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Portrait view

This virtual format is best viewed on smart phones and tablets, such as an iPad. To view this Virtual exhibit on your phone or tablet it is best viewed in "portrait" view.

The Ann Foxworthy Gallery is honored to feature a curated collection of the tapestry art of Michael F. Rohde. Michael weaves story, human connections and ideas that bring an incredible modern relevance. From ixelated Poprtraits, Imagined Languages and more Michael's work encompasses abstraction both visually and ideologically, through a centuries old art form.

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Michael F Rohde
Artist Statement
The medium in which I choose to work is fiber, primarily flat woven pieces. I’ve picked this less than common medium, having been drawn to the possibilities of relationships between subliminal texture and the interaction of light and color.
Having taken this route, the weavings can become an embodiment of the freedom to explore how colors relate to each other and to the surface properties of the fibers used. Pure color and specific color combinations of color have the power to speak to each of us, often producing differing responses in each person. By limiting the vocabulary to color and woven texture, the works are better able to stimulate reactions and emotions that these raw color and spatial relationships can have on the viewer. By limiting the vocabulary to color and woven texture, the works are better able to stimulate reactions and emotions that these raw color and spatial relationships can have on the viewer.

Pictured: Closeup of Michael's loom, tools and a work in progress

Michael's Pixelated portraits incorporate a wonderful artistic collaboration of ideas and techniques from the centuries old art of Tapestry and a twist with the modern concepts of pixelation, glitch art, and digital as they come together to create a unique and wonderful combination of old and new ideas. Each subject depicted in these tapestries were chosen by the artist, as people that Michael admires or are emblematic of people oppressed or mistreated by others. Pictured above, "Reconciliation", 2014, handwoven tapestry: wool, alpaca, camel; natural dyes, 42” 32”

You may notice the titles are deliberately obscure, Michael's intention is to make the viewer look more closely, in order to visualize who is depicted. The artist's hope is for this approach to lead us to consider why this individual was chosen for such a long creative effort by an artist, and perhaps guides them to learn more about the subject.

As you view these pixelated portraits in this exhibit, allow your self to sit with the image for a few moments before scrolling on, looking at the interplay of color and pixelation, in these unique art pieces, sometimes slightly squinting ones eyes a bit to reveal the persona woven into each tapestry.

Mahatma Gandhi

2016, handwoven tapestry: un-dyed alpaca, 43” x 32”

Chief Joseph, of the Nez Perce tribe

2016, handwoven tapestry: un-dyed alpaca, 38” x 32”

Toulouse Lautrec "At the Moulin Rouge

2016, handwoven tapestry: wool, alpaca, silk, natural dyes, 43” x 33”

Emma Gonzales

2019, handwoven tapestry un-dyed alpaca, cochineal, 46” x 35”

Dalai Lama

2014, handwoven tapestry: wool, alpaca, camel; natural dyes, 35” 32”

Eleanor Roosevelt

2016, handwoven tapestry: un-dyed alpaca, 42” x 32”

2012, handwoven tapestry: wool, natural dyes, 45" x 32"

Nelson Mandela

2014, handwoven tapestry: wool, alpaca, camel & natural dyes. 42" x 32"

There are many ways we communicate as a human race, visually, through gesture, written language even through digital computer code. These next series of artworks Michael Rohde is exploring the ideas of what language can be. Within the language tapestries there are two series of visualized languages, Michael explores in his art works,

"Emulated and "Imagined"
Emulated "Language"

The first set of tapestries shown in this exhibit are from a larger body of work, chosen by Micheal Rohde, these depict what he calls, "emulated language". Inspired by traditional Tibetan Prayer flags, "emulated", started with the idea of printed prayers, on prayer flags, or in books for study. “Tibetan Prayers” melds the ideas of compassion and impermanence; the tradition is that cloth is printed with the prayers, and hung in a windy place. The winds carry the blessings of the prayers to others, and is no longer a protected object, but allowed to disintegrate into the elements from which it was made. My choices in making it had an added meaning: I had seen the prayer flags in rural nomadic regions of Tibet, and was dismayed at the treatment of the natives, not unlike what happened to Native Americans - hence Tibetan and Navajo yarns were included.

EMULATED LANGUAGE series, titles in order pictured: Tibetan Prayers • Heart • Golden
Tibetan Prayers

2006, handwoven tapestry: Navajo wool, Tibetan wool, madder, 49½" x 38½”

In this tapestry Michael melds the ideas of compassion and impermanence. During his travels, he had seen the prayer flags in rural nomadic regions of Tibet. Michael was dismayed at the treatment of the Tibetan people, not unlike what happened to Native Americans. These emotions prompted him to chose to incorporate both Tibetan and Navajo yarns in the creation of this tapestry.

In the details of these emulated languages, one can imagine translating a message woven in the, flowing marks and gestural lines created in this series.

Heart

An emulation of a sutra, or sacred text for study and preservation as a teaching tool. “Golden” is an interpretation of a painted image of the meditating Buddha, imagined as an arrangement of Tibetan text.

Detail of Heart
Golden

2014, handwoven tapestry: wool, natural dyes, 47" x 36 1/2"

Detail of "Golden"
Imagined "Language"

the Second set of tapestries in this exhibit are based on imagined "language". These are truly imagined languages. The idea began with consideration that some Incan textiles before the arrival of the Spanish might encode a language we do not know how to read. expanded that idea with a few simple rules: each unit was a 5x5 square of two colors. A set of 160 of these were constructed on paper and randomly arranged for each row of weaving, The randomness obviates any interpretation of the message. Rather, the ideas that each one embodies comes from color symbolism and arrangements. Many of these make reference to how language is used in politics.

IMAGINED LANGUAGE series, titles in order pictured: Exclamatory • Interrogative • Declarative • Mysterious • Notes • Redacted
Exclamatory

Bright contrasting colors of this piece allude to brash, flashy, colorful speech

2018, handwoven tapestry: wool, camel, mohair, goat hair, natural dyes, 76” x 47”

Interrogative

This piece raises questions with the use of closely related colors and barely discernible top-to-bottom paths of contrasting blocks. When the opportunity arises to see this piece in person one is challenged even to discern and question the exact colors. Are those blues or, you almost ask yourself it they are greens.

2018, handwoven tapestry: wool and natural dyes, 76” x 47”

Declarative

Michael's liberal use of a strong contrast of black with bright and light reds. Not unlike declamatory speeches intended to convince you of something that may not be true. Or a red ‘power’ tie or dress.

2018, handwoven tapestry: wool, mohair, goat hair, natural dyes, 76” x 47”

Mysterious

Using unusual colors together, somewhat dark as the title implies. It make one think of explanations that confuse and cloud the question rather than answer it, or leave you wondering what is meant.

2020, handwoven tapestry: wool, camel, goat hair, natural dyes, 77” x 48½”

Notes

A much smaller piece in this series, hence the title. It might also allude to diversity or division, with the use of a wide range of colors, but in an ‘orderly’ fashion.

2018, handwoven tapestry: wool, camel, mohair, goat hair, natural dyes, 24½” x 24”

Redacted

An image of the first 160 pages of the Mueller Report, with the blacked out parts clearly visible, inspired the imagined language imagery in this tapestry. The title and visual impact of this piece refers to the issue of controlled access to information or written language.

2018, handwoven tapestry: wool, mohair, natural dyes, 77” x 48½”

Detail of the 6 Imagined Language tapestries

From My House to your Homeland, 2003 Handwoven tapestry: wool, silk, dyes 54" x 98”

"From My House to your Homeland” was the progenitor for this series. In 2003; George Bush was trying to justify invading Iraq. I’d been invited to send work to Europe for an International Exhibition of Tapestry; we were allotted a 9x9 foot space. As I was searching for ideas, my spouse came back from a Buddhist meditation group he attended, and described a poem they had read, by June Jordan, “The Bombing of Baghdad". She had written this long poem criticizing the first US invasion of Iraq. Overall it is a very powerful statement, but one line struck me in its depiction of indiscriminate and overpowering destruction coming from ’my house’ to blast your ‘homeland’. In the tapestry, we see smaller houses, lights going dark and the house disappearing into the background ("to blast your homeland into…pieces of sand”) in the presence of a symbolically larger and imposing house.

This project appealed to me greatly, and I decided to further explore houses as a modality for ideas. Another invitation came for a solo museum exhibition in Europe. This was to be installed right after the aforementioned time with Tibetan nomads. As we visited many villages near which they passed, we learned that the government was building houses for nomads (a contradiction), likely as a way of keeping track of people, but with the result of traditional ways were being lost. While we know that change is inevitable, I wanted to record these places. I made a set of sixteen houses with colors that recalled the location names in the title.

Lake Yilhun Lhatso, 2006, handwoven tapestry: wool, silk, dyes, 24½" x 24½”. Inspired by a sacred lake at over 12,000 ft of elevation; surrounded by carved prayer stones on the ground around the deep blue lake and under the crisp blue sky.

Many of Michael F Rohde's, house tapestries are influenced by his travels, groups he has visited with and his experiences abroad.

Labrang

This Piece was inspired by the first true Tibetan location we visited, after days in Beijing and travel through Lanzhou; buildings painted a salmon whitewash color, monks in maroon robes and the occasional touch of green

Litang Chode

The monastic complex in the town of Litang was striking with many of the exterior walls painted in these colors. We were there for the Horse Festival, which was overshadowed by extensive military presence and aggressive treatment of the Tibetan festival attendees.

Yushu

“Yushu” - the Nomad Festival, near Yushu brought thousands of nomadic Tibetans, often in their finest clothes and jewels (amber, coral and turquoises), often a mix of ancestral heirlooms and new finery of rare colors, such as these.

Manigango

Influenced by an incredible monastic group, with new buildings mixed with old ruins, and a workshop making large copper Buddhas; the new building was a rich complicated color between oxblood and brown. The new building was undertaken by the Chinese, to replace the ancient monastery destroyed in the Cultural Revolution. New by a few years, but unused as the monks did not have the keys.

Sustainablitiy

This piece began with the idea of depicting an ideally diverse neighborhood, town or planet. The sketch for this was of an arrangement of houses with a random mixing of skin-tone colors. As sometime happens, once the tapestry was finished and photographed, I saw another allusion: the houses were tightly packed and might be seen as a commentary on overpopulation and exhaustion of the resources of our world.

2007, handwoven tapestry: wool, silk, alpaca, mohair, llama, camel, natural dyes, 66” x 39¼”

I started using a small loom when my partner was ailing, to be able to sit with him and be able to talk and still weave; this later found its use when traveling, especially on long bus trips.

My usual approach to these little projects is to select 30-50 colors that I want to use in that weaving; most often I use silk for these small scale works, and frame the end result under museum grade plexiglass.

This whole process is a way to use time that would be idle, looking out a window. The design process is strictly governed by the initial color choices for one weaving, so these would not be considered to be concept driven. Sometimes the travel will inform the color choices. Rather than sketches, I think of these a color exercises, which may lead to larger pieces, but usually do not.

view below, for a peek into Michael's studio and artist and loom in action

Tapestry mediums, tools, the artist's studio and process
Thank you for visiting the Ann Foxworthy Gallery Virtual Space, Allan Hancock College. We hope you have enjoyed this virtual gallery experience. Thank you also to Michael F Rohde for taking a leap with the Ann Foxworthy Gallery, into a new virtual way of sharing art and art experiences!

To learn more about Michael F Rohde's work and process

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