Date of this Version
Crosscurrents: Land, Labor, and the Port. Textile Society of America's 15th Biennial Symposium. Savannah. GA. October 19-23. 2016.
The catalyst for the following discussion of the artist’s archive in the context of fiber and textile art grew out of several in-depth consultations I have had in my time as librarian and archivist at the American Craft Council, two examples of which I’d like to briefly highlight in this introduction. First, a series of phone calls from Jenelle Porter and Sarah Parrish, senior curator and research fellow respectively, at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston. Porter and Parrish were researching artists for “Fiber: Sculpture 1960-Present”, the first exhibition in over forty years to examine abstraction in fiber art from the mid-twentieth century to the present. These knowledgeable researchers contacted and visited, the Council library because they were having trouble finding evidence of past installations of fiber works for their exhibition, in addition to portraits of the artists themselves and other materials such as brochures and correspondence. The lack of representation of fiber art in the mainstream art world, as universally acknowledged in scholarship including essays for “Fiber: Sculpture 1960-present”, can also be seen in the dearth of archival record on the lives and works of fiber artists. To quote Porter, “Because many fiber artists have been represented by small galleries no longer in existence or no gallery at all, information about individual artists – including images of their work – is also scarce.” While records at the American Craft Council are far from exhaustive, the images, catalogues, audio and video recordings, and correspondence in our specialized collection have served as an enduring source for researchers. Porter has told me, in fact, that without the artist files at the Council, it would have been impossible to assemble her exhibition. As she put it: “These resources were used while writing catalogue essays, artists’ texts, bibliographies and more. In many cases, the Council’s artists’ files contained slides that even the artist’s no longer possessed.”