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Katherine Westphall


TRIPPIN’ with KATHERINE WESTPHAL: A Tour of Westphal’s Creative Work in Printed and Quilted Textiles

With Artist and Author, Jo Ann Stabb Saturday, September 12, 2015, 10 a.m. Koret Auditorium, de Young Museum

Self-described as “the world’s oldest living hippie,” Westphal has followed her personal visions and imaginary worlds on a journey via cloth, paper, paint, dye, and thread over the past 65 years. A leader in creating art quilts and a pioneer of wearable (and unwearable) art, Westphal incorporates elements from her travels, her home life, and the spirited streets of Berkeley into imaginative textile expressions. Westphal does not draw a line between art and life. She brings as much creative zeal to producing a Christmas card as she does to her epic textile designs. This kind of crossing-over led her to explore the potential of designing textiles using office equipment and photocopy machines in the 1970s. The playful seriousness and the serious play that she feels is the essence of creativity is captured in everything she makes. And she makes things about everything that she collects, including images from her travels (her own photographs, as well as magazine and newspaper photographs), her home environment, her dogs, and bits of flotsam and jetsam that float into her daily life.

From the beginning, she was a collage-artist – an “assembler.” Born in Los Angeles, California, she remembers playing with colored pencils and paper and scissors as a child – drawing and cutting and pasting while sitting on the floor under where the ironing board folded out of the wall – out of the way of her mother’s cooking and housekeeping chores. She also played with bits of wood and scraps to create her own toys rather than play with traditional, pre-made toys. Thus began her life-long passion for making things.

Katherine married Ed Rossbach in 1950 and the two continued to expand the definition of the art of textile structures and surfaces throughout their lives. They shared their knowledge and enthusiasm for textiles with their students at the University of California with Ed at UC Berkeley and Katherine at UC Davis. Jack Lenor Larsen, a longtime friend and former graduate assistant of Ed’s at the University of Washington where Ed and Katherine first met, recollects, “Who would guess this same Katherine Westphal was the enfant terrible of established art circles in Seattle’s postwar years?” She went on to question everything in the field of textile arts. Katherine revolutionized quilting from a pastime that recreated traditional patterns to a medium for highly individualized art statements. She also transformed clothing into wearable art and helped to launch this worldwide movement through her presentations at the prestigious World Crafts Council Conference in Vienna in 1980. Now at the age of 96, she continues to draw, assemble, and “play” with images, ever fascinated by her collaged world.

Lecture Given By Jo Ann Stabb

Jo Ann Stabb was raised in Palo Alto, California. She studied art and design at Occidental College and the University of California, Los Angeles and received a B.A. in Pictorial Arts (1964) and Master of Arts in Costume Design (1967). Additional study includes Parson’s School of Design (New York) and Tobe Coburn School for Fashion Careers (New York). Stabb was awarded an internship at Vogue magazine; she then held a position in the advertising department of I. Magnin & Co, Los Angeles. After earning her Master’s degree, she became a faculty member in the Department of Environmental Design, University of California, Davis (1968-2002; Chair of Design Program 1991-1999) teaching costume, wearable art and fashion design, personal adornment (jewelry and accessories), and the history of world costume. She has exhibited her wearable art designs nationally and internationally, including in Austria, England, France, Korea, Australia, Canada and Hong Kong.

Stabb was the originator and Executive Producer of the video series: Wearable Art from California, a series of five 30-minute programs (1985), distributed throughout the United States by U.C. Extension Media Services and American Craft Council, and by the United States Information Agency throughout Europe. Stabb gives lectures and writes articles on wearable art that have been published in the Surface Design Journal, American Craft, and Crafts (British) and contributes to the Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion and the ABC-CLIO On-line Encyclopedia of Fashion among other publications. In addition to serving as Founding Curator of the Design Collection at UC Davis, she has served as curator of wearable art exhibitions held at the Richmond Art Center (1983), UC Davis Design Museum, Central St. Martins School of Art and Design in London, and the Knitting & Stitching Show in Harrogate, England. She is currently a member of the National Board of Directors of the Costume Society of America, Past-President of Western Region CSA; a member of the Surface Design Association, the Textile Society of America; and was on the founding Board of Directors of the Textile Arts Council of the San Francisco Fine Arts Museums.


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