Style Court

Textiles, Art History, Gardens, and a Little Mental Traveling with Courtney Barnes 2006-2016


A Little Romance

[Arrows, a hand-carved, printed and pulled linocut by PerlaAnne.]

This week Rebecca Rebouche has been IG-ing some great Valentine-related-but-not-cloying images. I was so inspired, I decided to pull together a few romance-driven finds. First are these black and white arrows by Stacey Bradley of PerlaAnne. You can take a look back at her Charleston studio (also kind of romantic) here.

[Image courtesy Zak + Fox.]

Zak Profera's take on romance is, not surprisingly, masculine, very tactile, and tinged with mystery. For February he photographed his existing textile collection in a new light.

I especially like the texture of linen up against leather and hints of metal. The faded blacks, whites and grays of the anonymous old snapshot with a man and wild birds (Zak's flea market find) are echoed by his stacked fabrics in umbers and grays: specifically Volubilis in umber; Kaya in eski; Katagami in smoke; and Postage in umber. (He told me that he chose these fabrics to contrast because Volubilis and Katagami are both thick weaves while Kaya is airier and Postage is a bit slick, almost like oilcloth.)  Who knows what's in the brass box with terrific punches of turquoise. Someone is sifting through mementos.

It doesn't get much more romantic than the loose, unforced, achingly beautiful arrangements created by Nicolette Owen and Sarah Ryhanen. Their collaboration, the traveling Little Flower School, has a brand new website. Of course it's gorgeous and overflowing with inspirational images. Perusing the site, you can easily find out what classes are on the horizon, see past destinations, and stumble across a tutorial or two.

[Food photos by Alexandra DeFurio from Meringue published by Gibbs Smith, 2012. Images posted here courtesy the publisher.]

Don't forget another creative collaboration, Meringue from 
Jennifer Evans Gardner and Linda K. Jackson. Their book is filled with sweets that are special enough for Valentine's yet not fussy. 

And speaking of food, Mexican-themed cookbooks are among the items hitting the High's gift shop as part of Fridamania. Two examples are Frida's Fiestas: Recipes and Reminiscences of Life with Frida Kahlo and My Abuela's Table.

Frida and Diego: Passion, Politics, and Painting opens in exactly two weeks. Latest details on the Valentine's night premiere here.

Frida and Diego image via the High. Photo of museum my own.

Sublime Dogwood

[Sublime Dogwood III, 24" x 36" Acrylic on Panel, 2013 © Annie Kammerer Butrus.]

With her past landscapes, Annie Kammerer Butrus has concentrated on ever-evolving Southern farmlands and pop-up suburban sites. Now she's turning her focus to a broad range of gardens from the most meager shrub to grand estates.

Inspiration for her Sublime Dogwood series comes from Jasmine Hill, outside of Montgomery, Alabama.

Started in 1928 by Benjamin and Mary Fitzpatrick,  Jasmine Hill encompasses twenty acres near the Southernmost edge of Appalachia. Today it's open to the public.

[Via Jasmine Hill]

Butrus says her pictures are intentionally disorientating and render uncanny sky, blossoms and branches.

 [Sublime Dogwood II,  30" x 40" Acrylic on Panel, 2013 © Annie Kammerer Butrus.]

"The solid, constant sky, watery blossoms and shadowy branches are each painted in a distinct manner – imparting meaning to each element. This series will deal with the sublime in the everyday and the transcendence made possible by meditating on the simplest flowering branch," she shared in her artist statement.

[Sublime Dogwood II, 30" x 40" Acrylic on Panel, 2013  © Annie Kammerer Butrus.]

Historic influences for this new body of work come from Matisse’s cut-outs, Constables’ obsession with clouds, and O’Keefe’s Sky Above Clouds IV.

[Georgia O'Keeffe, Sky Above Clouds IV, 1965 © The Art Institute of Chicago.]

[Henri Matisse, Polinesia, The Sky, paper cutout, 1947, Musée d'Art Moderne, Troyes.]

[John Constable, John Constable, Cloud Study, Oil on paper laid on panel 1822. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.]

For the annual Spotlight on Art market (a huge showcase for nearly 350 diverse artists ranging from established professionals represented in museums to emerging talents) Butrus told me she is bringing Sublime Dogwood I and II.

FYI, the Market is free and open to the public from February 4 to February 9. Expect to see fine art, sculpture, and craft -- ceramics, jewelry, basketry, pillows, rugs and more. This major fundraiser benefits Trinity School scholarship funds and a local nonprofit chosen by the institution (last year Sheltering Arms was designated).

In addition to Butrus, another 2013 participating SC fave is Jenny Henley. Past participants include Radcliffe Bailey, Gregor Turk and Thornton Dial.


Up Next: Butrus Garden Portraits

[Jasmine Hill V, Acrylic on Panel,  2012 © Annie Kammerer Butrus.]

Here's a peek at what we'll be talking about shortly: new work from Alabama-based artist Annie Butrus and the pieces she's bringing to next week's Artists Market at Trinity. 

[Sublime Dogwood I, 30" x 40" Acrylic on Panel, 2013  © Annie Kammerer Butrus.]

Some of you already know the backstory. Butrus graduated cum laude from Wellesley College and went on to earn her MFA. When she found herself down South, she became fascinated by the landscape. Specifically the changing rural and suburban landscapes. With a focus on the play of light and shadow,  she began carefully documenting what she saw. Tracing shadows created by tree branches as they evolved from season to season, were damaged by storms, or simply altered by sunlight.

Sublime Dogwood II is a very new painting on its way to the Market, she tells me. More in a bit.

For now, Janet Blyberg's cherry blossoms in D.C. circa 2010 because I can't wait for the real flowering trees either.

Adventurous Spirit: Stella Kramrisch

[Detail view: Central lotus motif on an extraordinary 19th century kantha from the Stella Kramrisch Collection at the PMA. Below, full view.]

She may not be a household name outside the museum realm, but Stella Kramrisch's life is screenplay-worthy. She's best known as a pioneering professor, curator and collector of Indian art -- particularly the once lesser-appreciated "folk" and regional pieces, like exquisitely embroidered kanthas from Bengal.

[Image via the Courtauld.]

In the Philadelphia Museum of Art's Kantha exhibition catalogue, curator Darielle Mason notes fascinating aspects of Kramrisch's story. Here, just a few key points:

Born in Moravia in 1896, young Kramrisch's first foray into the arts was with classical ballet; the attraction to Indian culture began at a local Viennese museum when an artifact caught her eye.

At sixteen she entered the University of Vienna, saw Gustav Klimt at his zenith, soaked up everything she could about modern art, and eventually earned her doctorate.

During the 1920s she traveled alone to India, became the first female faculty member hired by the University of Calcutta, and the first person formally trained in Art History to teach in India.

[19th century kantha from the Stella Kramrisch Collection at the PMA.]

Decades later, as a widow, she left India for the States. In 1954, she became the Philadelphia Museum of Art's first curator of Indian Art. Kramrisch remained with the museum until her death at age 97, completely changing perceptions of Indian painting, sculpture, and textiles along the way. The exhibitions she organized were landmark events.

Whether in her renovated farmhouse or city apartment, she was said to have flair to spare, mixing those colorful kanthas and other objects with neoclassical English antiques.

India awarded her one of its highest civil honors, the Padma Bhushan. And to the PMA she bequeathed her massive collection, solidifying the museum's strength in the area of South Asian art.

Again, the podcast really brings these textiles to life.


French and Indian

[Shawl, made in Kashmir, India, circa 1867. Philadelphia Museum of Art.]

Think about iconic French Provencal prints.

[19th century French boutis via Pierre Deux's French Country.]

You know, small orderly rows of stylized leaves or flowers sometimes flanked by a wilder border. The kinds of colorful cottons associated with venerable Souleiado.
[Ann Mashburn blouse.]

The ancestors of these textiles are actually Indian block prints -- imported cottons so popular in 17th century France that Louis XIV ultimately banned them in a move to save local textile manufacturers struggling to compete with the influx of Indian-made goods. By the next century, the French were successfully producing their own indiennes, a fusion of European and Asian styles.

[Singh's White Chintz Buti via Aleta.]

Lately I've been thinking about other intersections of French and Indian design. In her new book, Jaipur Quilts, Krystyna Hellstrom compares decoratively stitched French Provencal boutis (this example is Italian but very similar in style) to Indian covers.

[Singh's Krishna Berry quilt via Aleta.]

She also talks about French-born textile designer Brigitte Singh's synthesis of Mughal motifs and French aesthetics. Writing for Selvedge, issue 24, Elizabeth Machin further describes Singh's interest in old Indian chintzes and their influence on early French Provencal prints: With all the Indian-inspired fabric produced in France and the abundance of French-taste cottons (typically looser red and indigo florals on a crisp white ground) made in India, points of origin can get confused. Basically Singh tells Selvedge that she's "consciously adding to the [centuries-old] confusion" by continuing the mix.

My blurred-boundaries French-Indian find of the day is from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, shown at top: an antique woven Kashmiri shawl with chain stitch embroidery. Clearly the trees, flowering plants and paisley motif feel Indian but the museum notes that there is "French-style drapery" surrounding an unusually bold spoked wheel in the center.

If you're a fan of rustic French style, take a glance at some Provencal sightings in Shampoo.


All Cotton

I'm not sure if it's because textiles are literally lightweight, at least in comparison to say steel or lumber, but fabric is sometimes perceived to be a foofy subject. The reality, of course, is that textiles have sparked revolutions. Cotton cloth, in particular, has completely reshaped the world economy. With international textile trade being such a hot topic today (Cambridge University Press reports the business is valued at $425 billion), Giorgio Riello is taking a look back at cotton's pivotal role during the past thousand years. His soon-to-be-released book, Cotton: The Fabric that Made the Modern World, delves into older forms of globalization.

Emile de Bruijn recommended the book to me because Riello explores exoticism too (think aesthetic exchange and design mash-ups between East, West, and points in between).  A professor at the University of Warwick, Riello has been widely published on many material-culture-related topics including shoes, design history, and again the cotton trade. He's also done a series of podcasts; in this one he and Rosemary Crill discuss chintz. Check it out while we wait for the latest book to hit store shelves.


Related Reading

Here's a short follow up to the follow up: Indian Embroidery by the V & A's Rosemary Crill. If you're drawn to the needlework mentioned in the previous post, this is a great book to explore.

[Detail view: silk threads in chain stitch on woven cotton from the V & A collection.] 

Among the pages you'll find examples of Kutch embroidery like this lively late-19th-century cotton cloth with rows of yellow, cream and crimson silk cows (note the intricate triple border with more yellow, red, and two shades of green). But you will also see different styles including shisha (or mirror work) from Kutch and embroidery from other regions of India, encompassing formal court florals and folk designs.


Speaking of Embroidery

[Photo courtesy Irving and Fine] 

You already know that Carolina Irving and Lisa Fine love Kutch embroidery. The refined Indian stitches are the signature element on their jackets, dresses and tunics. And soon, with their collection for Lucky debuting next week, we'll see more globally-inspired needlework. Following up on the Fridamania post, Lisa shared with me that she and Carolina are both fans of Mexican embroidery too. So be on the lookout for I & F for Lucky summer shirts with a little touch of Mexico.

Right now, you can take a peek at their beaded jacket and burlap bag, above (yes, an Irving and Fine for Lucky bag!) or pop over to the V & A to see examples of antique Kutch embroidery. I'll update with more specific Lucky links as soon as I have them.


Kitty Rae

[A Kitty Rae quilt photographed by Krystyna Hellstrom for Jaipur Quilts. Niyogi Books, 2012.]

[Textile pioneer Kitty Rae photographed by Krystyna Hellstrom, again seen in this open copy of Jaipur Quilts.]

Last week I finally picked up Krystyna Hellstrom's Jaipur Quilts. For the book, textile designer Brigitte Singh agreed to be interviewed and allowed Hellstrom to photograph her workshops (in fact, a Singh quilt made the book's cover). So that was the initial draw.

[At left, a Soma quilt; at right, Kitty Rae's Kin Fabrics quilt. Photo by Hellstrom.]

But flipping through the pages I soon became aware of many more Jaipur-based quilt makers. Hellstrom's focus is on Indian-owned textile houses (or in the case of Singh, a French ex-pat who married into an Indian family). For me, Hellstrom's own striking photos are one of the main strengths of the book. They convey a range of styles, from contemporary patterns by young Indian designers to gorgeous antiques, and show the craftsmanship behind these typically whisper-light yet warm covers. Although several of the oldest quilts highlighted are intricately stitched white on white, the majority of pieces Hellstrom documents are block-printed natural fiber fabrics filled with specially carded (think fluffed) cotton.

[Another Kitty Rae quilt from the book.]

A European-born quilt connoisseur traveling through Jaipur, Hellstrom met with both the old and new guards. Kitty Rae falls somewhere between the two.

According to Hellstrom, Rae began the commercial production of quilts after Independence, in midcentury India, 1963. So this year marks her business Kin Fabric's 50th anniversary. Because she began on a small scale, printing out of her home and reviving a traditional Indian craft, it seems to me Kitty Rae's enterprise was in line with Gandhi's vision for the country. Cobalt-blues with green on a fresh white ground are seen throughout Hellstrom's photo album of Kin wares.

If you're planning an expedition to Jaipur, the book has a traveler's guide bent to it and shop addresses are included. Just know that while Anokhi shops and the Anokhi Museum of Handprinting are mentioned in the resource section, the author opts not to cover either in any detail. But Kadar Bux, Magic Quilts, Lashkari Textiles, Rajasthan Fabric and Arts, Rasa, Soma, and Madhurima Patni, aka Gitto, founder of Surabhi Exports, are discussed.



[Now oft-pinned in the 21st century, Frida Kahlo.]

[Detail: Mid-20th-century Mexican embroidery. Collection of The Met.]

[20th-century Mexican Huipil. Cotton and silk. Collection of The Met.]

I've been looking back at stylist Sibella Court's lush nod to artist Frida Kahlo. Not that the fiercely independent Kahlo's diminutive yet complex paintings and personal style haven't long been a source of inspiration for many designers, stylists and other creatives -- even more so since Salma Hayek's 2002 portrayal -- but Court really emphasized the painter's interest in Mexican folk textiles as well as her local flora and fauna.

[Sibella Court channels the artist in the Mexican-related chapter of her book, Nomad. Photos by Chris Court.] 

Revisiting the Mexican section in Court's book along with the PBS microsite for The Life and Times of Frida Kahlo (plus searching for Mexican embroidery) are just some of the random ways I'm gearing up for the latest Frida-related show. On Valentine's Day, Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics and Painting opens at the High. The Atlanta museum will be the only U.S. venue for this exhibition, which is coming here following it's run at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

[Nickolas Murray photo on Vogue Mexico cover, November 2012. Via Conde Nast]

Including more than 60 photographs of the couple and over 80 of their paintings and works on paper, this show delves into the ways their turbulent relationship as well as homeland, post-revolutionary Mexico, influenced their careers (or vice versa).

[Salma Hayek in the 2002 film, Frida via...]

In case you missed it, the Museo Frida Kahlo recently uncovered a trove of the artist's iconic clothes, shoes and other personal items -- I believe 300 pieces in all -- hidden away at the famous Casa Azul. Partnering with Vogue Mexico, the museum organized Appearances Can Be Deceiving: The Dresses of Frida Kahlo. See related video here. Other past Frida fashion and textile exhibitions are mentioned here. And there's a podcast with Frida biographer, Hayden Herrera, here.

I think all the details of the High's Valentine's night event (complete with Frida impersonators as you can see) are legible above, but for more info or to get tickets, click here.