November 2, 2009

From Painting to Hooked Rug: Tantra Drawings

Anonymous, Untitled, Jodphur, India. Gouache, watercolor and tempera on paper, 11"x 10.5"

Anonymous, Untitled, 2003, Jaipur, India. Gouache, watercolor, tempera on paper, 13 x 8.5

Anonymous, Untitled, 1997, Jaipur, India. Gouache, watercolor, tempera on paper, 13 x 10"

In 2004 The Drawing Center in NYC mounted a beautiful small show of Tantric drawings from India that were made as aids in meditation. The works were intimate, modest, yet very inventive within their simple formal tradition. Looking at them, it was hard to believe that they were made as a religious practice, because they seemed so artistically sophisticated and could fit right in to the contemporary minimalist aesthetic. I found the show thrilling, and almost every image was quietly compelling. The memory of the show stayed with me for a long time, and was the inspiration for my first move from utilitarian floor covering to an artwork to be hung on the wall.

Blue Circle, Red Triangle, 2006, wool on linen, 12 x 10 inches

In the almost four years that I've been making textiles, many have been homages to various abstract artists whose work I admire. I plan to have an occasional series of posts showing these relationships. I've played around from time to time with purely non-objective painting, because I do love it so much, but my eye and hand have so long worked with the things of the world that I can't leave them. With this new medium of rug hooking I was able to indulge my longing for abstraction, since it is so amenable to clear and simple design.


  1. I remember that show well - and it instilled in me the idea that non-artists - anyone - could actually find deep satisfaction through engagement with art processes... as a simple, rich, human activity. my book LEAF(s) fits in here, anyone could make graphite rubbings like these simply for the pleasure of the process.

  2. Yes, art making as human activity is something that's interested me for a long time, in the sense of thinking it's part of the makeup of homo sapiens; why else do we see cave paintings from tens of thousands of years ago, and why are so many utilitarian objects decorated? That satisfaction in making, and pleasure in looking are age-old.