Karen Henderson: Art that inspires
Seasons, atmospheres and the time of day intrigue textile artist Karen Henderson. The connections between self, place, emotion and time are what fascinate her. She tries to recreate these natural occurrences, evoking emotions that she associates with them through the use of colour, line, and texture.
Art that inspires is a series for TextileArtist.org, in which established textile practitioners discuss artists and pieces that have been influential on their own creative journey. In this edition, Karen chooses five works of art and explains how they have informed and shaped her creations.
Karen writes: This past year has been very difficult for me personally since our mother passed away over the early summer rather suddenly. In writing about these works that inspire me, it was very beneficial because it has helped me reconnect with my art, which has gone a bit fallow while I’ve been navigating loss and change. So thank you very much.
Gustav Klimt – Beech Forest 1
Artist: Gustav Klimt (1862-1918)
Name of piece: Beech Forest 1
Other information: 1902, 100cm x 100cm, Oil on canvas, Painted in Litzlberg on Lake Attersee.
Collection: Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Dresden, Germany
Karen Henderson: This painting, and the others in the series he did, were ones I discovered in a book on Klimt’s artworks, probably back while I was in school at Moore College of Art & Design (MCAD) over twenty years ago.
Since I was more familiar with his highly gilded paintings featuring women with lots of patterns, I remember feeling really surprised by his landscapes. For this piece in particular, I was drawn to how he painted the same scene several times to explore variations of light, weather, or different time of day. I fell in love with how rhythmic it is. How the glimpses of sky through the leaves felt as if they were in motion, like how it looks when you’re walking in the woods.
Mostly I’m drawn to the colours, the repetition of the trees, and the overall mood. The obsessive quality of all the small brush marks could easily be interpreted through thread and stitching. The subtle gradation of colour and tone draws me into the scene. The glimpses of lighter sky peeking through the darker areas of the leaves and trees offer pause within all of the repetition. There are some very bright spots of colour when you look closely, which are exciting to me. It inspires me to try to achieve that effect in fabrics, dyes and stitching.
Sometime in my art life, I would also like to attempt exploring a specific scene as Klimt did with these forest paintings, or other historical artists whose work I admire have done, Monet with his haystack paintings.
I imagine the possibilities of getting to know a place… through the lens of art rather than daily life….over at least one year of seasonal changes. Then within those seasons, interpret differing times of day or weather events. It seems like a good exercise in observation of subtleties, and another way of journaling or marking time through art.
For more information visit: www.klimt.com
Dorothy Caldwell – Sown Field
Artist: Dorothy Caldwell
Name of piece: Sown Field
Other information: 1996. Wax resist and discharged cotton, stitched and appliquéd Quilted by Evelyn Martin, Ruth Lamont and Grace Loxton, 8 ft. x 7 ft.
Collection: Art Gallery of Peterborough, Ontario
The first time I saw Dorothy Caldwell’s work was also during my time at MCAD. I worked in the library as part of my work-study and would spend additional time there to look at the many textile journals and books.
There was an article on her, with many images of her work, in either FiberArts magazine or the Surface Design Journal, that included this piece. I was blown away with the subtleties in her work, the palette, and the mood she created. The marks by the stitching, as well as the batik marks in the cloth first, make for such an active surface….but it is so calming, and that juxtaposition really draws me to her work to this day.
Also, the scale of many of her works is very large, which is so impressive to me, in terms of just the sheer amount of work that goes into them, but also how that scale feels when you’re standing in front of them. Her smaller works are just as detailed and intimate.
Years later, when I worked at the Peters Valley Craft School, I was lucky enough to meet Dorothy in person when she would visit to teach workshops. What a generous and intuitive artist & instructor she is!
Here is Dorothy’s artist statement from her website:
My work is a map of land and memory.
I am interested in the landmarks that give a sense of place and how humans mark and visualize the land. The early surveyors, of Canada, measured and structured the land mathematically, but in the squares of the grid, they made notations on certain rare plant growth, unusual geological formations, and other points that they were personally drawn to. Identifying my own personal landmarks, through gathering, touching, and recording is how I create a sense of place.
The vocabulary for my work is drawn from studying textile traditions and ordinary stitching practices such as darning, mending and patching. I am drawn to cloth that has been repaired, and reconstructed and in that ongoing process encodes time and the richness of lives lived.
For more information visit: www.historymuseum.ca
Polly Barton – Pink Dawn
Artist: Polly Barton
Name of piece: Pink Dawn (Let Me Tell You How the Sun Rose, Emily Dickinson).
Other information: 2014, 14″ x 16″, silk double ikat. This piece was woven with a fan reed.
Photo Credit: Wendy McEarhern Photography.
Polly Barton’s work is so amazing to me because she’s really using the loom in ways I don’t, and in ways that I respect so much.
The time spent to tie all the bundles of warp and weft threads to prepare them for dyeing, the care and time spent in dyeing and washing the dyes out, the time spent untying the bundles again to reveal the subtle characteristic it technique marks of shifting colours….There’s so much time in these works! and that’s all before they are even woven.
Her techniques, colour palettes, the gradations in them, and the mood she creates all resonate with me. They feel calming and universal, which I find inspiring.
Polly’s artist statement from her website is equally inspiring: May 2016
To greet the day, I weave.
I weave to find my gesture.
I weave to regain solitude.
I weave to discover the texture of the day.
I weave to build shimmering color in layers of dyed silk threads.
I weave to find the thread of understanding.
I weave because it connects me to the world of weavers.
I weave pulled along the threads of history and tradition.
I weave to break tradition.
I weave happily when I have a dye pot simmering on the stove.
I weave to keep my brain nimble.
I weave for joy and inspiration.
I weave in sadness.
I weave to feel calm.
I weave listening to the birds sing.
For more information visit: www.pollybarton.com
Wen Redmond – Bringing The Outside In
Artist: Wen Redmond
Name of piece: Bringing The Outside In
Other information: 27′′h x 25′′w. Image created with photographs printed on digital ready silk organza and cotton, sewn together to produce a slightly holographic effect. Mounted on painted interfacing and watercolour paper.
Photo Credit: Wen Redmond.
This piece has a similar effect on me as the Klimt work, in that it has the movement that I associate with walking in the woods.
Her holographic images are very dreamlike. The silk organza she uses to print on, and layer together with her other fabrics, give her art pieces such a misty and moody quality. I’m particularly drawn to her works like this that have imagery of trees, but also to her pieces that have images of water.
I’m not sure when I first encountered her work; most likely in FiberArts magazine or the Surface Design Journal. But I’ve been fortunate to see it in person at different shows or exhibits. It always feels like a memory or the snippet of a dream you’ve forgotten most of the details. She’s also incredibly prolific, which is really inspiring.
From Wen Redmond’s blog, here is her artist statement:
Making my art allows me to tap into levels of myself, becoming more aware, more conscious, & more grateful.
I’ve loved photography my entire life. This brings a tender sensitivity to one’s surroundings.
Sometimes, I look with intention, focusing on everything with the possibility of creating a composition. And sometimes it just happens. A quick glance becomes the image for a future work.
These moments are my well, my source.
I hope to bring that energy into my art making, to communicate the positive.
When I work, I allow and encourage a collaborative process with spirit or that mind-boggling principle of the universe. Creation gives me ideas. My passion is to put them into art.
My art are my prayers.
Additionally, Wen shared this statement for this piece in particular:
This somewhat holographic piece evokes an altar. The two sides overlapping the center, the parting of the veils of this world to the next. My daily meditative prayerful walks, bringing the piece of the natural world into my heart and inspired it.
William Langson Lathrop – Evening Before the Storm
Artist: William Langson Lathrop (1859-1938)
Name of piece: Evening Before the Storm
Other information: 1898, oil on canvas, H. 25 x W 22 inches.
Collection: Eliot Chack.
For the last inspiration piece, I’ve included work by an artist who painted in Bucks County, PA, which is where I grew up. Several of his works are in the collection of the James A. Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, PA.
This museum has a special place in the heart of our family since the building was originally the Bucks County Jail where our father worked for the early part of his career. After extensive renovation, the museum opened in 1988. Surrounded by the historical prison walls, it now houses a world-class collection of Pennsylvania Impressionist paintings and features special exhibitions of contemporary and historical work.
I’m drawn to Lathrop’s work because of the mood he creates. Like many landscape artists, he would work outside, so the atmosphere, time of day, light and seasons would be very apparent in his paintings. These are all the same things I try to explore in my art work, even though our materials are very different.
This piece explores the mood and light of the weather, an implied path of the river, the reflection of the trees and land on the water, and even a small island, which are all inspirations for my work. All of these themes have
All of these themes have endless possibility for expression and interpretation not only visually, but metaphorically, and I find I’m continually drawn to them again and again.
In some ways I think it helps me try to understand my place in the world.
For more information visit: www.michenerartmuseum.org
Let us know what your favourite artist’s work is by leaving a comment below.