Sewing and Reaping: A Weaver's Tale (Reeva Potoff)
- Dates: January 18, 1991 through April 1, 1991
- Collections: Contemporary Art
December 1990: New York-based artist Reeva Potoff will create a site-specific installation for The Brooklyn Museum’s Grand Lobby. Entitled Sewing and Reaping: A Weaver’s Tale, it will open January 18 and remain on view through April 1, 1991. The installation incorporates twenty years of Potoff’s experience with large-scale projects in which she uses the fragile and transient materials frequently found in nature that have become her trademark. “I have always used nature as a touchstone for my work,” explains Potoff. “It has been in turn a reference for my imagery as well as a methodology but most importantly it is a container for my experience. It allows me to work out of that nexus of experience that fuels our lives, that is, our dreams, our drives, and our feelings. In addition, it becomes a pool reflective enough for others to gaze in and see themselves.”
The artist will use the Lobby’s two existing columns to open up a dialogue of dualities. The right column will be enveloped by pages of the 1911 eleventh edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, arranged into a conical shape spanning the height of the Lobby and opening like a calla lily at the ceiling. The book represents something that is simultaneously of value, containing a record of fixed histories of Western civilization, yet it is utterly out of date, with its antiquated scientific and geographic information.
The left column will be encircled by a skirt made of carbon paper, which like the encyclopedia is also of a dual nature. It is at once obsolete in the age of the photocopier and yet the necessary element of every organic compound.
At the back wall, the shape of the columns will be repeated by two forms constructed of tall branches and connected to the columns by transparent netting stretching diagonally through the Lobby. One curtain will be composed of carbon paper and thread, while the opposing veil will contain translucent skeletal remains of large leaves sparsely adorned with color.
The installation's title is derived from a painting by Velázquez entitled The Fable of Arachne (1644-48, the Prado Museum), in which the beautiful weaver Arachne, a mortal, challenges powerful Athena, goddess of arts and crafts. When Arachne loses Athena punishes her by turning her into a spider, so she could forever perfect her craft, spinning her endless webs. Potoff alludes to this morality tale and to the duality of "sewing" or "sowing" and "reaping" to remind us that underneath our successes looms our inevitable downfall.
Potoff graduated from Yale University with an M.F.A. degree, and is an Assistant Professor at Columbia University. Her work has been featured nationally, most recently in Artpark in Lewiston, NY and the Snug Harbor Cultural Center in Staten Island, NY.
The installation, the twenty-fifth in a series of Grand Lobby projects, is organized by Charlotta Kotik, Curator of Contemporary Art, and assisted by Laura Deer Moore, a Curatorial Intern funded by the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund, with additional support provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. The exhibition, and its associated Artist-in-Residence program, is made possible by the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund. Additional exhibition supports is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.
January 1991: The Brooklyn Museum will inaugurate a comprehensive Artist-in-Residence program this January, in conjunction with the Museum’s critically acclaimed series of installation art in the Grand Lobby. Each year three artists will be selected to participate in an ambitious series of public programs, which will reach audiences of diverse backgrounds and ages. In formulating the programs, each artist will work closely with the Museum’s Education Division and Curator of Contemporary Art, Charlotta Kotik, who directs the Grand Lobby projects along with Assistant Curator Brooke Kamin Rapaport.
The program is a result of a $600,000 grant from the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund. The gift not only makes it possible for the Museum to continue its site-specific, large-scale project series in the Grand Lobby, but also funds, for the first time, the related Artist-in-Residence program, along with curatorial and education internships and a ten-minute documentary video about the project.
This extensive, pioneering program reflects the Museum’s deep commitment to presenting and interpreting contemporary art and will be the subject of extensive evaluation.
The Artist-in-Residence program will begin with New York-based artist Reeva Potoff, whose installation Sewing and Reaping: A Weaver’s Tale will be on view in the Grand Lobby January 18 to March 30, 1991.
Potoff will begin her residency with “Meet the Artist,” a program designed for youths between the ages of 13 and 18 years. In this program, Potoff will meet with the youths and discuss her career, artistic concerns, and current Grand Lobby installation. “Meet the Artist” will take place on Saturday, January 19, from 2 to 4 p.m. Tickets will be given out at 1:30 p.m. on a first-come, first-served basis.
The program continues on Saturday, January 26, at 3 p.m., with a gallery talk led by Potoff in which she will discuss the creation of Sewing and Reaping: A Weaver’s Tale and explain her formal and conceptual concerns. Afterward, the artist will walk through the Museum’s extensive collections and highlight aspects that have influenced or inspired her work.
On Saturday, February 9, at 3 p.m., Potoff will participate in a public interview with the Museum’s Curator of Contemporary Art, Charlotta Kotik, in “A Conversation with the Artist.” The dialogue will examine Potoff’s Grand Lobby installation in the broader context of her career and will be accompanied by a slide presentation of her other work.
In addition to the programs held at the Museum, there will be two special visits to Potoff’s studio in SoHo. At the studio, the artist will explain her working methods and show some of her works-in-progress, as well as large-scale models of past and future projects. The first studio visit on Saturday, February 23, will be designed for adults, and the second visit on Saturday, March 2, will be open to youths ages 13 to 18. For further information and reservations call the Education Division (718-638-5000, ext. 230).
American Contemporary artist Leon Golub will be the next artist featured in the Artist-in-Residence program. His Grand Lobby installation, Worldwide, will be on view at the Museum April 12 through June 16, 1991. For a schedule of the specific programs and their times, call 718-638-5000, ext. 232.