photograph by Judith Zausner
Trained in traditional textiles and weaving, Yvonne has found her path to an ethereal visual effect in fiber art. By knotting enormous amounts of mono filament she creates a compelling experience of both light and texture.
You came from two parents with creative genes. Life had to enable that for you.
My mother had talent in the design and textile area and made clothes for me and my 2 sisters. She also could have been an actress. My father was a master woodcarver and taught woodworking.
My first weaving was when I was 10 years old at camp; it was a bath mat.
When I was in 7th grade I was asked what I wanted to do in life. That was unusual. I said that I wanted to be an Arts and Crafts teacher. I'm the teacher type; I taught at Drexel University from 1966 to 1997.
Was there a clear point when you knew that your direction would be in fiber?
Yes, it was at Cranbrook (Cranbrook Academy of Art), which was a very beautiful and inspiring place. It was there that I was exposed to all arts and crafts and discovered "the thread". I was taught functional weaving and created suiting, upholstery, drapery and rugs.
And then how did you enter the world of fiber art after graduating from Cranbrook?
My father built a large loom for me which replicated the one at Cranbrook and that was special. And then I opened a studio designing and handweaving functional textiles for architecture and designer clients.
After you moved to Philadelphia with your husband, you had three children and continued working with your art while meeting some important people of the day
I moved to Philadelphia because my husband started teaching Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn). Penn was going through a metamorphosis and it was a very fertile and inspiring time. There was Buckminster Fuller, Lou Kahn, Ann Ting. LeRicole, and Louis Munford.
In the 50s I had studied with Anni Albers at the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art (now the University of the Arts) and also wove. In the late 60's I started creating wall hangings,tapestries, room dividers, rugs with high and irregular pile that evolved in to floor sculpture. In the 70s I did work for corporations as well as a tapestry for Lou Kahn's Fort Worth Museum.
In the 60s there was a new craft movement which reflected what was happening in society. It was the women's movement, civil rights, space exploration and developing individuality. Lenore Tawney and Sheila Hicks are good examples of this new movement in fiber art. Jack Lenor Larsen did a show in 1969 at the Museum of Modern Art. That was incredible to have a fiber art show in a celebrated art museum that also included well known international fiber artists. It was an exciting time!
Processes go through change and I just go with it also. I had the good fortunate of being provoked creatively.
When I was about about 50, it was a rebirth time for me.I rented a loft and heard that DuPont was giving materials to artists I went from weaving with heavy natural materials to light. I started knotting masses of clear mono filament that picked up light beautifully. In new ways of exploration, Flavin, Irwin and Terrill were working with light on the west coast.
I also started reading Jung and the Dao of Physics and many books by well known psychologists, philosophers, etc.
You had an exceptional upbringing and an extraordinary life. You won the Pew Fellowship and your work has been collected by museums such as the Chicago Art Institute, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Racine Museum of Art.
Now at 85, how do you look forward?
I showed abroad frequently and I am still creating. Even though my body does not cooperate every day with what I want to do, I'm still working on these fiber pieces and continue to receive show invitations from overseas.