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Flow of woven light: Corvallis artist's work translates nature to math to coding to physical manifestation

Flow of woven light: Corvallis artist's work translates nature to math to coding to physical manifestation


The artwork isn’t finished

It is never finished

Each piece is meant to bring reaction from a viewer, to bring




Why did she do this?” Joan Truckenbrod wants them to wonder, the ones who come later this month to her exhibition at the Philomath Museum, or to see her work at her downtown Corvallis gallery

“What do I see in this?”

“What is she trying to say?”

Their reactions are a part of the experience

It’s supposed to be an experience

The Corvallis artist wants their interpretation, it is woven

Into the experience

Completes it

Frames it

Brings it full circle

Bridges the relationship between artist and art.

“Hopefully the work is a catalyst,” she says of what they’ll take away, “that there’s an intrigue; that they’re investigating the experiences in each tapestry, and that they leave the exhibit with a sense of exhilaration, because it’s a new experience, but that there are questions.”

There are many questions for Truckenbrod’s work

The answers, like the work

Are a flow of woven light.

“I always need to have a physical dimension that I work with,” Truckenbrod says. “The computer and the computer screen are an intermediary for me. The tactility of the textiles is important in collaboration with the digital realm.”

The Philomath exhibit is tapestries, mostly; a dozen or so, all different sizes

They are images she finds, usually in nature; white snow on dark branches, green tendrils undulating in a stream

And light

The light that filtered through diagonal wood slats at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, light

She paired with the light coming through the warp threads of her digital jacquard loom.

The flow of woven light.

She commits the images to a photo, to a video; translated through a computer; translated to Photoshop; translated directly or as a composition of images, translated as algorithms, as code

Through the computer to her loom

Which takes the image and makes it textile, makes it tactile

Controls the threads like a 3D fabric printer

The images become warp and weft

Bamboo and cotton and linen from flax

Different thicknesses, different textures

Three colors, moving together, weaving together

Every value is assigned a color or a color combination and a weave structure

Each line she weaves has all three threads; the loom

Decides based on her design which is on the surface, so which color shows.

“I never see what the woven textile or tapestry is going to look like on the screen."

As part of the exhibit, she says, she’s thinking of cultural differences; the value of the differences, the collaboration of the differences.

How to say that? How to embody the value, the inspiration?

There are textiles across the world; there are

Weavings from Africa; from Turkey; from Japan, from the Americas

Truckenbrod has created digital paintings with figure outlines; generic figures, not man or woman

She fills the outlines with the textile patterns of the world, programmed through the digital loom.

The cultural differences, creating together, weaving together

“As you weave,” she says, “the image unfolds in front of you.”

Cultural differences make up the theme of the Philomath exhibition

Along with the natural world

And light

And she’s thinking, she may include

Lithographs that speak the terror of the housing crisis.

She did some lithographs with a master printer in Portland, Mark Mahaffey

She built little houses, just a few inches tall, little houses of vellum

And blew bubbles

Into them

Through them

Bubbles as fragile and insecure as the little houses themselves; as housing itself

And added a scientific graph, “as if we were solving a problem, which of course we are not solving.”

And photographed them, which became the lithographs.

Housing, too, is a theme.

But none of Truckenbrod’s work fits all the way into any theme, the way

Her work doesn’t fit inside any prosaic description

(Is “art” ever prosaic?)

It never has. From her days at the Chicago Art Institute, first as graduate student, then as professor, 25 years a professor.

It was 1975, and she was teaching at Northern Illinois University

Basic design, teaching Emil Ruder’s systematic way of creating patterns using typography

And her teaching assistant was doing symmetry operations by hand, and thought of Northern’s mainframe computer.

“I could write a program,” he said. “We could generate 24 symmetry patterns based on one module.”

And the students did.

They designed little modules on graph paper, X-Y coordinates, punching the paper and running them as code.

The world was unbounded, Truckenbroad says.

XYZ was unbounded.”

“When I saw that, for me, it was unlimited opportunity for creative investigation.”

She took two semesters of FORTRAN

Did a series of drawings with programming

Collections housed in the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

And then she found a physics book that translated the world.

Soundwaves = formulas

Wind patterns = formulas

Formulas = art.

You could use the computer to input a series of variables simultaneously and manipulate them, transform them, she says.

She thinks of variables as pebbles on the beach, that change

Every time the tide moves

They move



Their very presence may come and go.

That calls her; the computer, the art it can transform.

“It’s that fluidity of variables.”

But the formulas are not enough

The ephemeral is not enough

The world is also physical; should be seen, should be felt

As tactile

As patterns

As cycles

As the life cycle of the salmon, a subject that fascinates her, that draws her, that helped to bring her to the Pacific Northwest to live, eight years ago

And makes up part of the video “sculptures” she explores in her work

And in her book, “The Paradoxical Object,” 2013

Which explores bringing together different ideas




“I don’t like to have art with clear meaning,” she says. “I like to have traces and clues that intrigue the viewer, to engage them.

“Bringing their own experience into the interpretation of the work.

“The work is never definitive in that sense

“It’s always an open work.”


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