Art and Scroll Studio presents "Unweavings" by fiber artist Laurie Wohl

Laurie Wohl Unweaves the World

Laurie Wohl does the opposite of what you would expect from a fiber artist. Using spiritual narratives found in various text sources, she alludes to the oldest traditions of narrative textiles, but in a completely contemporary idiom. Through form, color, texture and calligraphy she interprets each piece by integrating materials with fibre, text, and pattern. She boldly “unweaves” the fabric to reveal beginnings of new artwork.

A stunning visual statement that is arresting and intriguing, Laurie’s work draws you in to discover what is hidden within each piece. At first glance one might think of an ordinary wall hanging, but upon closer inspection what is revealed is so much more. The text challenges one to contemplate the inspiration of the spiritual connection, and the play of colour and texture extends the meaning within a collage of materials. The overall effect is greater than the sum of its parts.

Laurie states, “The words within each piece and the unwoven form that suggests these words serve as visual interpretations of various Biblical and poetic texts. Calligraphy for these texts may be in English, Hebrew, Arabic and Greek. The Unwoven spaces form symbolic shapes – wings, ladders prayer shawls, veils, trees, falling waters, and the sacred architecture of windows, domes and gates.”

The textile used is a heavy cotton canvas. She first releases either the warp or weft threads to create the desired shape. Various textures may be collaged onto the surface, such as fibrous papers, sand and pumice. The images and calligraphy are applied with modeling paste. The she applies acrylic paints to the surface, and a final thin layer of gold wash. Where gauze is used, the fabric is dipped in diluted paint, then hand-painted and embellished with fibrous papers. In the last part of the process, beads – prayers and marking points – are affixed with acrylic gel.

She is internationally known for her unique Unweavings, liturgical projects, and interfaith message. Her works, recognized by the AIA Interfaith Forum on Religion, Art and Architecture, and by the Surface Design Association, are held in the collections of the Museum of Arts and Design, American Bible Society, Constitutional Court of South Africa, Catholic Theological Union, and numerous other public and private collections. Her works have been on long-term loan to the United States Embassies in Beirut, Vienna, Tunis, Cape Town, and Pretoria. 

Wohl’s new body of work, The Shabbat Project, is traveling through 2023 to venues in California, New York City, and Vancouver.

“Birds of Longing: Exile and Memory” interweaves Christian, Jewish, and Muslim poetry and spiritual texts from the medieval period of the Convivencia in Spain with texts of contemporary Middle Eastern poets, particularly Palestinian, Syrian and Israeli, in the context of the Unweavings fiber art pieces. Through research into the medieval period and into the wealth of contemporary Middle Eastern poetry, she found the themes that constitute the project – the poetry of spiritual love, often couched in the language of secular love, the poetry of exile, poetry of nostalgia for Andalusia, poetry referencing Old and New Testament texts, and the Qu’ran, and poetry speaking of mistrust of enemies, yearning for reconciliation. The project consists of 18 pieces, completed between 2011-2015.

Like so many profound works of art, once made aware of the intrinsic artistic intent, one cannot “unsee it.” Much of Laurie’s work is reminiscent of music in that the motifs interweave within the piece. It is natural that musical accompaniment or dance is a good counterpoint from which to view the works.

“By unweaving the fabric, I make manifest what is hidden within the material – liberating the threads to create shape, then “reweaving” through color, texture, and text. The narrative emerges from the juxtaposition of images within the surface, from the texts I choose, and from the combination of color, texture and pattern which convey a sense of time and place. And the pieces become carriers of my individual and our collective memories through the spiritual narratives they transmit.”

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