The embroidered hanging, Fields from the Air, by artist and designer Mariska Karasz (American, b. Hungary, 1898–1960) is an exploration in abstraction. Karasz used tightly couched thick yarns to depict the swirling colors of the earth as seen from a great distance. She offset these heavy curvilinear forms with clusters of leaf and feather shapes that play with scale and give balance to the densely worked areas of the composition.
Mariska Karasz arrived in New York in 1912. She studied fashion at Cooper Union and cleverly adapted the folk embroideries of her native Hungary to create exotic blouses and colorful children’s clothing for a sophisticated clientele that appreciated her unusual designs. The start of World War II ended her trips to Hungary where she sourced many of her embroideries. This and other personal setbacks caused Karasz to shift to writing instructional books on embroidery. She returned to needlework in the late 1940s, creating portrait, still life and landscape embroideries. Not satisfied with this work, she moved toward abstraction, likely inspired by abstract expressionism and fellow textile designers who were experimenting with a wide variety of synthetic and natural fibers to create heavily textured fabrics. By the early 1950s, organic and abstracted forms were predominant in her work, and shortly thereafter, came recognition and acclaim for this hardworking artist.