Dörte Weber‘s last name means “weaver” in English and weaving is in her blood. The artist, who was born in Germany and lives in San Antonio, comes from a long line of women weavers, although Weber himself is largely self-taught. “I remember very well when my father hacked [up] my mother’s loom [use as] Firewood in the late 1960s, ”she recently wrote in an email to Hyperallergic. “It reminded her of the bad times after the war when she had to weave.” Weber, who was still a child when her mother gave up the loom, learned to knit, crochet and needlepoints at an early age, but not to weave. Nonetheless, a seed was sown when her mother’s loom was destroyed.
It was only after he immigrated to Texas in 1986 that Weber took weaving lessons at a local art school. She began her serious occupation with textiles after visiting an exhibition on the Bauhaus in Berlin, where she was particularly attracted by the work of Anni Albers. Barrack, Weber’s solo show at Blue Star Contemporary in San Antonio, features a new series of woven towels created during the long months of the pandemic. Weber’s work, like Albers’, is reserved but innovative, modest but moving. Your textiles in Barrack inventively force the formal possibilities of their designs, as they convey the turbulent feelings and worries of the past year.
Weber preferred to make towels as the pandemic placed increasing emphasis on cleanliness and hand washing. But towels also have a more intimate and personal meaning for the artist. In the northern German region, where Weber grew up on a small farm, generations of women weaved such towels as part of their dowry. After Weber inherited and used hand-woven towels from her grandmothers, mother and other female relatives for many years, Weber decided to use this small everyday object as her vehicle of expression and exploration during the long months of imprisonment.
All Weber towels were created using the same setup on the loom and measure 18 “by 13”. Their first towels were woven from white cotton and linen with traditional patterns, but they soon broke new ground. Despite the slow pace of the medium, some towels record current events. “In the News” (2020) is made of hand-woven cotton thread with narrow stripes from the New York Times Newspaper, while “World Covid Cases” (2021) is one of several textiles that reproduces the ubiquitous charts and graphs of infection rates, hospital stays, deaths, unemployment and other effects of the virus.
Weber embroidered text in other works. A working couple from “Diary” (2021), a suite of 25 unframed textiles, shows hand-dyed black and dark blue threads in strong, vertical lines, which are labeled with the letters “BLM” in light yellow. Another towel from “Diary” is divided into jagged red and gray fragments that are sewn with the names of the months that have passed. The towels in this group are the most exploratory and experimental, with frayed edges, open spaces, and mismatched colors. These deliberate oddities convey the fear, insecurity, loneliness, and other scattered emotions that many experienced during this period.
Despite the harshness, this project shows how the pandemic has changed our sense of time, our progress and our work. Weaving is a slow, repetitive, and thoughtful process, and Weber says, “The biggest benefit I had last year was the limitation and the time.” Barrack remembers Albers’ words from 1982: “Material is a means of communication. Listening to him, not dominating, makes us really active, that means: being active, being passive. “
Dörte Weber: Shed continues through September 5 at Blue Star Contemporary (116 Blue Star, San Antonio, Texas).
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