December 8, 2011 – January 27, 2012
The University Art Gallery is pleased to present a series of works and installations by the fiber artist Pat Hickman. The work on view is a testament to her exquisite sensibility and love of materials and process. The exhibition covers recent work, as well as a selection of work done within the last seventeen years.
Pat Hickman explains in the interview in the catalog for the exhibition, that she came rather late to the world of art. Her involvement happened to coincide with the growth of the Art Textile Movement of the 1970s. This was a time when there was a new self-consciousness within the craft field, a time when studio artists were merging traditional approaches with a newfound, contemporary sensibility.
These remarkable developments within the craft field were also reflected in the creation of the Program in Artisanry at Boston University in 1975. The program later merged with the Swain School of Design in New Bedford in 1985, and then, as part of the Swain School, merged in 1988 with, what was at the time, Southeastern Massachusetts University now University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.
While living in the Boston area in the early 1970s, Pat Hickman began to take classes at the Cambridge Adult Education Center with the scholar and fiber artist, Joanne Segal Brandford. Brandford saw art and scholarship as a joint undertaking, intimately connected to one’s personal life. Her example set the stage for Hickman’s future studies when she moved to California a few years later, where she herself simultaneously pursued the history of textiles and her own studio work as a graduate student at the University of California Berkeley.
Once in California, Pat Hickman studied world textiles at the ethnographic collections in the Lowie Museum of Anthropology, and began to establish her vocabulary as an artist within the textile field, successfully merging new and old techniques. While in the Bay Area in the 1970s and 80s, she became a significant voice in a textile movement that had, by then, gained a large presence of practitioners and programs.
Pat Hickman furthermore contributed to the field by curating a series of historical exhibitions, focusing on textiles of Alaska, on Jewish costumes and customs in Turkey, and on the history of ethnic wedding dresses. The first of these exhibitions was inspired by her study of the Alaskan Native’s use of animal intestines to waterproof garments. Pig gut, usually used for sausage making became, and has remained, an important material as part of Pat Hickman’s artistic vocabulary.
Pat Hickman’s work has been a continuous exploration of cultural and personal sensibilities, of the relationship of the hand to the stories and forces that shape us, and to the “languages” that can be found in Nature and in specific locations.
The richness of Pat Hickman’s visual imagination is evident in the beauty and intricacy of her work, and in the emphasis she places on process. As she reflects at the end of the interview:
“The places I’ve lived and traveled and the textiles I’ve studied from every corner of the earth are now within, shaping my imagination, how I see and what I try to say in my work. I have entered the world through cloth, through fiber, through the objects I discover in the places where I find myself. My hands take these materials and make something new.”
Lasse Antonsen, Curator