Vera Paints a Scarf

”Vera Paints a Scarf was a selection of the work of artist Vera Neumann (1907-1993) and her contributions to the field of American design. Neumann was among the most successful female design entrepreneurs of the 20th century, and an originator of the American lifestyle brand. Over the course of her career, which spanned from her label’s debut in 1942 to her death in 1993, Neumann produced an iconic line of women’s scarves all signed with a cursive “Vera” and stamped with a ladybug, as well as thousands of textile patterns based on her drawings, paintings, and collages. This exhibition was the first to comprehensively examine her career—and highlights the keys to her success: her joyful and inventive aesthetic, democratic design ethos, fusion of craft and mass production, and clever marketing.”

Museum of Arts and Design (MAD)

December 26th, 2019

Prickly Pear Don’t Care


Salvador Jiménez-Flores
Nopales híbridos: An Imaginary World of a Rascuache-Futurism, 2017
Terra cotta, porcelain, underglazes, gold luster, and terra cotta slip

When Jiménez-Flores moved to the United States he spoke limited English. Art became his primary method of communication and means of commemorating his heritage. His practice prioritizes the depiction of Latinx people to ensure their representation in art for future generations. The “Nopales” series (nopales is Spanish for “prickly-pear cacti”) uses humor to challenge existing Latinx stereotypes in the United States. Likenesses of the artist, wearing shiny sunglasses and sticking out his tongue, are portrayed on cactus pads made of terra cotta and porcelain. This irreverent aesthetic references the work of Robert Arneson, father of funk ceramics, and also draws on the rich history of portraiture in Latin American visual culture, from Frida Kahlo’s paintings to Peruvian Moche vessels. The nopal, notable for its resilience in extreme conditions, is an important icon in Mexican culture—so much so that it is emblazoned on the country’s flag. For the artist, the cactus’s endurance symbolizes hope for the future.

Amber Cowan
Dance of the Pacific Coast Highway at Sunset, 2019, Flameworked American pressed glass
Snail Passing Through the Garden of Inanna, 2019, Flameworked American pressed glass

Two of the finalists for the Burke Prize 2019, in recognition of an artist’s extraordinary achievement in craft.

Museum of Arts and Design (MAD)

December 26th, 2019


A cabinet of curiosities in a MAD gallery.Dorian Zachai (United States, 1932-2015)
Lady Performing, 1971
Wool, rayon, silk, metallic lace, Dacron stuffing, wire and feathers

Dorian Zachai (United States, 1932-2015)
Allegory of Three Men, 1962-65
Wool, silk, rayon, wood, cotton, ceramic, metallic threads and Dacron stuffing

El Anatsui (Ghana, b. 1944)
Soleme, 2005
Aluminum liquor bottle caps and copper wire

David R. Harper (Canada, b. 1984)
Encyclopedia of the Familiar, 2015
Polyurethane, cowhide, linen, cotton embroidery floss, steel, synthetic hair, horsehair, epoxy clay and enamel

Combining David R. Harper’s primary working methods of sculpture and embroidery, Encyclopedia of the Familiar is a large-scale sculpture of a cross-sectioned horse, populated with a graphic, ordered collage of embroidered images from or in reference to medical texts and mathematical treatises.

Leonardo Benzant (United States, b. 1972)
The Chameleon’s Journey: Galveston, 2017
Textiles, string, monofilament, leather, acrylic, gel medium, glass seed beads and miscellaneous

Benzant creates his sculptures through a slow and labour-intensive ritualistic process, rolling and sewing fabric into tubular forms, wrapping them with string and strands of glass beads, and adding paint, glitter and other elements or ornament to entwine history, memory and imagination. These signature forms, while abstract, resemble chromosomes and roots, visually conveying his ties to an ancestral lineage. As a practitioner of the Yoruba faith, Benzant uses glass beads based on the eleke necklaces worn by practitioners during ceremonies for their symbolic spiritual power.

Ibrahim Said (Egypt, b. 1976)
Devotion, 2018
White earthenware and glaze

Said’s work represents a marriage between ancient and contemporary Egypt, where most of the population is Muslim. Devotion is an abstraction of two birds in flight, based on the ancient Egyptian deity Horus, traditionally depicted as a falcon.

Annie Evelyn (United States, b. 1976)
Nest, 2017
Vintage jewelry findings, leather and foam

Sterling Ruby (Germany, b. 1972)
Basin Theolody/The Pipe, 2018 & Basin Theology/Pentedrone, 2014

Sterling Ruby: Ceramics, was the first museum exhibition to focus on the ceramic works of the Los Angeles-based artist.

Museum of Arts and Design

November 11th, 2018

The Best of the Rest @ MAD

From the  permanent collection.

I was particularly drawn to the delicate work by Tomoko Ishida ”Co-twisted, 2003”, using paper and starch. The intricate Macramé knots and fringes by Françoise Grossen, like her Shield & Blu, c. 1968. And the most striking of them all,  Judith Shaechter’s stained glass kaleidoscope, adorning the second floor stairwell. Aptly titled ”Seeing is Believing” this site-specific permanent installation extends the art viewing to an otherwise bare and functional space and rewards those curious enough to peek behind closed doors. 

The Museum of Arts and Design (MAD)
2, Columbus Circle
New York City

March 12th, 2017

Voulkos: The Breakthrough Years @ MAD

“Voulkos: The Breakthrough Years is the first exhibition to focus on the early career of Peter Voulkos, whose radical methods and ideas during this period opened up the possibilities for clay in ways that are still being felt today.”

A chance encounter with the work of an artist I had never heard of before – highly popular in this part of the world, less so in Europe it seems. Following a quick research, I now know that he was an American of Greek descent (as his name suggests), whose parents had migrated to Bozeman, Montana where he was born. He served in the U.S. Army during WWII and studied painting and printmaking in Montana State University where he was also introduced to ceramics. He died in 2002 doing what he loved best: demonstrating his skill to a live audience.

“Commissions for large-scale works in bronze occupied a good deal of Voulkos’ time in the early 1960s, but he continued to work in clay energetically and innovatively. Many of his ceramic works of this period were made in public demonstrations. Voulkos was a natural performer who loved working in front of a crowd. One observer who saw him make Josephine at Greenwich House Pottery in New York, remembers how ”he worked with total abandon and total focus all at the same time”, first pounding the piece as it rose on the wheel then slicing it in half, then welding it together with wet clay as he worked it with his fists from the inside, and finally splashing its surface with slip and glaze.

Voulkos’ demonstrations were great theater, and even the ceramic works that he was making in the studio at this time, such as a series of cracked and fissured plates, capture this sense of immediacy. They can be compared with contemporary Abstract Expressionist paintings, many of which project a similar, stereotypically masculine combination of authority and aggression. Yet Voulkos’ improvisations also relate to his interest in jazz and Spanish flamenco, which he played proficiently on the guitar. ”I think that working in the form of pottery is a very demanding thing” he said. ”The minute you touch a piece of clay it responds, it’s like music – you have to know all the structure and know how to make sound before you can come up with anything”.”

Voulkos: The Breakthrough Years was on show until March 15th, 2017 at 

The Museum of Arts and Design (MAD)
2, Columbus Circle
New York City

March 12th, 2017

Counter-Couture @ MAD

Mid-March was icy-cold here in New York; the City was covered in snow. But spring was around the corner and summer a hop, skip and a jump away. And not just any summer – this year marked the 50th anniversary of the legendary San Francisco Summer of Love, in 1967.  There would be a ton of events to celebrate it on West Coast later on but, here we were, in New York City, in full winter attire, off to see ”Counter-Couture: Handmade Fashion in an American Counterculture”, an exhibition of handmade dresses and accessories made by those free-spirited crafts-men and women who, in their rejection of the establishment of conformism, materialism and consumerism, went on to create some of the most original, superbly crafted designs, examples of which you are about to see below. They were the Hippies, the Flower Children, those young, idealists who struggled for equality and peace but got lost in their quest to reach those higher – LSD infused – levels of consciousness. They were men and women of my generation and they helped shaped me – and others like me – into the characters we have become today. Imagine how the world would have been, had they not got lost on their way.

Images from the exhibition

Michael Fajans
Hand-embroidered and appliqué Army Coat, 1967

Janet Lipkin
”Paisley”: Coat for Sylvia Bennett, c. 1970

Barbara Ramsey’s coat and jeans exemplify the Counterculture’s resourcefulness and need for self-expression. Each small patch bears a story or memory of its own and forms a scrapbook of life experiences – worn by the person who lived them.

In 1971 Ramsey was given a ragged, wool-lined coat that she patched with fabric. As time passed, she sewed layers of patches made from other worn-out clothes onto the coat. Ramsey applied a similar process to a pair of jeans and eventually completed the outfit.

Barbara Ramsey
Medical School Outfit, 1971-75  


100% Birgitta (Birgitta Bjerke)’s crocheted coats for Roger Daltrey of The Who and his then wife Heather recall the psychedelic visual culture of the 1960s rock-and-roll scene. Displayed flat on the wall, the garments – constructed in fan shapes – vibrate with kaleidoscopic colours that suggest blossoming flowers, Tibetan mandalas, and patterns inspired by Indian textile traditions.

Dancepiece by Leslie Correll, 1971
Hammered brass, Turkish beads, African (Venetian) trade beads mounted on old Indonesia batik fabric


Kaisik Wong’s evening ensembles (above) and Yellow and Green Ray dress and headdress (below) from the ”Seven Ray” series, 1974. 

Mama Cass Elliot Dress (below left) c. 1967.
Cass Elliot was a member of The Mamas & the Papas. The panne velvet dress she wore, with its gentle ombré gradient colour, brings to light the dreamy character of her stage presence. Celebrated as a sex symbol and role model for young women of her generation, Elliot donned theatrical styles that showcased her dynamic personality and held the attention of her audiences and fans. The appliqué sunburst on the front of the bodice depicts Virgo, Elliot’s astrological sign, while reflecting the Counterculture’s interest in self-exploration through the study of cosmology. 

SAS Colby – Ruffle My Feathers, 1972

Fayette Hauser, Cosmic Gypsy Ensemble, 1970

Gretchen Fetchen (Paula Douglas). Acid Test Dress and Boots, 1965.

Gretchen Fetchen was one of the early participants in the San Francisco Acid Test happenings organized by Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters in the mid-1960s. The events were designed as gatherings to promote consciousness expansion and creativity through the use of LSD which was then legal. 

Counter-Couture: Handmade Fashion in an American Counterculture was on show at

The Museum of Arts and Design (MAD)
2, Columbus Circle
New York City

March 12th, 2017