Wednesday, May 18, 2011

In the beginning...

Photo by Lisa Trujillo, of Centinela Traditional Arts

The tapestry in the photo is from the University City, Missouri (St.Louis area) Public Library. For a time, when my husband was going through Washington University Med. School and doing his internship and residency, we lived in U City. In fact, we were within walking distance from the library for three years, and still quite close for another three. I went to that library once a week for all that time. Two things stand out in my mind when I think of the library: the first is this large, beautiful tapestry by Muriel Nezhnie, which dominates the stairwell. All of the art books and the children's books were upstairs. So we always went under the tapestry on our way up. When our sons were born, they went with me to the library. Our oldest son was just 3 years old when we left St. Louis, but he was already an avid library enthusiast. In fact, the second thing I think of when I think of the library is a book by Margaret Wise Brown, the author of Good Night, Moon. The book is a fantasy called The Steamroller, and it is no longer in print. It is a very bizarre story about a little girl who gets a steamroller for Christmas, and proceeds to roll over and 'smash flat' everyone and everything she comes into contact with. My toddler son LOVED the book! We checked it out every week, then would renew it until we could renew it no longer, then would get it again as soon as we could. (This son is at this moment probably trying to build his own steamroller in his basement metal shop.)

Ah, yes. Back to the tapestry. At the time I was going to the U City library, I was not a weaver. But I saw that tapestry and I wanted to know how it was done. I did have a small Sears rigid heddle loom which I had played around on a bit. But I couldn't see how the tapestry had any possibility of coming from such a loom. So I went across to the Craft Alliance Center, across the street from the library at that time, and asked about weaving classes. All they had was a backstrap weaving class. I signed up for it. I still have the backstrap loom we made, with the original warp still on it. It was not until we moved to Colorado that I found Rachel Brown's book and Peter Collingwood's book, and set about to teach myself how to weave a tapestry, still inspired by the memory of the U City Library Nezhnie tapestry.

I was thrilled to see Lisa post a photo of the tapestry on Facebook this week! All those years that I was passing under it, looking up as I walked down the stairs, I never got a photo of it. Except for the image that has always lived large in my mind.

(If you are as fascinated by this wonderful tapestry as I have always been, Linda Rees has written a terrific book about the artist, called NEZHNIE: Weaver and Innovative Artist. A black and white image of this tapestry is in the book, along with so many other tapestries by this amazing artist.)

1 comment:

Rebecca Mezoff said...

Next time I'm near St. Louis I am going to look for this tapestry. Thanks for posting these great memories. I also like Linda Rees Nezhnie book a great deal.