New art exhibit weaves photography and textiles

Gary Goldberg on Finding the Universe in Oaxaca Textile and Photographs exhibition in the Martin Museum of Art in Hooper-Schaefer Fine Arts Center. Mireya Sol Ruiz | Multimedia Journalist

By KJ Burkley | Reporter

Baylor’s Martin Museum of Art is showcasing Finding the Universe in Oaxaca: Textiles and Photographs, a new exhibit inspired by photographer Gary Goldberg and his partnership with textile workers in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Inspired by photography of colonial building facades in Oaxaca, Goldberg reinvented his presentation of artwork by displaying his photos on a canvas made from merino sheep wool.

Ninety six inch long pieces of thoroughly matted wool work with blended color, textures and lines are used. Gallery attendant Elisa Crowder explained how Goldberg became involved with the textile workers.

“Once he got going on his photographs at Taller de Afelpado, he ran into local artisans, and there are women who do a process called dry felting,” Crowder said. “What they are doing is that they have an under layer of machine-made felt, and they rove loose wool and poke it into the felt to recreate his photographic images as art.”

Crowder said that these women, who use up to 8-10 needles at one time to poke the wool, are simply using their hand-eye coordination to recreate the photos into the wool. Krista Latendresse, education coordinator for the museum, said that projects may take a long time to finish.

“Two to three women work on a piece at a time,” Latendresse said. “So maybe you could get through a piece in four to six weeks. But with so much detail and wool needed for one piece, I think it could take up to four to six months.”

The process of creating this art starts with shaving and straightening the wool from sheep and washing to make the wool soft. In order to color the wool, it must be rinsed, dyed and dried again for color.

The more colors featured in the painting, the more dyes used and the longer the process takes. However, Crowder said working on these pieces is a daily job the local artisans do for a living.

“This is a job for them, and they work in one of the poorest parts of Mexico,” Crowder said. “So the textile is the place where they can come to work and make a living. The work is intensive and very long, but it is what they have to do.”

This type of artwork is a first for Goldberg, but it is becoming a style that is attracting attention to his photography and is available for purchase. Crowder said some artists may create for a lifetime hoping that people notice their work, but that as this new journey of creative art is taking off, Goldberg and a tradition of artists in Mexico are receiving recognition.

“A lot of artists work their whole lifetime, and they hope people are going to buy their pieces,” Crowder said. “They hope people are inspired enough to buy it. Yet here he is, someone who started college in 1972, in his sixties and just now he has come across something that’s really gotten people excited.”

The exhibit will be available for viewing until Nov. 22, and Goldberg will be at Baylor for an artist talk and reception about the gallery at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 7 in the Hooper-Schaefer Fine Arts Center.