This past weekend, I got to go over to Denver to spend some time with my youngest son and his family. On Sunday, my son took me to the opening day of the much touted SPUN, Adventures in Textiles exhibits at the Denver Art Museum.
One of the featured exhibits in the museum for SPUN is "Red, White, & Bold: Masterworks of Navajo Design, 1840-1870." I wish I could have taken a photo there! (The one above is from the DAM website.) The room was exquisite! The tapestries, all red, white and black, were hung away from the walls, nearly all the way to the high ceilings, 'stacked' so they hung touching each other, top-to-bottom. The room was dimly lit, and the rugs (mostly chief blankets) were lit from the bottom at the back with black lights! They absolutely glowed, like they had inner light. Stunning! But no photos allowed in that room.... sigh.
I was not sure of what to expect from the exhibit. I know the museum owns some tapestries by Ramona Sakiestewa, so I was hoping to see those again. The exhibits are to celebrate the opening of the new Textile Department. So, while Ramona's tapestries were not on display this time, I hope they will rotate into the museum sometime in the future when I'm there. At least now, they will be displaying textiles regularly. The new Textile Art Galleries are on the 6th floor of the North Building. The inaugural exhibit there is called "Cover Story." It includes the only one piece that I would classify as a traditional tapestry (above and detail below.) It is "Spring" designed by Stefan Galkowski and 'manufactured' by Wanda Cooperative in about 1961 (that is how it is listed at the museum.)
I apologize for the poor photos. I just had my iPhone with me. Photos were allowed in this gallery, so I had wished I'd taken my camera in.
There were a couple of 'Ritual Rugs' from middle eastern countries, this one from Afghanistan. They were soumack or pile woven. This one was a short pile.
One of the things the DAM does well is being a 'hands-on' museum. They especially do well with activities for children, related to the exhibits. I love taking my grandchildren there! So the new Textile Gallery has a room attached which has shelves filled with things related to making fiber stuff. I don't know why I didn't get a shot of the weaving area (!) but I think I liked the quote above the embroidery space better, or something. The weaving area had small looms, including Weave-its. It is a well-done area. There is also a place for weaving on an upright loom, in which the 'warp' is mountain climbing ropes, and the weft is suitably chunky. Pretty appropriate for Denver! There are also spaces for quilting, knitting, and anything related to textiles.
There is also a creative corner about designing your own textile piece. It shows how someone was inspired by the "Spring" tapestry to create this small quilted piece, and they have paper and stamps and pictures of the tapestry for people to make their own designs.
In a different part of the museum, the Material World gallery is featuring this piece by Chuck Close. I didn't see the 'no photos' sign anywhere in the gallery, so took this photo, though I'll also post the one from their website as well. It is quite an amazing piece! It is a short-pile tapestry of silk and linen. Up close, it is just a riot of color. From a distance, you see the portrait. I believe it was woven as a pile tapestry, and I wish I had taken a close-up shot of it. My son and I got very close to it. It is only about 1/4" think, so is very finely woven. I couldn't think of any other way it could have been created. None of the written materials I could find there say anything about where or how it was created, which was very frustrating for me, as I think the creators should be given credit for such a complex work, as well as the designer. But it is certainly worth seeing! Below is the picture from the museum website.
The SPUN exhibits will be at the Denver Art Museum through September 22, 2013. After that, there should be textiles on exhibit always in the new Textiles Gallery. The Navajo exhibit is wonderful, and there are some other lovely bits here and there throughout the museum. I still wish they had included more tapestries, but of course I would wish that!