets featured in art galleries.

The opening reception was well-attended, bringing interested parties (and alot of basketmakers!) from several states. It was a great opportunity to meet with the artists whose work was included in the exhibition. Above, Tika Tucker explains some of her work to an attendee. More photos of the exhibition, including of all the artists, are on the Picken's Museum Facebook page. But here are some excepts. Most of the works are for sale.

By Barbara McCormick, "Sweetgrass Fanner Basket."

All of Barbara's sweetgrass baskets are woven using the coil method, and include sweetgrass, long leaf pine needles, bulrush, and palmetto leaves, as generations of her family have done. This is an example of a traditional basket that was particularly important to SC. Historically, this style (and material) basket was made by African slaves for use on rice plantations. This particular type of basket was used for fanning, or winnowing, rice hulls. Barbara's version is probably a little fancier than most, with it's braided rim.

By Gail McKinley, "Fish Basket (Trap) of Split Oak," and "Miniature Fish Basket."

Gail uses hand-pounded white oak to make traditional use baskets. These fish baskets were made the way her father and grandfather made them. Gail says she has met people from around the world who recognize this style of woven trap! She also displayed a selection of other traditional use baskets, seen in the background, most of them were typically used for eggs.

By Pati English, "Twill in Black."
Pati's choices of baskets for this exhibit demonstrate her versatility and love of color and form. Pati's baskets use traditional techniques, but she stretches the traditional use basket into the modern era. Her baskets, while still recognizable as baskets, have additional elements of color and shape that obviously transcend traditional use. She also did a fabulous job curating!

By Dolores Von Rosen, "Mountain Range."
Dolores was first intrigued by basketry in the first grade (!!) and now focuses on form and color, dying and weaving reed and seagrass. The lovely undulating shape and rich colors of this basket was obviously inspired by the mountains. Dolores is another basketmaker who uses traditional techniques to sometimes make baskets that are useable as containers, yet are made with an extra aesthetic as well.

By Laura Lee Zanger, "Diamonds and Arrows Mat," and "Chitimatcha Diamonds."
Laura Lee focuses on eye-dazzling plaited designs. This particular color and pattern combination is wonderfully appealing. Though Laura Lee also teaches, (as do most of the artists in this exhibit) she is immersed in mathematics and technique. She spends weeks before weaving figuring out the basket - graphing the weave, taking traditional Native American designs to the next level by combining them in new ways. Her work is as much graphics and surface design as it weaving.

By Tika Tucker, "Migraine," "Bark Basket," Navajo Jewel."

Tika has a real talent for form and color, and this arrangement pleased me most of all those in the show. I love the juxtaposition between the very even repetitive structure of the baskets flanking the random beauty of the natural bark basket, as well as the very lovely subtle color play. Tika experiments with color and pattern and seems to love the challenge of making the squared element round. Her work is always an amazing dance.

By Michael Davis, detail of "Pointalistic Dance."
Michael is very obviously a gallery artist, and uses basket weaving techniques to create very sculptural, colorful, non-functional pieces. Also, he sometimes uses familiar, non-traditional objects in his weaving to provoke and give unique texture. This piece uses quilting pins and watercolor brushes for texture and interest. Another used giant pine cone scales. These are pieces that take center stage, and in this exhibit, the lighting does a dance with the baskets as well.

Me (Pamela Zimmerman) with my baskets:
My little corner of the exhibit contained five pieces of my work, "Trade Cargo: Passages," (on the wall,) "Heart of the Tangle," (on the stand in front of me,) "Catching the Moon on a Star," (black, to my right,) and the sister pieces "Blooming Twisted Sister" and "Budding Twisted Sister." Three of these pieces are from my "face basket" series, and two from my mobius strip experiment.

It is a genuine pleasure and honor to have had my work included in this show!

Of course it is worth a special trip to see this exhibition! It runs through November 11! Don't forget to visit the nice little gift shop and museum.

There will also be a basketweaving workshop on October 30, taught by Pati English, as part of this exhbition. Registration deadline for the workshop is Oct. 16. Don't miss it!



Jeanne said...

Wow, Pamela,

Awesome works of art in basketry.
I love looking at them all.
Your pineneedle basket friend, Jeanne Williams over here in MT

Brenda said...

What beautiful displays everyone has. Great baskets everyone!! I have never done any sweetgrass baskets, but this display sure makes me eager to try it.

Anonymous said...

I don't care if you post this or not.... but sweetgrass baskets are NOT your of YOUR culture. It belongs to the African American culture. You folks steal everything and try to call it your own!

Pamela Zimmerman said...

The Gullah tradition only became what it is because the African slaves used what they found here in the US, applying the techniques they knew from their home country. Gullah sweetgrass baskets are unique to the US, and so ARE part of our tradition.

The sweetgrass basketmaker whose work was invited to exhibit work in this exhibition is African American, and at least a third generation sweetgrass coiler, and considers this style and technique a very essential part of her heritage.

In addition, the USA, as the great melting pot, claims the heritage of all our people.