Author: Patricia Malarcher
September is New York Textile Month! In celebration, members of the Textile Society of America will author Object of the Day for the month. A non-profit professional organization of scholars, educators, and artists in the field of textiles, TSA provides an international forum for the exchange and dissemination of information about textiles worldwide.
Sheila Hicks was in the forefront of pioneering artists whose investigations launched the fiber art movement in the mid-20th century. Kilometer 177 ½ is one of hundreds of miniature tapestries handwoven by Hicks over more than 50 years and still in progress. Constructed on a portable wooden frame loom, Hicks’s minimes (her term for them) are completely realized artworks despite their intimate size. Hicks also created monumental projects, but the small works are sites of seminal discoveries. In those she often experimented with innovative fiber structures and unconventional materials including found objects. Here, for example, the wefts include strips of leather along with wool, cotton, silk, and linen yarns. The sense of place that many of the small works convey is reflective of Hicks’s global travels.
The title Kilometer 177 ½ refers to the distance between Mexico City and the ranch where Hicks lived in 1959 . Earthy browns and patches of subdued secondary colors, including various greens, plus horizontal divisions across the composition, suggest a specific terrain—not in a literal way, but akin to Paul Klee’s geometric paintings of landscapes. Surface irregularities resulting from mixed yarns in different thicknesses as well as eccentric wefts packed like geologic layers endow the tapestry with textural energy and dimensional presence.
Patricia Malarcher is an independent writer and a studio artist. She is a former editor of the Surface Design Journal.
 Joan Simon, “Frames of Reference”, Sheila Hicks: Weaving as Metaphor, published for the Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design, and culture, Yale University Press, 2006, p. 73