Frustrated by the lack of local exhibit spaces for tapestry, LaDonna Mayer decided to take matters into her own loom and transform her personal studio space into a gallery.
“I know all these wonderful tapestry artists and several of us were in a gallery in Taos—Weaving Southwest—and when the granddaughter took it over, after a couple of years it went under,” she says.
The closure left weaving enthusiasts high and dry.
“Galleries don’t really consider tapestry an art,” says the artist, who for disclosure’s sake is married to former SFR editor Robert Mayer (though we won’t hold that against her).
“Finally,” the artist says when the topic of galleries finally coming around to fiber arts is brought up. “There is a renaissance—I mean several of us have been doing this for years and years no matter what—and there are little pockets here and there.”
Mayer thinks the slump is due to cultural players not being familiar with the broadness of tapestry.
“People don’t know what tapestry is,” she admits. “It’s a foreign object.”
For the uninitiated, she explains: “People think ‘a rug,’” she says, pointing at one piece hanging in her space. “You could almost say it’s a rug, but it has a nice hanging system up there.”
She turns to another pictorial work by Robin Reider that intricately depicts a Laotian Buddhist temple. “If you look at that, that’s not a rug. It’s a beautiful picture,” she muses, “that was woven with wool.”
“Tapestry is a visual hug,” she says of the medium. “You can’t look at tapestry without wanting to touch it. Who wants to go into a gallery and touch a van Gogh?”
"Who wants to go into a gallery and touch a van Gogh?"
Dubbed by Le Corbusier as “nomadic murals,” tapestries are long associated with noble houses. The art of kings and queens, tapestries were a symbol of power and wealth, as well as nifty castle insulation. Entire European towns during the 14th and 15th century thrived thanks to it. After the burst of the tapestry bubble, wall hangings were reduced to just that, as other art forms like painting took over (the tapestry creation process starts with a detailed sketch, the artist points out, much like a painting).
According to Mayer, a resurgence is in the midst. She leads the way to a dark side room housing five of her “Hidden Galaxies”—weavings emblazoned with inconspicuous nebulae. A flip of a switch reveals tiny lights light up through the complex works.
Another project she’s been working on is 51 American Cities, an exhibit that is set to be the centerpiece of the gallery’s opening this weekend.
For it, she perfected her hand-dyeing technique, developing eight contrasting shades of gray. “With painting or drawing or any art form with perspective, you have to be able to work with a flat plain to create depth,” she explains.
The exhibit, over three years in the making, depicts a town from each state plus Washington, DC. Naturally the city in New Mexico Mayer chose to highlight is Santa Fe.
“Up, up, up,” Mayer responds to where she hopes the future of tapestry heads. “It is a renaissance, it comes and goes. Back in the ’60s there was a big flourish…every other generation or so, you need somebody to pull it up and I think that’s what happening now with tapestry once again.”
She continues, surrounded by her cityscapes, “It’s been around—it doesn’t ever really go away. There’s always someone weaving tapestry, but sometimes people weave just for the pure joy of weaving and then some of us want to make it an art form. We want to bring it up there because that’s what it is.”
51 American Cities
3-6 pm Friday, Sat. and Sun., July 4-6
Contemporary Tapestry Gallery
835 W San Mateo Road,