Rowen Schussheim-Anderson, Professor of Art at Augustana College, exhibits her tapestries internationally and creates commissioned works for public and private collections. She taught previously at Arizona State University, the Smithsonian Institution, and for the National Endowment for the Arts’ Artists-in-Education program. She has served as a panelist for the Illinois Arts Council and received numerous awards and grants. Her works are in a number of permanent collections including The State Department, The IBM Corporation, Bettendorf Public Library and Information Center, Arrowmont School of Crafts, John Deere World Headquarters, Scottsdale Center for the Arts, Davenport Cement Company, Modern Woodmen Insurance, Augustana College, Trinity Medical Center, Rochester Institute of Technology, Security State Bank, Rock Island Library, Harper College, and the Federal Home Loan Bank Board. Works were juried into fiberart international 2013 and International Fiber Biennale: From Lausanne to Beijing in 2012 and 2014. Other competitive exhibitions her work has been juried into include Octagon Center for the Arts, (Ames, IA) Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum (AZ), American Tapestry Alliance, Artprize, (MI), Northern Colorado 43rd Annual Juried Show (CO), CraftForms 2015 International Juried Exhibition of Contemporary Craft at Wayne Art Center (PA) and American Tapestry Biennial Traveling exhibition.
Her work has been published in various publications including Artistry in Fiber Volume I Wall Art, The Fiber Arts Design Book, and featured in American Craft and Fiberarts and fiberart now. She wrote about collage in tapestry in Tapestry Topics: Spring 2019 (American Tapestry Alliance Digital Newsletter). She has traveled extensively to study textiles in West Africa and Latin America. In 2019 she was one of two master artists invited to teach at the American Tapestry Alliance’s member’s retreat.
I weave tapestries. I weave tapestries the same way they have been woven for hundreds of years. Weft threads intersect warp threads, creating an image by changing colors of yarn. While I use centuries’ old techniques, I introduce new elements and incorporate new materials, innovations and inspirations. Several techniques are used to push the boundaries of traditional tapestry, incorporating feathers, glass, beads, and other reflective materials to heighten contrast. Texture and color are integral components. Textured areas create a marked contrast to detailed beaded sections or the luminosity of fused glass. Pointillist-like beaded surfaces and glass areas provide elegant accents and focal points. Glass brings an intensity of color to another level in its luminosity, especially when juxtaposed with fiber, which is flat in comparison. The works are produced on a 56” wide four-harness floor loom. Besides tapestry weaving, techniques include wrapping, bead embroidery, bead weaving, coiling, fused glass, and glass lampwork. Materials include linen, wool, rayon, silk, nylon, cotton, beads, glass, and feathers.
Visiting West Africa and studying African art inspired many works. For example, I visited a market in Burkina Faso in 2010. The market was the craziest, most colorful place I have ever been, evoking an image of a three-dimensional kaleidoscope on steroids! I tried to capture its energy, color and pattern in two of my works. Travels have also led me to South America, visiting artisans whose aesthetic has long intrigued me. The elaborate Andean textile tradition is known for its sensitivity to color and exquisite mastery of skill. Intricate weaving, Incan stone walls, the pattern of the clay tile roofs of Cuzco, Cuenca, and Quito, and even the ruddy colors of the earth and Andean faces have infiltrated my design aesthetic since my first visit over two decades ago; return visits reinforced this while offering new insights. The villages of West Africa, with their dusty earth and simple shelters juxtaposed against bright tie-dye fabrics, and the strikingly colorful crowded markets also now join in to create visual stimulation and provide inspiration.
Tapestries are comprised of a variety of materials to push the boundaries of traditional tapestry weaving. I am combining glass, beads, and other reflective materials to heighten contrast. There is interplay of pattern, texture and color. The delicacy of the beaded surfaces offer a rich contrast to woven surface. Texture and color are integral components in this new work. Incorporating beads with the woven surface allows new possibilities with color. While fiber is linear, beads are like dots; combining beads to make art is not dissimilar from the pointillists painting seemingly infinite points next to each other to create a colored area in a composition. Glass beads bring an intensity of color to another level in their luminosity, especially when juxtaposed with fiber, which is flat in comparison. Working with beads and fiber together provides a vast range of surface contrasts. Several of my recent works explore organic structures as a design source. The design inspiration took the form of beautiful organic structures spotted in the rainforest of Peru, especially close observations of butterflies. Also influential were natural grids found in plants and fish, patterns in sand, coral reefs, and architecture. Even the structure of the market places in West Africa, be they laid out in a tight grid or an organic labyrinth of color and pattern, enriched and stimulated creative design expression.