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Post-Symposium Tour Review Kay: Sekimachi Retrospective & Asian Textiles

Kay Sekimachi Retrospective & Asian Textiles at the Mingei Balboa Park, San Diego. Sunday September 14, 2014
by Barbara Shapiro

Expert guides and special guests: Kay Sekimachi, Signe Mayfield, Sarah Winston, and Melissa Leventon

The post-Symposium tour group that visited In the Realm of Nature: Bob Stocksdale and Kay Sekimachi at the Mingei International Museum included two past TSA presidents, Carol Bier and Pat Hickman, as well as several well know luminaries from the Art Textile world, including California’s Peggy Osterkamp and Lia Cook and Australian shibori artist Barbara Rogers.

Director of Exhibitions and Chief Curator Christine Knoke welcomed us to the Mingei Museum and introduced Kay Sekimachi. Artists Susan Jamart and Lucy Arai joined her. Kay was radiant, obviously delighted with the elegant installation of her own work and that of her late husband Bob Stocksdale. Collector Forrest Merrill, who had lent many works by both artists was present. This exhibit continues at the Mingei Museum until March 15, 2015. It will travel to the Bellevue Arts Museum in Washington July 3, 2015 through November 29, 2015.

The inimitable creativity of independent exhibition design- er Ted Cohen working with Jeremiah Maloney, the Mingei’s Exhibition Designer, resulted in a beautiful installation, highlighting the craftsmanship and art of each object by Sekimachi and Stocksdale and elegantly demonstrating the collaboration that was part of their life together.
in the realm of nature
Signe S. Mayfield, guest curator and author of the accompa- nying gorgeous 212-page catalog In the Realm of Nature: Bob Stocksdale and Kay Sekimachi, led the tour of the exhibit. She added her insights from decades of intimate knowledge of the work of both artists. During her tenure as curator of the Palo Alto Art Center, CA, Mayfield exhibited Sekimachi and Stocksdale’s work several times. Mayfield stated that the genesis for the book was Kay’s desire to “write a love letter to Bob”. The proj- ect evolved into a book and a retrospective of both artists’ careers. Mayfield’s catalogue is a work of art in itself and pays fitting tribute to both artists. Her 30-page illustrated catalog essay “charts the couple’s artistic developments within their creative lives including formative experiences in the unexpect- ed setting of incarceration during World War II.” 1 Mayfield cap- tures the essence of their creative lives and paints a portrait of artistic integrity and growth. The catalog is available from Fine Arts Press: http://fineartspress.com/?page_id=26.

Several of the artists present commented on Sekimachi’s enviable ability to continue creating a strong and innovative body of work throughout her six decade long career. In her sensitive and thoughtful voice, she explores new ideas and materials, but does not reinvent herself. Ply-split and card weaving techniques reappear. New work at times employs
the same ply-split twining technique of the 1970’s. I remem- ber being at her house once almost a decade ago when she announced to me that she was so happy to be back on the loom, after a long pause, weaving flat textiles. As an artist, she creates beauty and captures time, making it infinite. Whether working in card weaving, hand woven ikat dyed scrolls, origami triple woven boxes or ethereal leaf skeleton vessels, a quiet presence of the maker’s hand in Sekimachi’s work resonates.

Melissa Leventon, as Curator in Charge of Textiles at the Fine Art Museums of San Francisco (1986-2002) undoubtedly knew Berkeley Artist Sekimachi. Her excellent presentation, conclud- ing the day, situated Kay with her inarguably original “artistic vision” in the “wider context of twentieth century textiles in general and the artist-craftsman community in California in particular.” 2 I encourage readers to purchase the exhibition catalogue if only for Leventon’s insightful article: “On and Off the Loom: Kay Sekimachi and 20th-Century Fiber Art.”

1. Mayfield, Signe S. In the Realm of Nature: Bob Stocksdale and Kay Sekimachi (Mingei International Museum, 2014), Catalogue cover front flap.
2. Leventon, Melissa, “On and Off the Loom: Kay Sekimachi and 20th–Century Fiber Art” in In The Realm of Nature: Bob Stocksdale and Kay Sekimachi (Mingei International Museum, 2014), 43.

kay sekimachi nlTextile Collections Manager Sarah Winston provided a behind- the-scenes view of 26 highlights from the museum’s textile collection, including diverse Japanese, Indian, Indonesian, North and South American, Central Asian, and Eastern European pieces. The Mingei collection includes over 6800 textiles and approximately 400 baskets. Works on view included an early twentieth century mourning shawl from Taiwan (Paiwan people, indigo and vegetal dyes on wool and ramie, supplementary weft), a Keisuke Serizawa twentieth century hand woven cotton katazome noren (stencil resist door hanging), a mid twentieth century summer kimono by this same National Treasure of Japan (hand woven and stencil dyed in bashofu or banana fiber), and an early 20th century Jewish wedding veil or Biskri from Djerba Island, Tunisia (silk and cotton with metallic threads). The Mingei Museum has a broad and well-rounded collection of folk textiles, and is especially rich in Japanese and Indian examples. Winston called 2016 the Mingei’s “textile year” with several textile-focused exhibitions in the works.

kay sekimachi leafbowlsThis tour was a delightful way to finish our TSA Symposium experience and to honor my friend Kay Sekimachi, a superb textile artist who has inspired so many of us throughout her long and productive career.

Barbara Shapiro is a textile artist, past board member, and long time member of TSA. She lives and works in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Images: Opposite Page: Figure 1: Catalog cover for In the
Realm of Nature: Bob Stocksdale and Kay Sekimachi. Permission of Author Signe S. Mayfield; Top to bottom: Figure 2: Kay Sekimachi in front of her jewelry and woven Homage series. Permission of the artist. Photo Susan Jamart and Lucy Arai; Figure 3: Installation photo of Kay Sekimachi’s leaf bowls with Bob Stocksdale’s wooden vessels in the background. Permission of the Artist. Photo Susan Jamart and Lucy Arai; Figure 4: TSA group including Pat Hickman, Carol Bier, Lia Cook and Barbara Shapiro examine Kuba Cloth, Democratic Republic of Congo, Bequest of William Gregory LaChapelle with Mingei Textile Museum Collections Manager Sarah Winston, Permission of Mingei International Museum. Image by Dolph Shapiro.

examine kuba cloth NLCatalog details: In the Realm of Nature: Bob Stocksdale & Kay Sekimachi. Published by the Mingei International Museum, text by Signe Mayfield, foreword by Rob Sidner, additional essays by Melissa Leventon and John C. Lavine, published 2014