Figuratively Speaking

I have woven expressive faces for 9 months now, and have received baffled, amused, indifferent, and engaged responses to them.

It is always difficult to bring a new body of work into the world that has no apparent genetic connection to all the other work one has made in the past. It causes all sorts of uproar, breaks gallery relationships, and even upsets friends.

Every time I indulge in making figurative work in textiles, I reap trouble. When I was an undergrad in Fibers at Kansas City Art Institute, circa 1974, I wove a large tapestry of a reclining, yellow nude, part of a number of figurative pieces I had produced that semester. It hung in the school cafeteria for a week with some other fiber work. I got so much derision from painting students I was mortified (“why don’t you just paint, then?”), and abandoned the human form for many years.

I wove beautiful, engaging, thoughtful series of garden and architectural themes for many years to happy acclaim and good sales. (

When my marriage fell apart in 2010, I embarked on a series of figurative works to try to express the personal, spiritual transformation I had to undergo to find peace. It resulted in my being asked to leave the gallery which long represented me in Santa Fe, as it simply didn’t sell like my other work.

And now, I am weaving and drawing and printing images of faces expressing bewilderment, surprise, dread, anger, pain, and all the multitude of emotions that I am going through in this tumultuous cultural and political climate in my country now.

Many people have responded with comments that these are even “fun”. Some have suggest d they would make great pillows (well, why not?). Some gallerists have indicated that this is not their “favorite” work from me. And two members of my family have demanded why I am making such painful images.

I wonder, is it me? Am I just supposed to make pleasing things?  More soon…

5 thoughts on “Figuratively Speaking

  1. Rita Hicks Davis

    Hi Laura,
    Figures have appeared in textiles since at least the Egyptian’s. What’s the problem? Your weavings and tapestry’s are great. They are paintings. Just not with a liquid substance.
    When you put your work out there, you will receive many forms of criticism’s. You have developed your work in textiles to a whole other level. You have taken ordinary household decor and made it into art objects, or object’s d’art.
    You have to be true to yourself. If you feel like weaving a face on a pillow, and you are pleased with it, then other’s will love it as well, but not everyone.
    I too try to find out what people want or like, and then if I listen to all those voices, I compromise my own sensibilities. I’ve both made work for the public, and made work for myself. The work I did without thinking about what would sell, or what would be accepted, is my best artwork.
    I love the two pieces that you have on this blog page.

  2. Cathy Walsh

    Did Picasso’s family question him after Guernica?

    Of the many qualities I love and admire about you is your compulsion to translate life into art. I remember your comment several years ago to the effect that stripping away embellishment to the raw basics of weaving left you feeling exposed as an artist, if I understand you correctly.

    I agree: we are on the cusp of unleashing terrors beyond those of WWI and WWII.

    Be true to your vision, Laura.

  3. Rachel Biel

    I have thoroughly enjoyed watching you develop the process, going from subtle to more expressive, from simple to more complex. It’s a shame that these galleries can’t support you during this exploration, but I get how much they stress over financial pressures. You will have to find new galleries that take an interest in the psychology behind the images. Do you get hyperallergic? I get their updates by email and they seem to feature a lot of work that has depth: Submit your story to them… I bet they would be interested!

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