Sub­texts

Pasatiempo - - In Other Words -

There is no way my kid could weave that Think of the master­works of mid-20th-cen­tury Amer­i­can art and a se­quence of big, bold im­ages by big, bold art stars cas­cades through your mind. Ab­stract Ex­pres­sion­ists, Color Field painters, mod­ernists of var­i­ous stripes — Mil­ton Avery, Stu­art Davis, Adolph Got­tlieb, Hans Hoff­mann, Frank Stella, Ken­neth Noland, Helen Franken­thaler, Robert Mother­well … whoa, back up a minute. Franken­thaler was mar­ried to Mother­well, and her older sis­ter was a cer­tain Glo­ria F. Ross (1923-1998), who also played a prom­i­nent role in the art world, though you’re less likely to know much about her. Her pas­sion was weav­ing, and she cre­ated a niche by pro­mot­ing the “trans­la­tion” of paint­ings by no­table artists — in­clud­ing all of those men­tioned above — into ta­pes­tries ex­e­cuted by many of the finest weavers on the planet.

Ross some­times viewed her task as anal­o­gous to what a movie pro­ducer does. She or­ches­trated the process by se­lect­ing — and some­times com­mis­sion­ing — suit­able im­ages from artists, fig­ur­ing out which tex­tile ar­ti­sans (in Europe, Amer­ica, and Asia) would be most at­tuned to re­al­iz­ing the im­ages in wo­ven for­mat, align­ing the pe­cu­niary mat­ters through spon­sor­ships and mar­ket­ing deals, and ba­si­cally over­see­ing the whole com­pli­cated scheme from start to fin­ish. Un­der her stew­ard­ship, some 30 artists and an army of tex­tile ar­ti­sans gave rise to nearly 250 wo­ven ta­pes­tries.

The epi­cen­ter of Ros­siana is the Ari­zona State Mu­seum at the Uni­ver­sity of Ari­zona in Tuc­son, where a Ross re­search cen­ter is over­seen by Ann Lane Hed­lund. Yale Uni­ver­sity Press has just is­sued Hed­lund’s weighty, gor­geously il­lus­trated vol­ume Glo­ria F. Ross & Mod­ern Ta­pes­try, which ef­fec­tively serves as a cat­a­logue raisonné chron­i­cling her jam­packed life­time of projects. The Amer­i­can South­west plays an im­por­tant part in this in­ter­na­tional story. A de­tailed chap­ter is given over to vi­brant im­ages by Noland, as in­ter­preted in wool by lead­ing Na­tive weavers, in­clud­ing Ra­mona Saki­estewa. Else­where we find Ross bluntly re­buffed by Ge­or­gia O’Ke­effe. Hed­lund gives a lec­ture on Noland and Na­tive Amer­i­can weavers at 3 p.m. Satur­day, Dec. 4, at the Wheel­wright Mu­seum of the Amer­i­can In­dian (704 Camino Lejo on Mu­seum Hill), with a book sign­ing fol­low­ing. For in­for­ma­tion, call 982-4636.

— James M. Keller

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