Since my move to New Mexico in 2018, my tapestry work has reflected the colors, forms, and features of the high desert landscape. I am currently working in three series. The first is called Fences, and is based on my sketches of broken-down barbed wire fences in my neighborhood. It is my contribution to current conversations around borders, fences, and walls. Three pieces, Gate, Falling, and Bruised, comprise this series to date. Another series, small wedge weave tapestries, depicts the ever-changing, always beautiful sky. Crosswinds, Virga, and Snowrise are pieces in this series, with more in the planning stages. A third series explores the boundary between mixed-media collage and tapestry. I am interested in collage not only as a design strategy for weft-faced woven pieces, but as a characteristic of the tapestries themselves, which may include diverse materials, textures, open warps and irregular edges. Rough Draft is the first piece in this ongoing series.
Before the move to New Mexico, my art practice was focused on weaving pictorial tapestries. I developed two series for a solo exhibit in Atlanta in February-March 2018. Book of Hours was inspired by my study of illuminated manuscripts and medieval books of hours. The graphic qualities of the manuscript pages--the dense and colorful patterns, the mix of text, images and decoration, surrounded by either wide empty margins or even more dense patterning and decoration--all this inspired my series of contemporary illuminated manuscripts in tapestry form. The medieval manuscripts contain sacred meanings that are mostly lost to us today, while their visual appeal remains.
The other series is entitled My Real Name is Mary. This series was inspired by a sixth-century icon of the Virgin Mary. The unconventional beauty of the icon's face and steady, enigmatic gaze prompted me to investigate what the image of Mary means and has meant for women over the centuries. Much of contemporary art is about issues of identity, and this series is about identity for me too. My given name is Mary. But in a larger sense I'm concerned with how impossibly high standards of goodness, purity, beauty, and obedience attributed to Mary have influenced notions of ideal womanhood and ideal motherhood. In my tapestries I have tried to depict Mary in ways that acknowledge her depth, imagination, and courage.
Mary (Yes)tapestry (c) Molly Elkind 2017
cotton, wool, linen 28"x 19.5 "