Lenore Tawney was a transformative figure in the fiber arts movement, but she studied sculpture before turning to weaving, and moved seamlessly between the two. The improvisational nature of her weaving rejected the grid imposed by the loom, emphasizing the individual trajectory of each thread.
Vitae showcases one of her major technical innovations: the “open warp” technique, in which fluid forms of textured yarns are contrasted against diaphanous grounds of exposed warps, like a drawing floating in space. Clearly intended to hang away from the wall, this piece uses transparency as a sculptural negative space. Her approach was controversial at the time: “All I did was weave the design and leave the rest of the warp unwoven. Why not? It’s against the rules, and those people who go by the rules were very against it.”
Tawney continued her trajectory toward woven sculpture with the development of open-reed weaving, which allowed her to move still further from the grid, creating expressive three-dimensional forms in space.
Vitae will be on view in the exhibition Making Design beginning December 12, 2014.

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