Tapestry Biennial

The Tapestry Biennial in Lausanne was held in the summer of 1975 (June 14-September 28). I stayed at a little tiny Inn called Hotel du Raisin, which was adorable and close to the museum. My artwork had been shipped weeks in advance in 2 air cargo containers for 1 dollar per pound, a lotta dough in those days, $600. Upon my arrival at the Musée Cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Claude Ritschard, the charming director, introduced me to my “assistant,” a fiber artist visiting from Buenos Aires by the name of Jorge Luis Giacosa. He instantly became my angel and my right hand. He did everything for me, including translations.

The Museum had fabricated an 8 foot by 8 foot flat wooden structure which they suspended from the ceiling with wire cables. It swung a little bit, which made me a little dizzy. My job was to arrange and hang crocheted elements from this structure.

Jorge and I became fast friends with Lisa Rehsteiner, and her brother Georg. They were Swiss, living in Spain. Lisa also had a huge installation piece entitled Mirage, which she had to mount on the wall and stretch out into space. We worked many hours and days in the museum to install these pieces. We also befriended Kjell Mardon Gunvaldsen, who was teaching me to speak his language. All I remember was tak, thank you. It was pretty mind blowing for me, meeting people from all over the world.

An article was published in October 1975, by Virginia West in Craft Horizons Magazine, (now American Craft). To my delight and amazement, a photo of my work is on the opposite page from Magdalena’s. Here are some statistics about the composition of this show: 65 artists represented, 20 countries, among which were

11 American, including
Gerhardt Knodel
Gary Trentham
Marilyn Meltzer
Sheila Hicks

9 French
Daniel Graffin

8 Polish
Magdalena Abakanowicz
Janina Tworek-Pierzgalska
Urszula Plewka-Scjmidt

7 Dutch
Carla Munster
Maria van Blaaderen
Desiree Scholten

7 Japanese
Mizuho Takigawa
Mihoko Matsumoto
Mariyo Yago

Elsi Giauque
Liselotte Siegfried
Lisa Rehsteiner (native Swiss living in Spain)
Olga de Amaral (Colombia)
Ruta Bogustova (U.S.S.R.)
Peter and Ritzi Jacobi (Germany)

Forest: In the 1975 Lausanne Tapestry Biennial, 10 x 10 x 10 feet, 600 pounds of crochet sisal, jute and manila fiber.

The Museum was locked down for lunch between 12 and 2. All the workers in their cobalt blue jumpsuits vacated the building. One day the four of us went out into the plaza where there was a farmers market. We bought bread, cheese, pears and more fruit, and brought it back into the museum, and got locked in, so we could work those extra two hours. We sat in my crocheted Forest and made up all kinds of composed sandwiches in bizarre combinations. I’m sure you can imagine the creativity of a group of hungry artists!

One night, for comic relief and rest, we went to a movie in the town of Lausanne. I remember being totally embarrassed that I didn’t laugh at the appropriate comedic moments. The converse of that was weeks later, in Paris where I was watching an American film with French subtitles. I laughed way before anyone else in entire the theatre, now feeling embarrassed from the other direction!

The vernissage was enormous, fun and scary. There they all were, the famous Sheila and Magdalena. Jagoda literally did say to me, “You must come to my villa in Dubrovnik.” She was jovial, and very fun. It was easy to tell that this woman was a rascal. I felt young, inexperienced, unworldly, and all agog. Definitely not hip slick and cool, like the older more experienced artists. I was thinking that if I was closer to 42, like most of them. I might fit in a little better.

I arrived home to find two signed purchase orders for commissions, a direct result of the Biennial.