Thursday, November 05, 2009

Nelda Warkentin and the Balance and Rhythm of Nature

Illustration: Nelda Warkentin. Summer Light.

Nelda Warkentin's textile artwork can be said to have at its root, the acute observation of nature. This observation however, is not limited to the scientific and objective analysis of nature, but has much more to do with recognising the balance, symmetry and rhythm that is a fundamental part of the natural world.

Warkentin lives and works in Alaska where you can imagine that nature is writ large, but she also travels extensively and is able to appreciate the natural world in its many guises, which is then incorporated into her work. She is naturally aware of interesting elements of line, pattern and colour from a blade of grass to the surface texture of an ocean.

 Illustration: Nelda Warkentin. Palms Swaying, Whales Breaching.

Warkentin's style can be seen on a number of levels. Her appreciation of the natural world is obvious and can be immediately seen throughout most of her work. However, underlying this appreciation lie a number of other observations, and they have much more to do with the interaction of all living elements on the planet including the human one. The world we have created seems at first glance to be artificial and bears little resemblance to that of the natural world, but we are all part of the complex procedure that is the make up of all flora and fauna of the planet. Warkentin builds up her work in layers, gaining her inspiration from traditional quilt work. She uses the layering as a metaphor for the complex pattern that is the sum of each individual creature, whether that be a palm frond, a flying bird, or indeed the multi-levelled personality of a human. However, it also draws attention to the layers that can be seen within groups of individuals such as a flock of birds, a shoal of fish or a human community, where individuals are part of a larger whole.

Illustration: Nelda Warkentin. Early Spring, East Hill.

While the layering strategy is somewhat subtle and perhaps not immediately noticeable to the naked eye, what is more immediate about Warkentin's work is the obvious juxtaposition of the curve and the straight line. This is another analogy that she draws between the natural and hand produced world represented by the curve, and the contrasting geometrically imposed straight line of the human world of streets and buildings that is so much a part of who we are.

Above all, there is an element in the work of Warkentin that our natural sense of rhythm and balanced symmetry appreciates. Her work is made up of smaller parts, each being unique, but still similar enough to the other parts surrounding it to give us a well-balanced and harmonious final work. It is this feeling of harmony that allows us to fully appreciate the complex rhythm and pattern of nature.

Illustration: Nelda Warkentin. Glacier Rendevous 2.

Nelda Warkentin's work can be regularly seen across the US as well as worldwide from Japan to South Africa. She has a comprehensive website where more examples of her work can be seen and information about her life as an artist. Her website can be found here.

All images were used with the kind permission of the artist.

Illustration: Nelda Warkentin. Spring Swing.

Reference links:


Martha Sielman said...

I love the way she uses light in her work. You can see more on the Studio Art Quilt Associates website:

--Martha Sielman

John Hopper said...

Thanks very much for the link Martha.

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Josh Swenson said...

Thanks so much for sharing! this is beautiful work and i wish that i was that talented. Quilt Art is what i have a passion for, but really love this textile stuff that is on here. Really really beautiful

John Hopper said...

Thanks for your comment. There are quite a few more textile/quilt artists featured throughout The Textile Blog with more to follow.

Lynne Brotman said...

I like Warkentin's use of fractured fabrics. Interesting work.

John Hopper said...

Thanks for your comment Lynne. I hope you take a look at some of the other contemporary textile artists that The Textile Blog has featured.