Small-format tapestries: Crossroads

I just received my catalog for the American Tapestry Alliance small format juried show Small Tapestry International 5: Crossroads. What a lovely show. I am tempted to take a road trip when it is near Dallas.

The catalog is very well done. Because these pieces are all so small (100 square inches or less), the reproductions are fantastic. They fill the page and some are possibly even larger than life-size in some cases. What an advantage to small works this is--to be able to see so much detail in the photographs. Thanks to catalog designer Helen Keogh for this clear depiction of the tapestries.

Here are a few images from the catalog. If you get this blog via email, you may want to view it online to see these images. (Click here: Crossroads). Clicking on the thumbnails will open the images in a lightbox and hovering will show you the caption.

Rudi Dundas was the juror for the show. In her juror's statement she says this:

What is the important role for tapestry artists today? In a time of electronic communication, how is this ancient medium to be used in a meaningful way? The process itself demands a certain slowing of the pace of creation, allowing for more depth and intensity in the time it takes to create an image in weft and warp. But I personally believe that there is more, much more, that tapestry artists can aspire to. I think that today’s artists can push themselves much further than we have so far. There are continents of exploration that are yet to be travelled in combining contemporary electronic media and its expression with tapestry. Using sound with thread? Lighting integrated into the warp? Pixels of colored narrative elements assembled into gossamer wings of floating images made of textile material. I think that the work of Chuck Close has much to teach us in the world of tapestry. What is a portrait? How can one describe the meaning in a face or an object or even a time of day? Tearing our images apart and “reweaving” them into sound-bytes of color, texture and “text” - the tapestry narrative of today. There we would find a new Crossroads, one that would provide a map of meaning for this ancient medium and its contemporary practitioners. We are just beginning to scratch the surface. There are so many exciting new roads to explore in the expression of warp and weft. I look forward to traveling with you as the language evolves!
— Rudi Dundas

I did not realize until just now that Rudi Dundas is Ruth Scheuer, the force behind the Scheuer Tapestry Studio, one of the very few professional tapestry studios that ever operated in the USA. Here is her bio from the ATA website.

Rudi Dundas. Rudi Dundas (Ruth Scheuer) is a fine art photographer focused on social change and environmental issues. She has photographed in Africa, South America, Asia, Europe and at home in California. Rudi’s social documentary images highlight issues of global concern and provide client solutions for a better world. In the 1980s she was the founder and director of the Scheuer Tapestry Studio in New York (later Center for Tapestry Arts, then InterArt Center), which created over 80 tapestries during its 10 year existence.

She most certainly has a wide background in tapestry and a platform from which to comment on contemporary practice.

What do you think of the above quote from her juror's statement? I was thrown off by the Chuck Close reference. Definitely I can look at his paintings and apply these questions, but if we're talking about his tapestries, I have some resistance. Close's "tapestries" are jacquard woven in Europe and my understanding is they are basically woven renderings of a painting. Perhaps the perspective here is two-fold. I am an artist/weaver and have never worked in a tapestry workshop as a professional weaver weaving paintings/cartoons from other artists. Basically this is what those Chuck Close "tapestries" are except they are machine-made not hand-woven in tapestry technique. It is possible that Dundas is not referring specifically to his woven works and I am reading too much into that very specific reference. Any number of contemporary artists could have been sited as an example of work we should examine and use to move our own practice of fiber art forward.

Do you have any opinions about the direction of tapestry weaving today? Any specific comments about Ms. Dundas' thoughts on directions tapestry art could take in the future? Add them in the comments. Please be considerate of other opinions if they differ from yours!

If you would like your own copy of this catalog, you can order it from ATA here: And please do consider a membership. ATA is the source of much information in North America about tapestry and being a member has many benefits beyond just supporting this art form. (Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with ATA other than being a long-term member and volunteer myself.)