September 5, 2013

Artist draws on imagination, fine art for works

By ROBIN CAUDELL Press-Republican

---- — WESTPORT — Cheryl Raywood riffs off masters with her primitive hooked rugs and wall hangings that push the divide between fine arts and craft.

Her exhibition closes Saturday, Sept. 14, at the Atea Ring Gallery in Westport, so don’t miss it.

The 15 rugs and hangings, made from Raywood’s repurposed cache of hand-dyed and hand-spun materials, were created within the last two years.

“No News is Good News” is one of her creative antidotes to a crazy world she views from her remote corner of Earth.

“I get a lot of reassurance and connectedness insofar as my everyday life,” the Westport resident said.

“When I look at certain works, I love them. It’s also an escape and also looking for the better things we can celebrate across different cultures.”

Many of the masterpieces she interprets by Picasso and Rousseau are hidden away in museums.

“They are not available to us unless we have fancy art books or are lucky enough to go to Europe, which most of us aren’t,” Raywood said. “My thinking is I love that Rousseau painting (‘The Snake Charmer’). I want it hanging on my wall. Pretty much the child in me wants to own it. Since I can’t own it, I can’t draw it, but I have all this fabric, and I enjoy the challenge of translating it into a craft that I can manage. So in the end, I’m inspired by the work. Boy, would I love to own it, but this is as close as I’m going to get. So, there is a selfish motive there.”

Raywood has an exquisite take on Picasso with “Centaurs with Doves.”

“It was an interesting thing to do to the point where I didn’t worry about taking liberties with it. It’s sort of a mash-up. My source of inspiration was the book on Picasso by Jaime Sabartés. This was a book put together by Picasso’s friends. In it are a lot of his lithographs and drawings you don’t see as frequently as some of his other work,” Raywood said. 

”I thought this one was a particular beauty. It meant family to me. So I appropriated the three centaurs (‘Family of Centaurs,’ 1946) and then used one of his drawings of doves and sort of replicated them. Instead of the three doves, I created a flock of doves moving into the sunset.”

Raywood changed the proportions of the female centaur.

“He has exaggerated bosoms,” Raywood said. “I said, ‘I’m not going to do that. He’s Picasso. He can get away with it. So, I’m going to modify her anatomy a little bit.’ From that period, he did a lot of charming line drawings with proportions that were very spontaneous.”

“Crazy Rhythm” is her homage to jazz created from Starbucks coffee bags.

“When I said I think of jazz, I think of color, I meant black musicians. I didn’t want to come out and say it. I didn’t know if it was politically correct or someone would be offended by it. I’m inspired by the genius of black musicians, and it was really fun (for) me to do,” she said.

Years and years ago, she viewed a huge tapestry created from can tabs by an African artist at the Museum of Modern Art.

“That kind of stayed in the back of my head when I think of the Starbucks coffee bags that have a similar effect when you used them in a textile,” Raywood said. “I save everything. I don’t throw anything away.”

The 3-D aspect of the rug is called proddy.

“It’s old and very much started in England and came really easy to us as a cottage industry meant to be utilitarian. People were making rag rugs. It makes a plush-rag rug when you use wool,” she said.

Her original works, such as “Formal Gardens” and “Castle Runner,” evolve from her cutouts, stencils she formerly used as a decorative artist in Bucks County, Pa.

“I was designing stencil patterns to create wall patterns out of paint,” Raywood said. “That was part of the decorative painting trend that was really hot 20 years ago.”

She imagines New Hope homeowners not keen on the stencils, scraping off her work and saying, “She was here, too.”

Whether drawing on her imagination or art history, the rugs or hangings come first, then the titles.

She created “Formal Gardens” and recalled a visit to Dumbarton Oaks, a historic Georgetown estate in the District of Columbia.

“That happens most of the time,” Raywood said. “I don’t know what I have until I finish it. I stand away from it and look at what I have and what it has become.”

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IF YOU GO WHAT: "Cheryl Raywood: Primitive Hooked Rugs and Wall Hangings." WHEN: By appointment through Saturday, Sept. 14. WHERE: Atea Ring Gallery, 236 Sam Spear Road, Westport. CONTACT: 962-8620