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Art HERstory: Claire Zeisler

'Tri-color Arch' (1983-4). The color combination in this piece are just dope. This one may be my favorite. How can a piece that took two years to build NOT be amazing?

I have a confession. I have this secret obsession with making the old school friendship bracelets. I have a trinity of the colorful woven ropes on my arm. They’ve been with me for over a year now and are still going strong. I don’t get it, but there’s something about art made from materials other than the stereotypical canvas and paints/pastels. 3-D art is what interests me. Art I can walk all around and stare at in awe from all 360 degrees. Noted artist Claire Zeisler (1903-1991) developed a way to construct 3-D fiber art that makes my three little bracelets look like floss. Curses.

'Floor Slinky.' OMG! This should bring back childhood memories for everyone. Random fact: the Slinky was invented in the 1940s. Claire used a pop culture toy for inspiration!

There’s not much in writing about Claire. All we know is her birth name was Claire Block, she was born in Cincinnati, and she attended Columbia College in Chicago for a year. When it came to her craft, she developed it by combining techniques from a couple of her professors from the Chicago Institute of Design. During the 1940s Claire took classes taught by Russian avant-garde sculptor Alexander Archipenko and Chicago weaver Bea Swartchild. Obviously Claire was thoroughly impressed and influenced by the creativity of her mentors. She weaved the two artists together and created a fiber art technique all her own.

Claire was no one trick pony! She had an eye for women's accessories too!

The majority of the 3-D fiber installments were sculptures of cascading weaved fiber, but Claire was no one trick pony. Her artistic eye wandered over into jewelry, hanging tapestry, free standing pieces, and even 3-D braided ‘paintings.’ I know it takes me a few days to make one bracelet, and some of the pieces featured are feet high. I know Claire had to have strong wrists, durable fingertips, and major patience. I commend her. Braiding and knotting pounds of rope is no easy feat. I’m just glad someone took my secret passion and released it on a larger, more intricate scale. Now I don’t look so nerdy.

Image Layout: Phaymiss

'Breakwater' (1968). If you can't tell, this piece is hanging on a wall. A 3-D woven 'painting.'

'Red Preview.' It baffles me. How did she get the two wavy columns to stay? Hmm.

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