Tapestry from Dominican Featured in San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

A tapestry that hung in Dominican’s library for more than 40 years is one of the featured works in a new exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA). The tapestry was designed by poet, essayist, visual artist, and former Dominican professor Etel Adnan.

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Adnan was a professor of French and Humanities at Dominican from 1958 to 1972. In the early 1960s she was encouraged to develop her work as a visual artist by the late Ann O’Hanlon, who started and taught in Dominican’s Art Department. The Dominican tapestry, believed to be c1968, was one of Adnan’s first tapestry designs. It was created in association with weaver Hal Painter.
Adnan is now in her 90s and lives in Paris. When talking with SFMOMA curators about the upcoming exhibit, Adnan recalled that the 64 inch x 72 inch tapestry was commissioned by the students of Dominican in honor of retiring President, Sister Patrick Harney in 1968. SFMOMA curator Eungie Joo contacted Dominican’s archivist Annie Reid for more information.

Reid had only recently moved the tapestry into the archives after noticing that it was showing signs of fading.

SFMOMA’s conservation staff cleaned and vacuumed the tapestry and replaced its hanging mechanism in preparation for the exhibition titled New Work: Etel Adnan, which opened September 1. On loan to SFMOMA, the tapestry will return to Dominican when the exhibition closes in January, 2019.

Dominican’s archives, located in the Archbishop Alemany Library, consist of mostly paper-based records and photographs. Some of the interesting artifacts in the collection include a land grant for Stockton, California, signed by Abraham Lincoln's secretary; a bundle of confederate dollar bills; a student scrapbook from 1913; and an ASDU blazer and class ring from the 1950s.

The University’s Special Collections house several volumes of Adnan’s poetry along with books from the 16th to the 20th century on California history, early children’s literature, and religious and literary works. Also in the Special Collections is the Ansel Adams collection of 110 campus prints, three artistic portfolios and several letters, as well as paintings by the late artist Masatoyo Kishi, who taught at Dominican from 1964-1974.

“Born in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1925, visual artist, poet, and essayist Etel Adnan writes what must be communicated through language, and paints what cannot. While her earliest paintings favored pure abstraction, she is perhaps best known for her landscape works inspired by her long obsession with Mount Tamalpais. Adnan’s recent works once again return to abstraction, most specifically, color and its possibilities. A student of philosophy, Adnan came to Berkeley in 1955. As an active participant in Ann O’Hanlon’s Perception Workshops in Mill Valley in the 1960s, she developed her practice in dialogue with poets, experimental musicians, playwrights, and SFMOMA, at its original location in the War Memorial Veteran’s Building. Though she now resides in Paris, the Bay Area remained her home for more than fifty years, and was long the impetus behind her work. New Work: Etel Adnan presents new paintings and tapestries in SFMOMA’s first presentation of the artist’s work.”

For more information about Etel Adnan:
Read Wall Street Journal article.
Read Apollo magazine article.

Learn more about the archives.

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