Sheila Hicks is one of the most important textile artists of the 20th century. She trained as a painter under Josef Albers at Yale’s School of Art and Architecture, and upon his recommendation applied for a Fulbright scholarship to study in Chile, commencing her lifelong commitment to textiles. Papillon (1997-2004), like others in her Miniatures series, was created on a small loom constructed from painter’s stretcher bars, making a practical and portable companion throughout her travels to a myriad of international locales.
Aptly named Papillon, which translates to “butterfly” from French, the textile is reminiscent of delicate, paper-thin butterfly wings. Hicks uses bookbinder’s paste to stiffen tripled floating warps of earthy colors like brown, orange and yellow. Thin sheets of dye transfer paper in chartreuse and ochre hues are crushed and woven between the warps. They are secured in place with small running stitches. Inspired by perhaps one of the most beautiful and elusive creatures in the natural world – the ephemeral butterfly – Hicks endeavors to explore the capabilities and characteristics of organic forms through materials, color and technique.
Jacqueline Sullivan is studying the History of Decorative Arts & Design at Cooper-Hewitt / Parsons. She is a Master’s Fellow in the Textile Department.