Date of this Version
Published in Textiles and Politics: Textile Society of America 13th Biennial Symposium Proceedings, Washington, DC, September 18- September 22, 2012.
This paper focuses on two factors that directly affect visibility in the field of tapestry: instruction and analytical dialog in university programs and visibility in art exhibitions and publications. A casual debate in 1998 lead me to the disturbing conclusion that contemporary tapestry in America had few documented critical reviews of trends in our recent history or about the artists producing tapestries in the last half of the 20th century. It was not the first time I had wished for more commentary regarding major developments shaping our direction. However, this time I had a means to contribute my part by chronicling the prolific career of Muriel Nezhnie Helfman, who chose challenging topics and expressive imagery, especially her "Images of the Holocaust" series. Through documenting Nezhnie's contributions, and getting the book, NEZHNIE: Weaver and Innovative Artist into print, I gained a greater overview of the problems the medium faces. The decreasing number of textile programs at universities that offer tapestry instruction also reduces the potential for academic research about the contemporary field. Scanty coverage in weaving journals, with only occasional survey articles, has not helped either. Being editor of an international tapestry newsletter for 6 years provided me one means to encourage communication about our ongoing progression in lieu of expecting a diminishing academic base to have resources for the task. Awareness of these underlying reasons for taking a proactive approach in promoting and recording contemporary tapestry's developments can create the visibility the medium deserves.