Painted Threads

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INTRODUCTION MARY BIRMINGHAM While traditional craft materials and processes often play significant roles in contemporary art, the woven textile has always enjoyed a unique relationship to painting. Since the 16th century, when canvas became popular as a painting support, weaving has been an integral (if hidden) part of every painting on canvas. Of course, one could argue that all paintings on canvas are technically “painted threads,” but in conventional painting on canvas or linen, the paint obscures the support, rendering it nearly invisible. The exhibition Painted Threads investigates what happens when the traditional relationship of paint to textile is deconstructed, and the threads take on more than just “supporting” roles—sometimes even standing in for paint. This complicated relationship has been evolving since the early 20th century, when techniques, materials, and concepts associated with textiles began to infiltrate territories that were once the exclusive realm of traditional painting and sculpture. Binky Palermo, Faith Ringgold, Sam Gilliam, and Alan Shields were among the first painters to embrace fabric, thread, string, clothing, and domestic textiles as supports or materials for art making. Their use of these three-dimensional components blurred the boundaries between painting and sculpture. At the same time, pioneering textile artists like Anni Albers, Lenore Tawney, and Sheila Hicks gained recognition as so-called fine artists, further helping to dismantle the barriers separating art and craft. The resulting crosspollination liberated succeeding artists—including those in Painted Threads—from predetermined categories or labels and fostered a synergistic space for experimentation and discovery. Weaving is foundational for all of the artists in this exhibition. Beginning on the loom, they place threads into dialogue with paint, dye, and other materials to expand the aesthetic and conceptual discussions around weaving, painting, and sculpture. Some of the artists paint during the process of weaving, integrating pigment directly into the warp threads to create structure and surface simultaneously. Others weave textiles that become supports for paintings, exploring the relationship between the underlying textile and its painted surface. Several utilize weaving as the starting point for mixed-media wall assemblages that hover between two and three dimensions. These innovative works invite viewers to consider the interconnectivity of weaving, painting, and sculpture in new ways, while challenging traditional hierarchies of fine art and craft.

Victoria Manganiello, Untitled #103, 2018 (detail) 4


Additionally, some of the works in Painted Threads identify and explore a conceptual link to the

Interestingly, these rigorous and often groundbreaking

history of computers and digital technology—a subject addressed by both of the essayists in this

shows were organized by volunteer curators—a group

publication. Sarah Archer is a well-known writer, critic, and curator who has written extensively on

of knowledgeable and dedicated women who sought to

the role of craft in art making and popular culture. Her essay, “Either/And: Where Loom and Canvas

present contemporary art with provocative themes, often

Meet,” considers each of the Painted Threads artists and their unique approaches to color and mark

ahead of subsequent trends in the art world. When I joined

making as they draw inspiration from both traditional textile methods and fine-art techniques. Sarah

the VACNJ staff in 2010 as its first professional curator, I was

Mills is an art historian whose research has focused on the theory and practice of modern weaving in

both inspired by their example and challenged to continue

the United States. Her essay, “Why Weaving Now?,” considers the relevance of weaving as a form of

their legacy.

art making in an age of hypertechnology. The knowledge and insight of these two experts will help readers gain a deeper understanding of these works and their makers.

Textility, an exhibition I co-curated with Joanne Mattera in 2012, featured work that demonstrated formal, material,

Painted Threads reflects a prevalent trend toward exhibiting as well as making interdisciplinary works

or conceptual qualities related to textiles. With its textile-

of art. Many museum and gallery exhibitions have mined the synergy between fine art and craft—a

inspired theme and its emphasis on permeable borders

direction the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey has pursued for more than five decades. Reviewing a

between mediums, it seemed like an appropriate response

show in 1981, a local art critic observed that the Art Center “regularly offers exhibits stressing the affinities

to some of these earlier shows. Painted Threads grew out of

between crafts and ‘fine’ art.”1 Many of these exhibitions focused on fiber and textiles. They included:

my ongoing engagement with textiles and a desire to make

Quilts and Modern Paintings (1975), a loan exhibition drawn from the collection of the

a deeper, more focused inquiry into the specific relationship

Newark Museum, illustrating the formal relationship between American folk-art quilts

of weaving to painting. My hope is that it also acknowledges

and contemporary American painters, including Theodore Stamos, Richard Anuszkiewicz,

and adds to the Art Center’s impressive exhibition history.

Charmion von Wiegand, and Carmen Herrera. •

In their catalogue essay for the 1987 Alan Shields

Intertwining: Contemporary Tapestry & Sculpture (1980), a group show of international

exhibition, co-curators Nancy Cohen and Pat Kettenring

artists, including Josep Grau-Garriga, whose innovative sculptural tapestries utilized

noted, “Alan Shields is not afraid to challenge existing

unconventional materials.

notions about the nature of painting and sculpture and

Alan Shields: Color and Form (1987), an exhibition showcasing an artist who ignored traditionally

about the distinction between art and craft.”2 Happily,

gendered divisions between art and craft to make two- and three-dimensional work

more than forty years later, we are still inviting artists to

incorporating unstretched canvas, rope, yarn, beads, dye, and hand and machine stitching.

address these same challenges. We are grateful to those

The Outer Layer (1995), a show examining the use and meaning of clothing in contemporary

in Painted Threads for advancing the dialogue.

art, and Contemporary Tapestry (2003), presenting the work of tapestry artists Archie •

Brennan and Susan Martin Maffei.

Mary Birmingham

Threads: Fiber Art in the 90s (1997), an ambitious survey show that highlighted thirty-four influential

Curator at the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey

artists, including Sheila Hicks, Faith Ringgold, Lia Cook, Lenore Tawney, Joyce Scott, and others. Eileen Watkins, “‘Intertwining’ the Crafts and Fine Art,” The Sunday Star-Ledger, January 4, 1981.


2 Nancy Cohen and Pat Kettenring, Alan Shields: Color and Form, exh. cat. (Summit, NJ: New Jersey Center for Visual Arts, 1987), n.p.



EITHER/AND: WHERE LOOM AND CANVAS MEET SARAH ARCHER The punch cards that give instructions to the warp threads on a Jacquard loom are almost works of art in their own right. Each is a rectangle, linked to the next by plain white threads to form a long chain. The cards are punched with rows of round holes in rhythmic patterns; each hole is the same size, but the patterns they form vary from card to card. Watching them click past one another as a woven pattern takes shape on a loom is hypnotic. Invented by French weaver Joseph Marie Jacquard in 1803, the Jacquard loom helped mechanize the European textile industry, but it is also a touchstone in the history of modern computing. Though he could not have known it, Jacquard’s device was the handcrafted wooden ancestor of computers as we know them today, from the room-sized IBM devices of the mid-20th century to the globally connected supercomputers we call our phones. They’ve now been replaced by more sophisticated and powerful informationstorage devices, but paper punch cards, which were the Jacquard loom’s native language, were widely used in computing through the 1960s, and are still used in some old-fashioned voting machines today. The cards illustrate something profound about both textile language and computing language: the curious fact that a pattern, whether the holes in a Jacquard punch card or the data known as computer software, can be read at face value by a human being and simultaneously direct a machine to create a different pattern, yielding something entirely new. The holes in a Jacquard punch card are instructions to the warp threads on a loom, each of which is held in place by a pin that lifts it up and down. The cards are designed as if to answer yes/no questions. If a punch-card hole allows the pin to pass through it, a thread is lifted—akin to a “yes”; if there is no hole, the thread remains in place—akin to a “no.” With each pass of the shuttle, “yes” threads are made visible in the weave and “no” threads are not. The result, after thousands of passes, is a complex, woven pattern that owes its structure to its punch-card code but does not resemble it visually. In computing, we call this yes/no system binary code, meaning that the answer must be one of two things; it cannot be both, and it cannot be neither. In recent years, the term binary—and more vitally, its opposite, nonbinary—have become cultural terms for describing our increasingly nuanced understanding of gender.

Mark Barrow and Sarah Parke, Reweave 9.2, 2016 (detail) 8


Textile language, like computer language, is a rich reservoir, full of metaphors and

paints the threads before they are woven together. “When the warp and weft meet, there

symbols that help us name and describe the contours of our world. The diverse and

is an intersection of two colors,” she says, noting that the human eye blends the colors

ingenious works of art in P ainted Threads are examples of what happens when artists

together on sight. She describes her pieces as “pointillist”—a term that comes from the

think about the binary process of weaving in new, nonbinary ways. In the unyielding,

work of Postimpressionist painters Georges Seurat and Paul Signac.1

abstract world of computing, the rule is “either/or.” In the soft, material world of textiles—

Painting on threads before they are woven is extremel y labor-intensive; it typicall y

which comprise real-world atoms and molecules, not virtual-world pixels—the rule is

involves chaining warp threads together, dyeing them by hand on a large work surface,

“either/and.” Techniques and media can be combined and are not mutuall y exclusive;

then arranging them back on the loom once they are dry and the color is set. By hand

proportions can be shifted and patterns can be remixed. Fibers are apt to yield and

painting warp threads, artists can ensure that, although they are using a tool that creates

remain strong, rather than break or fail.

a regular, even-finished product by design, there is no woven cloth anywhere that is

In the past several decades, works of art made from fiber and cloth have straddled


identical to what they have made.

disciplinary boundaries. For centuries, fibers destined for walls typically took the form

Like Jónsson, Oriane Stender also paints threads before she weaves, working with

of a tapestry or a quilt. Other types of cloth were apt to be worn, or used to clean, dry,

a relativel y simple, warp-faced twill pattern. The complexity in her pieces, which are

and comfort us in our daily lives. When artists like Sheila Hicks, Claire Zeisler, and Ruth

animated by forms that echo architectural elements from Europe and the Islamic world,

Asawa began introducing both fiber and textile techniques into the realm of sculpture in

is derived from her hand painting, not the weave. “It feels more accurate,” she says, “to

the 1950s and ’60s, they scrambled the traditional hierarchies of fine art and craft, giving

call [my works] woven paintings than painted weavings.” 2 She forms her patterns with

textiles new, knotty layers of ambiguity. Each of them experimented with weaving off the

six layers of pigment. The final result is somewhat off-register, so it looks as though the

loom, and created large, even monumentally scaled work; in Asawa’s case, she worked with

shape is echoed in the background.

metal wire as though it were thread. Was their work feminine or masculine? Domestic or

Mark Barrow and Sarah Parke, who work together as Barrow and Parke, create layered,

professional? Avant-garde or vernacular? One of the things that gives fiber its narrative

woven forms that draw on their separate artistic interests and training—Parke is a weaver

power as a material for artists is that it is very much at home in the worlds of both fine art

and Barrow is a painter. “Weaving’s logic became the conceptual backbone of our entire

and textile art, and cannot easily be classified in a binary fashion.

practice,” Barrow says.3 They create each work from start to finish as a team, considering

The artists in P ainted Threads approach the loom as a starting point, taking the formal,

the way in which weaving is an additive process that marks time. In one sense, time moves

even rigid technique of weaving to eccentric heights by tweaking the process, adding

forward as the woven form gets longer and longer. In another way, it is circular, as the

to it, and breaking the rules. Hildur Ásgeirsdóttir Jónsson has drawn inspiration from a

pattern repeats itself in a cycle.

rock formation in the northern region of her native Iceland. Her piece Hvitserkur (2018, p. 32)

While some artists lean towards the watercolor-like fluidity of painting on thread, others

is named for the iconic basalt stack, which looks a bit like a broad-shouldered figure and

gravitate to the “feel” of computing and the look of its output. Interl ace 3 (2019, detail on

whose Icelandic name means “white shirt.” Jónsson often photographs landscapes in

p. 15), Samantha Bittman’s site-specific, vinyl-wallpaper installation for the Art Center’s

Iceland and uses the images she captures to design woven works. Working on a loom, she

stairwell, is created in Photoshop and printed digitally. To produce this installation, Bittman


first selected a color palette and then designed a digital-weave draft where each pixel

thread. “Painting on fiber leads to more complex creations, more layers,” she says. “It tells

equals one square inch. She enlarged this original file, scaling it to fit the specific space. In

stories. You are weaving your canvas as you want with materials, [it] give[s] [the work]

her painted woven pieces, she paints with acrylic on the surface of the textile, creating a

structure, pattern, [and] tactile properties, and then painting allows you to transform the

new layer of pattern that responds to the underlying weaving. Yet the woven form is always

work into something else.” 6

the same: One pattern is intrinsic to the structure of the weave, and the other, like Jónsson’s and Stender’s painted warp threads, is an echo of what is already there.


Crystal Gregory embraces the notion of “something else” both formally and metaphorically. To make her piece Shifting Center 1 (2019, p. 31), she cast woven fiber into concrete, then

Working in collaboration with programmer and inventor Julian Goldman, artist Victoria

embedded the cloth into two panels so that it dips between them when mounted on the

Manganiello has created a work that clearly recalls weaving’s digital roots. Her piece

wall. The gesture is elegant, like the arc of a hoopskirt in motion. Gregory is inspired by

Computer 1.0 of 2018 (p. 34 and 35) is an interactive work made from woven cloth and

the writing of Pennina Barnett, who posed prescient questions in her catalog essay for the

polymer tubing. The “brains” of the piece, as described by Goldman, is a computer and a

1999 exhibition Textures of Memory: The Poetics of Cloth: “What if the poetics of cloth were

“pump box” that pumps water and air through the woven tubing on a continuous loop. This

composed of ‘soft logic,’ modes of thought that twist and turn and stretch and fold? And in

effectively turns the textile into a “display,” says Goldman, as though it were a screen made

this movement new encounters were made, beyond the constraint of binaries?”7 Gregory’s

from glowing pixels, making the link between the computing and textile worlds crystal

works, which flirt with sculptural dimensions but cling to the wall, seem to hover in this

clear.4 “We think of ‘Women in Tech’ as a new phenomena [sic] when actually women

particular region of ambiguity. Yet in a sense, they could not be more familiar. According to

(including many indigenous ones) have been working with computing in and around textiles

Gregory, “We understand how these materials act because we constantly touch them. They

for centuries,” says Manganiello.5 Fiber and clothing surround us just like computers and

are embedded in our environments, our language and our understanding of the world.”8

smartphones do, but in different ways. Computer 1.0 highlights the relationships between

Concrete and woven cloth, such physically different materials, appear together in Shifting

them, and manifests the idea that we bask in the very real glow of electronic technology

Center 1 as though they cannot exist without one another. The textile logic of “either/and”

and information day and night, often as unthinkingly as we put on clothes or shoes.

unites cloth and concrete in the interest of expressing a complex idea as only fiber can.

Two artists in P ainted Threads embrace ambiguity, especially when it comes to the

Painting magnifies the metaphorical potential of weaving. Each of the artists in P ainted

dimensions in which works made from fiber exist. A native of Turkey, Desire Rebecca

Threads uses woven fiber as an idiosyncratic canvas for works that straddle two and three

Moheb-Zandi grew up watching her grandmother weave on a loom in her childhood home,

dimensions. Because studio craft practices were long denigrated in fine-arts contexts (and

and has maintained a love for weaving ever since, while exploring how the loom can be

indeed, in some instances they still are), scholars, critics, and curators are apt to classify

used as a sculptural tool. Her work Maze of 2019 (p. 37) is made using an appropriately

works as either “art” or “craft,” while the artists may choose not to decide one way or

dizzying array of techniques. The dark-blue segment is hand-dyed wool, with turquoise rope

another. Artists might also reject the idea that the two categories are mutually exclusive.

that has been hand-wrapped in thread. The sculptural part, which resembles a classical

The exercise of assembling a group of works in which painting and weaving overlap is

Chinese landscape scroll painting crossed with the tree and cloud-filled, 16-bit landscape

aesthetically rich, but it also sheds light on the ways in which fine art and craft practices

of Nintendo’s video game “Super Mario Bros. 2,” is constructed from Poly-fil, nylon, and silk

are increasingly bound together.


Sarah Archer is a writer and curator specializing in design and material culture. She is the author of The Midcentury Kitchen and a contributing editor of the journal, American Craft Magazine.


Author’s e-mail communication with Hildur Ásgeirsdóttir Jónsson, July 2019.


Author’s e-mail communication with Oriane Stender, July 2019.


Author’s e-mail communication with Mark Barrow, July 2019.


Author’s e-mail communication with Julian Goldman, July 2019.


Author’s e-mail communication with Victoria Manganiello, July 2019.


Author’s e-mail communication with Desire Rebecca Moheb-Zandi, July 2019.


Pennina Barnett, “Folds, Fragments, Surfaces: Towards a Poetics of Cloth,” in Textures of Memory:

The Poetics of Cloth, by Polly Binns et al., exh. cat. (Nottingham: Angel Row Gallery, 1999), 182. 8

Author’s e-mail communication with Crystal Gregory, July 2019.

Samantha Bittman, Interlace 3, 2019 (detail) 14


WHY WEAVING NOW? SARAH MILLS Weaving is a form of digital technology. It operates on a binary code just like a computer, using warp and weft threads instead of ones and zeros. Like a digital image, a textile’s pattern or pictorial design comprises a matrix of encoded data written specifically for computation by a loom—a type of computer processor. A textile’s physical form and visual elements are the result of a certain combination of threads moving over and under each other at right angles, sometimes intersecting along multiple planes in space. But no computer programmer can write code that designs software and builds a hard product simultaneously—unless the programmer is a weaver. To weave, then, means to work along a spectrum of practices, with engineering at one end and programming at the other. The weaver must know how to physically build the textile form, but must also be fluent in the computational language used to design its appearance. Today, a third option is emerging as weavers incorporate analog forms of art making into their practice. Given that the invention of weaving occurred thousands of years ago, it seems strange that we align our current era—the Information Age—with the so-called advent of a digital revolution.1 The notion that the future yields societies of greater intelligence, defined, in part, by the proliferation of digital systems tethered to ever-larger storage files accessed at faster rates, also registers as somewhat naïve, as the historian of technology George Dyson has argued. Dyson believes that a stronger communication tool lies in analog technology (an unimpeded, material-based channeling of data; a model of a model, not a symbolic translation or algorithmic sequencing), or rather, the interdependence of the two forms of informational exchange, digital and analog.2 His theories, supported by experts in large companies such as Google and Intel, reflect the practices of many contemporary weavers who, since the early 2000s, have experimented with a range of diverse techniques in their art. In the last decade, several of them have extended the complexity of weaving through the application of the analog technology of painting. Blending the most digitally heavy weaving practices (multiplane or compound, on-loom weaving) with free-form painting, they reflect the hyperconnectivity of digital and analog experiences that shapes our 21st-century spatial and communicative realities.

Hildur Ásgeirsdóttir Jónsson, Hvitserkur, 2018 (detail) 16


To understand the relevance of weaving now, it is helpful to know a little about its

used in weaving: fibers.5 While continuing to weave, some artists, such as Magdalena

past. Before the birth of modern-day computing systems (or rather, before Microsoft

Abakanowicz, began to unravel their constructions, pulling out threads and twisting or

and Apple became the corporate kings of information exchange), the kings of the

looping them around other threads in practices more akin to knitting and lacemaking—a

Peruvian and Chinese empires, among others, literally wore information on their sleeves.

kind of drawing with fiber. Still other weavers, such as Sheila Hicks, momentarily left

Their garments featured patterns so rich and detailed that even today their structural

weaving altogether, preferring to wrap or knot threads around each other, sculpting forms

codes are only partially understood.3 Woven with silk threads wrapped with precious

that were sometimes thick and giant, other times threadbare and small. Ultimately, these

metal strips and elaborately dyed fibers, the patterns would have been perceived as

weavers mined the inherent properties of their materials, indulging their spatial-textural

superior, due to the quality of their color and textural gradation, the range of their tonal

behaviors to achieve imaginative ends. Weaving, then, became a means to a greater

harmonies, and their intricate detail. Such visual effects, while indebted to artisans

goal, a technology to subvert, to abandon, or to showcase materials; it was not itself a site

with expert knowledge in dyeing and spinning, derived primarily from weavers using

of extraordinary experimentation. Today, that has changed.

compound weave structures made up of two or more sets of warps and/or wefts.


In recent years, contemporary artists have returned to the most digital-heavy

Fast-forward to the 1930s, during the early development of modern-day computing,

form of weaving, synthesizing it with analog practices of painting. They begin by

when weaving practices in western cultures began to fracture along several fine lines.

writing a draft or code for the making of a textile. Then, during the process of

For the purposes of this essay, I briefly discuss two of those lines: machine weaving

weaving, they appl y a pigmented liquid to their threads, altering the colors and

and fiber art. Advancements in the construction of machine or power looms at this time

patterns in the draft or, in some cases, amplifying them. The works of Samantha

reflected the way technology was being deployed in the building of computers: both

Bittman, Victoria Manganiello and Crystal Gregory are examples of the latter:

devices were designed to store large amounts of information and retrieve it at a faster

these artists magnify weave structures in ways that point to the sublimity of their

rate. As such, they became catalyzing forces in the rise of mass culture, affording more

technical properties. In Computer 1.0 (2018, p. 34 and 35), for example, Manganiello,

possibilities for information exchange—material and conceptual—among the ma jority,

in collaboration with Julian Goldman, incorporates clear pol ymer tubing as weft,

even when those opportunities came with a price tag.

weaving it through a banner-style textile that she suspends in spiral formation from

Technology, however, has not always been associated with mechanized processes or

the ceiling. She then activates analogicall y the digital structure of her white, plain-

with tools possessing increased speed and memory. Ancient cultures utilized it often for

woven form, shooting dark fluid through the tubing at intervals, interspersed with

the purposes of producing art, rather than to more quickly produce and acquire utilitarian

bubbles of air, as if transmitting a telegraphic signal along wires. The entire effect

goods (though both uses can exist simultaneously, as in craft)4. A second direction in

is comparable to watching a late nineteenth-century film by the Lumière brothers

modern weaving—fiber art—is comparable to this understanding of technology. In

with its constant flickers of light and shadow, made surreal by its projection on a

the 1960s and ’70s, fiber artists, many of whom were weavers, partly or fully left the

screen that spins in circles above viewers’ heads.

loom, in acts deconstructing the technology of weaving. As they did so, they moved

Bittman and Gregory equall y explore the sublime in their work. In Bittman’s case

into analog-specific modes of making, exploiting the material components commonly

(see Untitled, 2019, p. 28), it occurs through analogic mimicry of the digital. She


paints over her weaving, carefull y following the angular form of the woven pattern,

create free-form pattern. Putting aside the complicated logic of weave structure,

sometimes revealing it, other times covering it up, to the point where the two

they invent their compositions through painting layers of (un)woven warp threads.

modes of conveying information blend seamlessl y together. As we look at her work,

Their techniques create a veil-like quality that evokes the idea of soft design—that

we begin to lose track of what we know, incapable of discerning surface from

is, the concept of visual information’s impermanence, its mutability, and its lack of

structure from construction, an experience not unlike lucid dreaming or inhabiting

attachment to a specific material substance. (Web pages, which can be infinitely

virtual reality. Gregory’s sculpture (see Shifting Center 1, 2019, p. 31) uncannil y

redesigned, are good examples of soft design.)

stops all information flow, fossilizing the digital data of the weave structure within

The work of Moheb-Zandi (see Maze, 2019, p. 37) harks back to the fiber art

hardened concrete while letting the remaining portions of the material droop,

movement with its analog demonstrations of materiality—bulbous, twisting forms,

obscured within folds and l ying dormant.

meandering along their own path yet built within a binary-structured foundation

Oriane Stender, Hildur Ásgeirsdóttir Jónsson, Sarah Parke and Mark Barrow, and

or plain or twill weave. As such, Moheb-Zandi’s forms appear as organic take-overs

Desire Rebecca Moheb-Zandi work within the spatial architecture of weaving, placing

of digital systems, a process that occurs naturall y in a man-made structure left

paint within or on layers of threads, in works that undermine the pervasive assumption

untouched over time. One cannot help but see in Maze a tension between these

that a textile is flat. If anyone could poke serious, critical fun at the ideas of the art

two modes of growth: one analogic and human-like, the other mechanistic and

critic Clement Greenberg, it would be one of these weavers. Their work expressly


demonstrates that all painting is decoration—something Greenberg viewed as a

The interdependence of analog and digital technologies within a single operating

liability—in the sense that it ultimately ornaments a physical object, often a textile (a

system has structured many of our experiences in the world. It makes it possible to

canvas) with a taut, woven structure. Barrow and Parke, a power team in the world of

wander without ever getting lost (via GPS); or to converse with one friend in Venice

contemporary art, playfully engage with this long-established dogma of painting as

while having coffee with another in Brooklyn (via video chat), all connected visually

being pigment on canvas by painting on patterned, hand-woven fabric stretched over

while situated at different points on the globe. No other medium has nearly the same

a wood frame (see Origin, 2019, p. 26). They allow the varied twill-weave structure of

potential to reflect this particular spatial-visual complexity as weaving does now; no

their canvas to dictate their composition, painting over the path of individual threads,

other medium can build a pictorial design that is also necessarily inscribed within its

highlighting their rise and fall through the material, and exposing their disappearance

principal architecture. As described above, contemporary weavers have interjected

and resurfacing—the action that defines weaving. In other works, however, Barrow

into the algorithmic perfection of weaving a very human sensibility, not one of

and Parke flagrantly defy the pattern of the weave, painting playful forms that dance

distortion or imperfection (which is how we tend to describe the products of a human

over large expanses of fabric, treating the canvas as it has traditionally been used by

hand), but one that, through painting processes, contemplates the experience of our

painters, as a flat picture plane.

hypermedia information exchange. If woven textiles are fossils of our intelligence,

Stender and Jónsson—also fans of spatially extending the matrix of weaving through

then those in P ainted Threads are imprints of our life right now.

processes of painting (pre)woven threads—have devised innovative techniques to



Dr. Sarah Mills is a professor of art history at Westchester Community College, SUNY and is writing a book on the history of modern American weaving in art and design.


Although the development of advanced semiconductor devices, among other things, has afforded

this revolution, the layperson’s misunderstanding of the Information Age is that it is defined by a specific technology (the digital) instead of by particular technological relationships. 2

See George Dyson’s “The Third Law,” in John Brockman’s Possible Minds: Twenty-Five Ways of

Looking at AI (New York: Penguin, 2019), 33–40. 3

Last year Martina Ferrari, Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in Textile Conservation at the Metropolitan

Museum of Art in New York, and Janina Poskrobko, the museum’s Conservator in Charge, began to develop a new system to document the complexity of compound weave structures in ancient textiles. Though onl y in the earl y stages of her research, Ferrari has discovered a handful of structural formations (a means of building pattern) that are not entirel y known or understood by textile historians. Ferrari’s renderings have the potential to revolutionize the way we think about and visualize the color sequences and patterns of textiles. 4

One of the many writings on ancient cultures’ understanding and use of technology is Heather

Lechtman’s essay “Technologies of Power: The Andean Case,” in Configurations of Power: Holistic Anthropology in Theory and Practice, ed. John S. Henderson and Patricia J. Netherl y (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1993), 245–73. 5

While the exhibition catalogue Fiber: Sculpture 1960–Present, edited by Jenelle Porter (Munich and

New York: Prestel, 2014), is a recent classic, two exhibition catalogues by Mildred Constantine and Jack Lenor Larsen offer the best, most comprehensive surveys of fiber art from this time: Beyond Craft: The Ar t Fabric (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1973) and The Ar t Fabric: Mainstream (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1970).

Oriane Stender, Flag 2, 2019 (detail) 22





Origin, 2019


Reweave 9, 2016



Untitled, 2019


Untitled, 2019



Ingrained, 2019 Shifting Center 1, 2019 30



Hvitserkur, 2018




Computer 1.0, 2018 (details from previous installation)




Find Out, 2018 Maze, 2019 36



Flag 2, 2019


Mezmerize (6 layer), 2019



Mark Barrow and Sarah Parke Origin, 2019 Embroidery and acrylic on handloomed linen 19 x 15 inches Collection of Kurt Egger and Shannon Maher NJD, 2011 Acrylic on handloomed linen 18 x 15 inches Collection of Jayne and Noah Johnson Courtesy of JDJ, New York

Untitled, 2019 Acrylic on handwoven textile 20 x 16 inches Untitled, 2019 Acrylic on handwoven textile 24 x 18 inches Untitled, 2019 Acrylic on handwoven textile 12 x 10 inches

Desire Rebecca Moheb-Zandi Maze, 2019 Paper, cotton, silk, linen, roving wool, wire, Poly-fil, nylon, rope, wood, paint, and cord 90 x 41 x 11 inches

Reweave 9, 2016 Hand-dyed linen 20 x 16 inches

Crystal Gregory Shifting Center 1, 2019 Handwoven textile, cast into concrete 72 x 36 inches

Find Out, 2018 Paper, cotton, wood, silk, rope, and paint 16 x 15 inches

Reweave 9.2, 2016 Hand-dyed linen 18 x 12 inches

Unnamed, 2019 Handwoven textile, cast into concrete 36 x 30 inches

Samantha Bittman Interlace 3, 2019 Digitally printed wallpaper 116 x 116 inches

Hildur Ásgeirsdóttir Jónsson Hvitserkur, 2018 Dyes on silk 114 x 171 inches Courtesy of the artist and Tibor de Nagy Gallery, New York, NY

Oriane Stender Flag 2, 2019 Painted warp (ink and pigment on cotton), silk weft, double weave 32 x 22 x 1 inches

Untitled, 2019 Acrylic on handwoven textile 15 x 12 inches Untitled, 2019 Acrylic on handwoven textile 12 x 9 inches

Victoria Manganiello In collaboration with Julian Goldman Computer 1.0, 2018 Woven textiles constructed with traditional yarns and clear polymer tubing Dimensions variable

All works are courtesy of the artist(s) unless otherwise noted.


Victoria Manganiello Untitled #102 and #103, 2018 Natural and synthetic fiber and dye; artist frames 62 x 30 x 3 inches (each)

Mezmerize (6 Layer), 2019 Painted warp (ink and pigment on cotton), silk weft 28 x 20 x 1 inches Untitled (White Squares), 2017 Painted warp (ink and pigment on cotton), silk weft 25 x 22 inches

Oriane Stender, Untitled (White Squares), 2017 Samantha Bittman, Untitled, 2019



This beautiful and thought-provoking exhibition is the effort of a wonderful team. We would like to begin by thanking the essayists, Sarah Archer and Sarah Mills, for their contributions to this exhibition catalogue. We also thank the catalogue’s editor Robyn Roslak, designer Matt Barteluce, and printer GHP. Without this dedicated and talented team, the catalogue would not exist. We are especially indebted to those who generously loaned artworks to the exhibition: Kurt Egger and Shannon Maher, and Jayne and Noah Johnson. And of course, we are equally indebted to all of the participating artists: Mark Barrow and Sarah Parke; Samantha Bittman; Crystal Gregory; Hildur Ásgeirsdóttir Jónsson; Victoria Manganiello and her collaborator, Julian Goldman; Desire Rebecca Moheb-Zandi; and Oriane Stender. P ainted Threads would not have been possible without the financial support of the Coby Foundation. We thank the foundation for its leadership in the field of textile and needle arts. We are proud to join an amazing group of grantees that have been supported by the Coby Foundation since 2012, furthering the reach of this art form across the Mid-Atlantic and New England regions. We acknowledge Sally Morgan Lehman, Asya Geisberg, and Jayne Johnson, who offered assistance throughout the planning process. We are thankful to our team here at the Art Center who helped make this exhibition and catalogue possible. We would like to thank Noelle Park, our exhibition intern, and Bill Austin, our beloved volunteer who assisted with research materials. And finally, we want to recognize Kimberly Siino, Exhibitions Manager, and Mary Birmingham, Curator and author of the introduction of this catalogue. This powerhouse duo continues to organize exhibitions that delight and inspire, and for that we are all grateful.

Melanie Cohn Executive Director

Victoria Manganiello, Untitled #102 and #103, 2018 42


This catalogue is published in conjunction with the exhibition Painted Threads, on view at the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey, September 27, 2019 – February 9, 2020. Design by Matt Barteluce Edited by Robyn Roslak Printed by GHP Media, West Haven, CT Page 2 detail: Crystal Gregory, Shifting Center 1, 2019. Photography credits Page 32: Tim Safranek Pages 38 & 39: Paul Takeuchi © 2019 Visual Arts Center of New Jersey ISBN: 978-0-925915-58-0

68 Elm Street | Summit, NJ 07901 | 908.273.9121 | Major Support for the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey is provided in part by the Peter R. & Cynthia K. Kellogg Foundation; the Wilf Family Foundations; and Art Center members and donors. Major funding for Painted Threads is provided by the Coby Foundation