Design Catwalk
Sheila Hicks, Ethnologist of Textile Art and Culture.

Sheila Hicks was born in Hastings, Nebraska and received her BFA and MFA degrees from Yale University. She received a Fulbright scholarship in 1957-58 to paint in Chile where her life of travel and ethnological investigation began and she could develop her interest in working with fibers.

After a life of workshops around the world now she lives between her Paris studio and New York.

Hicks has exhibited in the most important museums in solo and group exhibitions. Among many, the Whitney Biennial in New York and the 2012 São Paulo Biennial in Brazil; the latest major retrospective was Sheila Hicks: 50 Years debuted at the Addison Gallery of American Art and traveled to the Institute of Contemporary Art, in Philadelphia and the Mint Museum, Charlotte, NC.

Her work is a result of an artistic research through the world ad its textile experiences and heritage: She establishes her own re-reading, a personal appropriation of traditional popular artisan textiles as well as of the varied steps in contemporary textile production. All of this visual vocabulary around the transport of fibers peaks in those works that evoke textile cargo shipments, echoing the journeys of the artist herself who since the beginning of her career has set out to discover different textile practices across the globe, armed only with her pocket loom. It is on this very loom, she says, that she weaves the daily journal of her wanderings: small format compositions, rudimentary weaves of cotton, silk and wool incorporating feathers, iron threads, paper or any other element that passes through her hands along the way. The thread is the path, and to weave means to travel. (as beautifully narrated in this review at Maison d’Exceptions)

Former painting graduate, Sheila Hicks explores the landscape with a textile interpretation creating a dialogue of different materials. Transformation is her daily language supported by partnerships with a variety of producers who provide primary materials, the artist unwraps the entirety of the transformative processes in the textile chain. Sunbrella® is one such company, specialized in the production of awnings and tarpaulins for outdoor use; they supply Hicks with a vast palette of colors and materials that resist fading, weathering and fire damage.

Similarly, the European Confederation of Linen and Hemp – which brings together the entire production chain of European linen from cultivation to spinning and weaving – has forged a special relationship with Hicks, regularly providing surpluses of fibers, threads and fabrics. And what better choice than linen, a longstanding support material among painters, to give an artist as she intervenes upon the codes of the history of art? With a wink to the monochromatic, Hicks presents a series of frames covered in bits and strands of linen, playing with the regular role of the canvas as support, here becoming the very material presented as work. This should be an example to companies and emerging artists of our time: Sheila Hicks, living a professional eternal youth has always kept contact with material innovation and contemporary art and textile world through collaborations and business projects. In this direction the just now established Dorothy Waxman design prize.

Pics: Zarko Vijatovic, courtesy of Sheila Hicks and Frank Elbaz gallery, Paris; Hicks’ own website and various galleries’ websites.

from Ford Foundation on Vimeo.

other videos Sheila Opens her South American photo Archives Sheila experiments with Sunbrella high tech fibers. Installations at the Whitney Museum, SD 26 NYC, Palais de Tokyo, Paris. Basel Art Fair.

juliana de nicola. Senior Fashion and Art Editor
Juliana is an italian-austrian artist and designer. After academical art-studies and fashion Ba she started working as a free-lance in fashion business covering different roles to feed her curiosity, while her personal projects are growing out of her mouth and ears restless. She was born in Vienna in the past century, loves her savage dogs, lives now in Florence, and travels every time she can.


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