Before meeting artist Spencer Merolla, I knew nothing of hairwork. The art of weaving human hair (ideally that of a loved one, living or deceased) into intricate adornment, to be worn or displayed in the home, originated in the late 18th century. It reached its apotheosis in the Victorian era, when sentimentality reigned and death and mourning were not subjects to be avoided. Pins, wreaths, and buttons, among other decorative objects made with hair, were seen as proper expressions of emotion, particularly grief. For a widower to keep his watch on a chain made of his wife's hair was a customary way to signal that he was in mourning, to make visible the anguish of his interior life.
We have had the good fortune of living with a pair of three-dimensional woven wall hangings by the artist Lenore Kantor Tetkowski for the Spring season. The pieces -- Boxes with a Twist (28 X 8 in, 2010) and Four Turning Strips (25 X 24 in, 2009), both double weave pick-up, perle cotton -- are powerful examples of Lenore’s lifetime devotion to the art and craft of weaving. And April's opening was a welcome chance to talk with Lee about technique, the tactile pleasure in fibers, the deliberative process of warping the loom and mapping out an artistic journey, and the metaphorical -- even metaphysical -- richness of this ancient art form.