Home arrow Volume 9 Issue 1 Fall 2013 arrow Finding the Thread part two; Britta Fluevog
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Britta Fluevog’s Woman with Two Vices,

Britta Fluevog’s Woman with Two Vices, 2011, Warp: flexible plastic Tube, Weft: mixed with insertions, wool, metal, plastic, vice grips, chain, tinfoil

The exhibition  THREAD Space Threading the 3rd. Dimension” at the Canadian Sculpture Centre [November 7-30, 2012], in Toronto Canada was the work of 6 members of the Sculptors Society of Canada (SSC) most of whom do not normally work in  fibre, and 8 makers drawn from submissions sent to the  World of Threads Festival where exhibited. There where two pieces that I felt had a direct relationship with work from the 1950s and 60s: Britta Fluevog’s piece Woven Person (Woman With Two Vices) 2011( WoT) and j. Mac's ”Ultimate Freedom,”  [sisal rope/ Fibre,  nails, mirror (SSC)] Both feel nostalgic and strongly rooted in contemporary discourses of materiality and meaning. One woven and the other with an applied surface, they are as much about their construction method as their material and it is Britta Fluevog’s I will write about.


j. Mac ”Ultimate Freedom”. Sisal rope/ Fibre nails, mirror, in   THREAD Space Threading the 3rd. Dimension” at the Canadian Sculpture Centre [November 7-30, 2012], in Toronto Canada Photo: Joe Lewis, taken with permission of the artist

 Fluevog’s choice on materials to weave with is almost absurd: flexible plastic Tube, wool, metal, vice grips, chain, and tinfoil,   yet it comes from the heart of the Fibre Revolution [a history yet to be written] Looking at the work of Ed Rossbach (1914-2002), you see the mixed use of manmade materials such as Polyethylene garbage bags, film tubing, twine, newspapers, commercial food wrappers, Styrofoam and found objects, used in wall hangings with traditional tapestry structure, macramé and twining and in baskets from the mid 1960s onward.  There is a 1956 Lenore Tawney (1907-2007) work in the collection of the Museum of Art and Design (formally Museum of Contemporary Crafts ) entitled  BOUND MAN  which has a many similarities to Fluevog’s piece Woman with Two Vices  while the Twaney piece is  a discontinuous brocade and woven with natural fibres linen with other fibers; natural, black, and brown both present a central figure suspend in space in a minimal colour range. In the 1972 book Beyond Craft: The Art of Fabric, by Mildred Constantine and Jack Leron Larson they write:

 “The play of opaque and transparent passages in this linen piece projects the drama of the crucifix behind Bound Man. Heavy dark /horizontals above and below the figure give stability to the whole composition and provide contrasts for the relatively sheer ground of the central panel. The heavy roving that binds the figure is embroidered through the whole cloth. In the weaving Tawney has moved from order to chaos, calling attention through structure particularly to the head, hand, and foot.”

in csa gallery
 the chaos of installation; photo taken during the installation of “ THREAD Space Threading the 3rd. Dimension” at the Canadian Sculpture Centre in Toronto Canada. photo by Joe Lewis taken with permission.

 On Britta Fluevog’s website she writes of her work in the following way

  “Everything has order, precise lines, laws, laws, order and purpose. Order is what allows our world to exist, it establishes and maintains equilibrium. But it is chaos that drives and changes our world; evolution requires chaos to move forward. My Chaos series is a celebration, expression, and inquiry into chaos. It also explores quantum mechanics theory (whereby the act of watching changed the movement of electrons) and how inanimate objects have a spiritual or self-knowledge side to them and how our relationships, as people, with these inanimate objects affect them. My pieces seek to create chaos out of order, disequilibrium, dynamism, uncertainties, joy, explosion and change. “


bound man


Bound Man, Lenore Tawney, American, 1907 – 2007, 1957
Wool, silk, linen, goat hair; discontinuous weft brocade, woven, 91 x 36 in. (231.1 x 91.4 cm) Purchased by the American Craft Council, 1958, Photo credit is: Ed Watkins, 2007. Image provided by the MAD and used with permission of the Lenore Tawney estate.

While there is a 65 year gap between these pieces, the perceived intent of making chaos out of order creates an almost identical visual result.   In retrospect, Twaney is seen to be working away from traditional tapestry towards the deconstruction of process which shows clearly in her later work. Fluevog seems to be paying a tongue in cheek but comprehending tribute to a bygone era.

While I could spend time speculating on the influence these two are might have had on Britta Fluevog I realized it would be easier to contact her and put my ideas forward. The following interview was conducted via e-mail in April 2013.  


Joe lewis: Could you first talk about your working with weaving as a medium and if three dimensionality was in fact what you where working towards and why.

 Britta Fluevog: I look at how textiles receive structure when they are 3D. When it comes to weaving, I am definitely an outside artist. I never trained in textiles. I can sort of sew. I studied largely ceramics and sculpture with a fair bit of photography. The only textile course I have taken in my life is intro to weaving, if you exclude the sewing portion of home ec in grade 8. My signature ceramic series is coil constructions built as vessels.The way I constructed them was not for ease of building-they were constructed like a pot without inner structures and were liable to be too affected by gravity. But this way of building yielded very exciting results, shaped the vessels and gave life to the pieces. I wanted to be able to do the same with my 3D weavings. I already knew that just because something wasn't easy didn't mean it wasn't worth it.

Joe Lewis: While it is obvious from the choice of materials youuse that a comparison with Ed Rossbach would make sense but there is a 1956 piece of Lenore Tawney work BOUND MAN which I see having a direct link to your piece can you comment on this?

loom Britta Fluevog

" Loom" Britta Fluevog, installation  2004-2009. Front View, the weave structure is 6' x 6' x 8'
the plates sit at 92' high, ceilings in photo are 22' (click on photo to see more views of this piece)

Britta Fluevog: Your comparisons to both artists are very apt, and I think you are correct in viewing Lenore Tawney's piece more akin to my piece "woman with two vices". While it is Ed Rossbach’s work speaks far more to my first major 3D work "Loom" These two works both rely heavily on play and materiality. They explore themes of function, craftsmanship and re-looking at how we view textiles. My piece, "Woman with Two Vices", like Tawney's "Bound Man" is not an exploration of material. I have used the properties of textiles to convey my meanings. I believe Tawney was interested, as I am, in the ability of textiles to convey a duality: the ability to be both comforting and express angst. In both works, the material is comforting, but the image is not. Both works also use chaos to create drama and emotion.

Chaos is a particularly effective tool in weaving. Weaving is essentially a systematic, mathematical and formulaic procedure. Use of any loom results in square or rectangle pieces, unless much effort is used to not do so. The entire structure is based on interlocking t's that form squares. Because of weaving's formulaic nature, any depart from this form, into chaos allows for a very powerful and striking contrast.

Joe Lewis: Along with presenting the specific historical piece to compare with your work I am suggesting in my article that "Textiles at their basic level are a 3 dimensional constructed surface, they are architectural in nature and attempts to create sculptural work are often dependent on stitching pieces together and stuffing them or covering an armature or by suspending the finished piece, seldom are they self supporting and when they are it is by coiling or folding/ piling” and would like your thoughts on this.

Britta Fluevog: I really like your quote and would like to give some thoughts on it. Textiles are essentially a 3D structure, as you say but in order to be perceived as artwork they especially have to deny their 3D quality and go up on the wall as a 2Dpiece. I get the sense-and I am fully willing to admit this can all be in my head- that in order for textiles to be fine art they need to imitate painting-- they require a frame. I have one series I have done with frames and I find that painters are usually drawn to them (albeit, it is my own projection that thinks it is the frames that draw them). I don't know if I have really considered this before, but I really am drawn to work that has no good side. It is certainly seen in my ceramics, my stuff for years now has been just as interesting as or more interesting on the bottom than the top. In the past year, I have also tried to introduce a new series of reversible platters so that both sides are the good side. I have largely rebelled against having frames and I think a large part of this is a desire to have no "back side". My woven people not only do not have a "back side" but the viewer can actually see into and somewhat through them.

Oh course the idea to not have a "bad side" certainly is not the only factor in which I am interested in sculptural weaving. There is a presence and an interaction that a sculpture can have that a wall piece cannot do. I was dead set against stuffing anything to create this effect. It has too many references and histories I do not want to address. I knew I wanted people to see my work in the round, but I did not want them to look like loose skin nor a stuffed figurine. There is absolutely no reason textiles can't be sculptural. But I think one of the reasons for this is the under-mining of the textile movement.

Joe Lewis: The Textile Society of America has just put out a call for papers around the theme of “Examining the Past Creating the Future” for their 2014 Symposium will you be sharing your ideas about this.

Britta Fluevog: Textiles never really made it into the fine art category. But looking at the past particularly in the 1970's there was real momentum, excitement, energy and shift in the world of textiles, changing from craft to merge into the art scene. The problem is it didn't quite keep its place there. I recently visited the MOMA while in NYC and their fine art textile pieces were in the design exhibit floor. I wrote them an e-mail of complaint, actually received a real e-mail back.

The gist of it, while polite and well reasoned is that they are where they are and where they will be. In fact the MOMA employee mentioned it was difficult as one of their artists who worked across disciplines and her sculptures are part of the fine art collect while her textiles were placed in the design collection. The pieces in question had all been acquired during one large exhibit "Wall Hangings" (February 25th -May 4 1969) that looked at contemporary weaving. Although I cannot access the information, I believe this to have been a fine art exhibit.

(Ed. note: “Wall Hangings” jointly curated by Mildred Constantine and Jack Lenor Larse , who is quoted above and was presented on the first floor in the gallery space reserved for special Art exhibitions on purpose to focus on aesthetic appearance rather then technique just as paintings where as a matter of policy present at the time.)

Some of the most exciting textile work was created in that period of redefinition of textiles as an art material. The real problem is that there was no younger generation, growing up in a system with a new respect for textiles as fine art who were ready to take this exploration further. Or perhaps postmodernism killed the textile as art? Whatever the reason, fibre lost its tenuous art position and with it the income that would allow a new generation to take the material farther. It isn't that nothing great was made, but the momentum fell short. Selling something or finding a gallery to sell something that goes on the wall is always easier than something that doesn't. That said, things have been changing Textiles have been starting to get more spotlight, even without a fight (or so it seems to me).

But you asked me weather I was going write a paper about creating the future by looking at the past in textiles. I really think that might be your job, not mine. My research is best performed at the loom. While I can, and may end up writing something for the symposium, in some ways I feel my time is best spent in creating work. The future of art is best envisioned by art made, not by thinking about what art should be made.

 Silverware II 2009
Silverware II, Britta Fluevog, Dynamic Warp, 2010. wool, plastic, tinfoil, scrubbing pad, knives. this pice was seen inthe world of threads exhibition "Where were you when Amy Wienhouse Died" Curated by Evan Tyler, Gallery West, 1172 Queen Street West, Toronto On. Nov. 9 - Dec. 1, 2012
Canadian Sculpture Centre http://www.cansculpt.org/
"THREAD Space Threading the 3rd. Dimension" / World of Threads Festival http://www.worldofthreadsfestival.com/artwork_pages/2012/threadspace.html
 "Where were you when Amy Wienhouse Died" / World of Threads Festival
 Beyond Craft: The Art of Fabric, by Mildred Constantine and Jack Leron Larson  ISBN 10: 0442216343 / 0-442-21634-3, ISBN 13: 9780442216344, Publisher: Van Nostrand Reinhold Co Publication Date: 1973

Museum of Art and Design  http://madmuseum.org/

The American Crafts Council Library Digital Collections http://digital.craftcouncil.org/cdm/ 

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