Jake Stangel Jake Stangel

Laurie Herrick: Weaving Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

To commemorate its 75th anniversary, the Museum of Contemporary Craft has chosen to present a retrospective of weaver Laurie Herrick, an artist whose evolution parallels that of the institution itself. Beginning in the 1940s until her death in 1995, Herrick responded to the social upheavals in and outside the world of art and craft through her weaving, spanning the transformation of popular thinking about craft's potential to graduate beyond the making of practical objects as a respected mode of artistic expression. Herrick dealt specifically with this still-ongoing battle for legitimacy in her particular field of textile arts, while Portland's institution makes the argument for craft as a greater whole—both share the struggle to preserve themselves in the annals of an art historical culture that tends to blind itself to regional contributions outside that of New York City.

Laurie Herrick: Weaving Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow spans a career that began when weaving was relegated to home economics courses and thread shortages limited artistic inspiration. From documentation of her early work that catered mostly to interior designers, the exhibit touches on her forays into purely artistic wall hangings, which through texture and Herrick's outstanding use of color are as expressive as they are ornamental. The exhibition is nonetheless demonstrative of a fairly large breadth; while many of her wall hangings have an earthy point of reference, it is evident that the rise of the op art movement had a profound effect on Herrick's work, which includes many pieces in dizzying patterns and grabby hues.

Herrick's forays into fashion design are distilled in the "Laurie coat," constructed almost entirely on the loom. Though its origins are from a region and era that placed import and preference on natural materials, tones, and ethnic references, a small photo shoot styled by Portland fashion designer Adam Arnold and hair and makeup artist Galen Amussen demonstrates how well her designs translate into a contemporary aesthetic. It is also in this spirit of collaboration that the museum pays tribute to Herrick's career as a teacher at the Oregon College of Art and Craft (from 1959 to 1979); throughout the show, artists in residence will create new work that builds on and responds to Herrick's. It seems fitting to deemphasize the sense that her work is static—like the museum's, it is dependent on the influx of conversations to retain relevance.