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Color Fields: A Conversation about Ikat, Tapestry and Contemporary Art


Color Fields: A Conversation about Ikat, Tapestry and Contemporary Art with Mary Zicafoose

Saturday, May 16, 2015 10 am, Koret Auditorium, de Young Museum

Life and yarn share many similar characteristics—the most obvious being their predisposition to twist and turn. I began experimenting with weft-faced ikat applications early on in the rug-making years of my textile career. At that time I was looking for a technique that would create a fluid, lyrical, painterly effect on a woven surface, something that would release my imagery off the grid structure of a warp. I was dreaming of a weaving technique that did not require 10,000 yarn butterflies or half a lifetime dedicated to the creation of one large-scale piece. The more I looked at images of old ethnic ikat clothing, the more intrigued I became with the possibilities this technique seemed to hold for creating visual illusions and freedom of design in tapestry. The year was 1986. Armed with no previous experience, and not enough information to be intimidated, savvy, or dangerous, I started wrapping and dyeing yarn. Through trial and error, over many pieces and many years, I derived a very precise and articulate formula for inviting the creative muse into my handwoven cloth. I had no early premonition that this labor intensive process of resist wrapping, dyeing, and weaving yarns would take me to the far corners of the world, providing access into the huts and ateliers of global cloth making. This uncanny love affair with technique and alchemy has allowed me membership into a timeless lineage of artists and craftsmen devoted to the symbolic embellishment of cloth. It is my life-long relationship with Ikat process and product that both defines me as a weaver and distinguishes my work as a contemporary artist and textile maker.

My talk to the Textile Arts Council will cover my career path as a weaver, touching on stories of color origin, ethnic, traditional and contemporary ikat design and production, textile travel, and my thoughts on the political landscape of tapestry in 21st Century contemporary art.

Nebraska artist Mary Zicafoose weaves visual stories at her loom. Using the flat woven surface as her canvas, she is a master at weft ikat, a complex design dye process that she juxtaposes with contemporary tapestry. Her work has been represented in the International Triennial of Tapestry, Lodz, Poland; Museo de Textil, Oaxaca, Mexico; China National Silk Museum, Hangzhou; and the collections of two dozen United States Embassies abroad. Zicafoose received a BFA from St. Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Indiana, with graduate studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Nebraska. Her work has been reviewed in The Smithsonian Magazine, The Washington Post, Fiberarts Magazine, Fiber Art Now, and American Craft. A USA Artist finalist and former Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts resident, Zicafoose is co-director of the American Tapestry Alliance, chairman of the board of the Omaha Union for Contemporary Art, former board member of GoodWeave USA and the Robert Hillestad Textile Gallery, and exhibition chair for the 2010 Textile Society of America biennial conference. Extensive teaching and lecture venues include Penland School of Craft, Penland, NC, and Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts, Gatlinburg, TN.


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