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Lenore Tawney

Mirror of the Universe

Recent years have seen an enormous surge of interest in fiber arts, with works made of thread on display in art museums around the world. But this art form only began to transcend its origins as a humble craft in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and it wasn’t until the 1950s and 1960s that artists used the fiber arts to build critical practices that challenged the definitions of painting, drawing, and sculpture. One of those artists was Lenore Tawney (1907–2007).

Raised and trained in Chicago before she moved to New York, Tawney had a storied career. She was known for employing an ancient Peruvian gauze weave technique to create a painterly effect that appeared to float in space rather than cling to the wall, as well as for being one of the first artists to blend sculptural techniques with weaving practices and, in the process, pioneered a new direction in fiber art. Despite her prominence on the New York art scene, however, she has only recently begun to receive her due from the greater art world. Accompanying a retrospective at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, this catalog features a comprehensive biography of Tawney, additional essays on her work, and two hundred full-color illustrations, making it of interest to contemporary artists, art historians, and the growing audience for fiber art.

Copublished with the John Michael Kohler Arts Center.

304 pages | 200 color plates | 9 x 11 | © 2019

Art: American Art, Art--General Studies

Biography and Letters


"[Tawney] filled atriums with clouds of knotted thread, and she wrapped cryptic messages around shoemakers’ wooden foot forms. In the book’s quotations from her stream-of-consciousness journals, readers can trace her path to peace of mind. She would ponder the passage of time while mesmerized by birds 'darting in all directions,' or a fountain’s flow that 'splashes up, the drop in endless formations.'"

Eve Kahn | New York Times

"Fiber artist Lenore Tawney and her stunning, transcendent work for years did not receive the recognition they deserved, a situation wonderfully redressed in this superbly well-written and exquisitely illustrated volume."

Donna Seaman | Booklist

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments / Sam Gappmayer
Foreword / Kathleen Nugent Mangan
Waiting like a Fern
Mirror of the Universe / Karen Patterson
Student: 1945 to 1960 / Glenn Adamson
The Archive: Ephemeral and Eternal / Mary Savig
Technical Analysis: Lost and Proud / Florica Zaharia
Back to the Source
Sculptor: 1961 to 1970 / Glenn Adamson
The Archive: The Waters below the Firmament / Mary Savig
Technical Analysis: The Bride / Florica Zaharia
Weaving Infinity
Seeker: 1970 to 1980 / Glenn Adamson
The Archive: That Point Is the Point / Mary Savig
Technical Analysis: Dove / Florica Zaharia
That Other Sea
Sage: 1980 to 2007 / Glenn Adamson
The Archive: This Cage of Bones, & Blood, & Flesh / Mary Savig
Even Thread [Has] a Speech / Shannon R. Stratton
Technical Analysis: Written in Water / Florica Zaharia
Afterword / Kathleen Nugent Mangan
John Michael Kohler Arts Center Board and Staff


Art Libraries Society of North America: George Wittenborn Memorial Book Award

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