Monumental Weavings Transcend The Family Photo

Posted January 4, 2012 in Press Releases

Houston Center for Contemporary Craft (HCCC) presents Bridge 11: Lia Cook, a solo exhibition of the work of internationally recognized fiber artist, Lia Cook. The exhibit presents large-scale woven images of human faces and introduces several works from a new body of work based on the artist’s recent art-neuroscience collaboration.HCCC Curator, Anna Walker, describes the significance of the exhibition: “Arguably one of the pioneers of the modern fiber-art movement, Lia Cook was one of the first people to utilize a digital jacquard loom as an art tool in the 1980s. HCCC is thrilled to host an exhibition of an artist as important to the history of studio craft as Cook, and we are especially pleased to do so during FotoFest 2012, the largest and longest-running international photography festival in the U.S. Thinking of her work in relation to photography provides visitors with an opportunity to recognize this medium as part of her process, as well as to consider her use of focus, scale and portraiture in the final works.”

Cook’s current practice incorporates concepts of cloth, touch, and memory. With her use of a digital jacquard loom, she weaves the images and creates monumental works that blur distinctions among computer technology, weaving, painting, and photography. Informal family snapshots, which offer intimate information and shared history, are frequently a starting point for her woven images. From a distance, each work paints the distinct and compelling features of a face. However, as the viewer comes closer, the “pixels” of the image dissolve into pointillist fields of individual threads.

In her new body of work, Cook was inspired by her participation in TREND (Transdisciplinary Research in Emotion, Neuroscience and Development), a 2010 spring residency at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. During that time, she collaborated with Greg Siegle, a PhD professor of psychiatry, to collect computer data in real time and map the human brain as it responded to the stimuli of Cook’s woven faces. About the process, the artist said, “We tried many different approaches using Electroencephalography (EEG), Pupil Studies, EyeTracking and functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). The subjects did a variety of tasks. In one example, they compared the woven image with a photograph of the woven image with the original tapestry itself. We could see different responses in the brain in visual images and found some evidence of my original idea that the woven image evoked a different kind and/or intensity of emotional response.”

In her neuroscience-inspired body of work, Cook overlays her woven portraits with colorful lines that represent the data she collected. These linear patterns are both informative and visually inspiring to the artist. In essence, she has physically imbedded the portraits with scientific information.

A resident of Berkeley, California, Cook has been a Professor of Art at the California College of the Arts since 1976. She has exhibited widely across the United States, as well as in Australia, China, France and Ireland, among other countries. Her work can be found in many permanent collections, including that of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Boston Museum of Fine Arts; the Racine Art Museum; and the National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Cook has also been the recipient of many prestigious awards and special recognitions, among them a French Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Master of the Media for Fiber from the James Renwick Alliance, and a Distinguished Alumnus Award for the University of California.

Bridge 11: Lia Cook is part of the biennial Bridge Exhibition Series organized by the Society for Contemporary Craft in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

With Bridge 11, HCCC is a Participating Space for FotoFest 2012, the Fourteenth International Biennial of Photography and Photo-Related Art. Located in Houston, Texas, the FotoFest Biennial is the United States’ largest and longest-running international photography festival and one of the oldest international showcases for photography in the world today. The festival takes place March 16 – April 29, 2012. For more information, visit

Exhibition Dates
February 4 – May 13, 2012
Opening Reception
Friday, February 3, 5:30 – 8:00 PM
In conjunction with the openings of Transference: Andy Paiko & Ethan Rose and Alyssa Salomon—The Handmade Print. Featuring open studios by the current artists-in-residence.
Lecture by Lia Cook
Saturday, May 12, 2:00 PM
At the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s Brown Auditorium

Mary Headrick (
Houston Center for Contemporary Craft
713.529.4848 x 107