Date of Degree

9-2019

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Art History

Advisor

Rosemarie Haag Bletter

Committee Members

Jennifer Ball

Katherine Manthorne

Glenn Adamson

Subject Categories

Art and Design | Fiber, Textile, and Weaving Arts

Keywords

weaving, fiber art, industrial design, Anni Albers, Marianne Strengell, Dorothy Liebes

Abstract

This dissertation traces the emergence and development of modern weaving in the United States. In a series of case studies, it follows the paths of three weavers: Anni Albers, Marianne Strengell and Dorothy Liebes, who make inroads in the field of American textile design from the late 1930s to the late 1950s through their teaching, writing and weaving practices. In the 1930s, these women, alongside other professional weavers in the United States, retooled hand weaving in a practice of prototype designing for power loom (machine) production. In adapting their skills to the design of machine-loomed textiles, their artistic agency expands. Their woven fabrics, designed mainly for furnishings, reveal textural emphases, which exploit the materiality and structures of weaving, forming the basis of a new period in American textile design. This dissertation recognizes and contextualizes this new period, while arguing that during it perceptions of weaving shift: instead of being seen as a flat object with a ground plane, the woven textile becomes understood as a three-dimensional sculptural form, wherein texture is visualized as a material and structural quality rather than as a byproduct of pattern. At midcentury, this is further evidenced in exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art and the Brooklyn Museum, which celebrate for the first time the textile not as an article of clothing or furnishing fabric, but as a unique material form itself.

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