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A Glimpse of Archie

Sunday, 25. July 2021 12:35

How did Archie see himself?  He drew so many people over the course of his long career, and occasionally he drew himself.

During Archie’s years in Hawaii, did you know that he had a regular column in the “South Mauii Times” newspaper? His column was called “Artstalk,” a clever play on words, don’t you think?  He would write an article each week about some facet of art, and he always included a hand drawn illustration.  A few years ago, I borrowed Archie’s file of past articles for this column to choose a few to include in the book.  Perhaps this one is my favorite.


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Loss in the Midst of Bounty

Monday, 11. November 2019 11:34

It’s a fact that we all march on with our lives, lurching or gliding, and then something stops us in our tracks. As John Lennon said, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” Oh boy. So true. (Actually, I just googled that phrase, and it seems that it is attributed to someone named Allen Saunders who wrote an article for Readers’ Digest in 1957, with that phrase in it. There you go….the marvels of the internet. Most of us know this phrase from a wonderful John Lennon song, “Beautiful Boy.” If you’re interested, see this.)

Archie at Edinburgh College of Art, 1960s.

I did not mean to digress. Nothing can match that feeling of hurtling along through life and having all your plans stopped cold by an event, a moment after which nothing can ever be the same. During the morning of November 1, only 10 days ago, I learned that Archie Brennan had passed away during the afternoon of the previous day–Hallowe’en. At that moment all my whirling and spinning stopped. I know that thousands of others, across every continent, felt that same shock. Dear Archie…. he meant so much to everyone he encountered.

I imagine his many students and friends are in much the same position I’ve been in lately: struggling through current projects, delving into uncharted, creative ground, making progress and facing setbacks. The bounty of our work: I have too many projects going on at once, and I imagine you do too. Inspired chaos….well, hopefully inspired.

So what do we do with our grief? With our wonderful memories of classes and workshops with him? Meals shared–pizza and Chinese take out? With the memories of his humor, his gentle critiques of our tapestry work? Most of us who studied with him are not spring chickens ourselves at this point. What’s the best use of our own time left? There’s no one answer to any of these ponderings . But there are lots of possibilities for each of us to consider about our own creative output, whether in tapestry or some other art form, or in the way we interact with others. Everyone who encountered Archie certainly got a glimpse of how creatively Archie looked at the world. There was humor and a gentle social commentary in every piece that Archie chose to spend his time creating. He was endlessly fascinated with getting know the people who crossed his path, and he was generous, so generous with his knowledge. Those of us who weave are much indebted to what he taught us.

Someone once asked Archie what was the most difficult piece he had ever woven; he answered: the one on the loom right now. …and there it is, the very nature of everything we do. Each of our hurdles advances us some tiny bit forward for the next hurdle. Archie was part of our advancement, either in tapestry weaving or in looking at the world in a more creative and socially conscious way. The best we can do is take our hard-won knowledge and use it, over and over, and remember him often along our journey.

I am not a religious person, but it was poignant that Archie left this world during the hallowed evening, on the precipice of all saints. His patience and his humor always made me think he was a bit of a saint…. Farewell, dear teacher.

Archie, standing with his tapestry “The Mary Powell,” at the opening of the Wednesday Group’s exhibition of works inspired by the quadricentennial of Henry Hudson’s exploration of the river that bears his name. The Arts Society of Kingston, Kingston, NY. 2009.

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In such company….at the Scottish National Museum

Tuesday, 28. July 2015 14:30

Three pieces in Archie Brennan’s Mohammud Ali series are on display at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.  




The exhibition is titled “20th Century: Masterpieces of Scottish and European Art,”  currently on view and lasting through September 27.

Here is an excerpt from the description online:

This display of works from the collection of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art offers an historical overview of some of the most remarkable art made during the last century. It concentrates on areas in which the Gallery’s collection is particularly strong. Since it has always been central to the Gallery’s mission to place modern Scottish art in an international context, we have tried to show the best of Scottish art alongside modern European masters.

Archie has three works of ink and pencil on paper from his Mohammud Ali series in this exhibition, which are in the museum’s collection.  His work is hanging near the collection of  MC Escher  works and is in good company with works by Picasso, Edouard Vuillard, and Scottish artists William Turnbull and Margaret MacDonald Mackintosh.


Are you tempted to drop everything and make a trip to Edinburgh?  Yeah, me too….

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
75 Belford Rd.
Open daily from 10 am –  5 pm



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Garner Arts Festival

Monday, 13. April 2015 9:13

Archie Brennan and Susan Martin Maffei, along with members of the Wednesday Group, will have about 30 tapestries on view at the gallery exhibition at Garner Arts Festival during the newly re-established annual textile festival at Garner Arts Center in Garnerville, NY.  Also on display will be works by the Textile Study Group of New York and studio artists at the Arts Center.

This historic site was once a very profitable mill for dyeing and printing calico fabric along with other wool, cotton and linen fabrics.  At the height of its production it employed thousands of workers in 30 buildings on the site, and was traded on the NYSE.  It is now on the New York State Register of Historic Places under “Rockland Printworks.”

For more information about the history of the mill see the timeline  on their website.

Here are a few images from the exhibition.

The exhibit was only ‘up’ for a week, but it was a lovely show of works. I’ve chosen to focus on Archie’s works here since this is about him.

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Last Few Weeks of “Contemporary International Tapestry”

Sunday, 12. April 2015 8:05

Yesterday I stumbled on Elizabeth Buckley’s blog through a post on Facebook.  She has written a thoughtful piece about the current tapestry exhibit at the Hunterdon Museum of Art, where she describes how much work has gone into this gathering of tapestries from so many respected artists.  You can read it here.   This photo is from the opening reception when Archie and Elizabeth were discussing her piece “Dialogues through the Veil.”   Photo credit: Lisa Heilman Lomauro

Carol Russell curated this show, inviting 40 tapestry artists from 9 countries to participate.  She worked with Schiffer Books to create a beautiful catalogue for the show, published as a hardback book. While I’ve been away this winter my mail has been forwarded to my son’s house, and that book is waiting for me there.  It’s a five-hour drive to his house, but it will be at the top of my to-do list when I return home.  I can’t wait to see this book!

And, of course, the show itself.  I’ll be headed there in early May, right before it closes on May 10th.  If you haven’t seen it, there is still time!  If you cannot get there at least you can order this beautiful catalog.



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Opening Reception for “Contemporary International Tapestry”

Wednesday, 14. January 2015 12:44

Over 300 people attended the opening reception of “Contemporary International Tapestry” at Hunterdon Art Museum in Clinton, NJ.  This exhibition which is curated by Carol Russell, has works by 40 tapestry artists from numerous countries.  More events will take place during the span of this exhibition, including a presentation by Archie Brennan and Susan Martin Maffei, called “A Day of Contemporary Tapestry” which will include a lecture and an interactive demonstration by Archie, on Sunday, March 22, from 9.30 am – 4.30 pm.

This exhibition will be on view until May 10.

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January 11th at the Hunterdon Art Museum! Don’t Miss it!

Thursday, 8. January 2015 14:04

Sunday, January 11, Archie Brennan and Susan Martin Maffei will be at the opening reception of “Contemporary International Tapestry” at Hunterdon Art Museum in Clinton, NJ.  This exhibition is curated by Carol Russell and has an impressive collection of works by prominent tapestry artists!

“Monsieur Bonnard’s Granddaughter,” Archie Brennan. 2001. 40″ x 30.5″


 Other artists that will be in this exhibition include: Jo Barker, Joan Baxter, Helga Berry, Rebecca Bluestone,  Elizabeth J. Buckley, Soyoo Hyunjoo Park Caltabiano, Włodzimierz Cygan,  Alla Davydova, Annelise De Coursin, Susan Edmunds, Alex Friedman, Ina Golub, Barbara Heller, Susan Hart Henegar, Silvia Heyden, Dirk Holger, Peter Horn, Constance Hunt, Susan Iverson, Ruth Jones, Aino Kajaniemi, Jane Kidd, Lialia Kuchma, Christine Laffer, Ewa Latkowska-Żychska, Bojana H. Leznicki, Lore Lindenfeld, Yael Lurie and Jean Pierre Larochette, Susan Martin Maffei, Julia Mitchell, Janet Moore, Jon Eric Riis, Ramona Sakiestewa, Micala Sidore, Elinor Steele, Sarah Swett and Linda Wallace.

To top off this spectacular collection of work will be a comprehensive hardbound catalog of this exhibition!

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Exciting Times!

Sunday, 21. December 2014 11:43

There are several exciting tapestry events going on right now on the East Coast, and Archie is involved in a number of them.

“The Art is the Cloth” exhibition is currently at its second venue in Pennsylvania and will move to Deerfield, Massachusetts after the new year.

Carol Russell is curating a an exhibition of contemporary tapestries from all over the world that will open at the Hunterdon Art Museum in Clinton, New Jersey, on January 11.  This exhibit will be on display until May 10, 2015.

Some of the special events that will take place during this exhibition are

Sunday, January 11, 2pm – 4pm:  Opening reception and artists’ talks

Sunday, February 22, 2pm:  Carol Russell will give a guided tour of the exhibition

Sunday, March 22, 9am – 4.30pm:  Archie Brennan and Susan Martin Maffei will give lectures and demonstration with a reception to follow.

tapestry Oak Man10848733_10152913404939044_6612963213158850544_o

“Woad Deva,” by Ruth Jones

The big tapestry exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that features the works of Pietr Coecke van Aelst will be closing on January 11, 2015.  There will be a symposium on this exhibit on January 10 and 11.  What a terrific opportunity to view stunning historic tapestries from the Flemish tradition of the 16th century, followed by a superb line up of exciting contemporary tapestry in New Jersey!

Tapestry Pieter Coecke Met

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Current and Upcoming Exhibitions

Monday, 13. October 2014 9:52

Plenty of opportunity for people on the East Coast to see Archie’s work in the next few months!  Enjoy!

Art is the Cloth

Both Archie and Susan Martin Maffei attended the opening, along with many other artists with work in this exhibit.  One of our own Wednesday Group members, Anna Byrd Mays, has a piece in this show, along with a number of TWiNE members.

Archie at Art is the Cloth opening


This show will travel to two other venues on the East Coast.

December 2, 2014 to February 9, 2015
“The Art is the Cloth”
Walton Gallery, George School

1690 Newtown-Langhorne Road
Newtown, PA 18940
reception date to be announced

Deerfield Academy, Deerfield MA
opening in March 2015 thru April

exact dates to be announced soon

And early in 2015, Carol Russell is curating an exhibit that will take place in New Jersey:

January 11 – May, 2015
52 tapestry artists curated by Carol Russell
Hunterdon Art Museum
7 Lower Center St.
Clinton, NJ 08809-1303
Reception to be announced

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Farewell to the Wednesday Group

Monday, 6. October 2014 16:50

On October 1st, all the members of the Wednesday Group gathered at our site on the Hudson for our last regular meeting.  We will never disband (famous last words!), but we will no longer meet on a monthly basis.  As the saying goes, “there is nothing more constant than change,”  and we have all made peace in our own way that the Wednesday Group must endure some growing pains.  We made plans for smaller groups to meet on an adhoc basis, and for the entire group to convene once or twice a year going forward.

I don’t normally write about my personal experiences with Archie, or the Wednesday Group, but on this occasion I feel very moved to do so.  I hope you will indulge me!

Over the past several months we have all been working on an idea that Archie concocted.  For the past couple of years we have been staying for a communal Chinese take-out dinner after class on Wednesdays.  Archie wanted to recycle the growing number of used chopsticks left over from these dinners, so he made each us of a loom with 15 chopstick warps. He charged us with the assignment to weave a face.

At our last meeting almost everyone had delivered their chopstick portraits.  Some of us really enjoyed the challenge and made some chopstick warps of our own so we could do more than one.  We were all surprised to see that it was easy to identify who wove each one of these characters!  We have all developed a pretty clear individual style!  Can you guess which two are Archie’s?  There is a wonderful sextet of maneki neko not included here.  So, stayed tuned….maybe one day they will have a public appearance!

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Archie planned a lovely farewell to us, although most of the group may still be wondering what that message was!  On the last day of class he brought in a completed tapestry that all of us had seen at different points during its making.  It’s a poem that Archie decided to weave ‘in code.’  It is one of his many explorations of language and meaning.  He is fascinated with how easily humans can read many different font styles in printing and many different handwriting styles.  He wondered how well anyone could ‘translate’ letters into colors and read his woven message.  He brought the tapestry for us to see and for us to decipher.

This challenge brought out the puzzle solver in me, but I did not decipher it before the end of class time.  As Archie wrapped up the tapestry I took a photo of part of it in its plastic covering.

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Very shortly after class, four of us were sitting together at a lovely spot on the Hudson River, puzzling over the code that would unlock this woven poem.  Two of us came up with a possible answer and then all of us began testing the idea.  We were right!  I’d love to tell you what the poem is, but Archie wants everyone to have the challenge/pleasure/torture of figuring it out for himself.

We were going to meet Archie and Susan for dinner in a matter of moments, and one of us had the brilliant idea of singing our own farewell to Archie at dinner.  When we got to the restaurant the four of us surrounded him and sang our own farewell song to him.  Not only was it obvious that he knew we had broken the code, he also seemed very touched that we had thought to do it! Yes, it was a bit embarrassing in a busy restaurant on a Thursday evening.  Yes, it was corny!  The upside was Archie’s wonderful reaction and the applause we got from the other diners!

It’s never easy to say goodbye, and for some of the Wednesday Group, it is a goodbye after more than 20 years.  For the four us who had the good fortune to have this last dinner with him, and to wish him our own personal goodbye, well… just could not have been any sweeter!

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