CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Sept. 8, 2015 – Grace Eckert’s “Made for Walking” one-of-a-kind rugs will open in an exhibit Sept. 29 in the Kenneth and Jeanine Dobbins River Campus Center Hallway Gallery at Southeast Missouri State University’s River Campus.
This exhibit will remain on display through Nov. 15.
The hangings in this exhibition are hand-tufted, loop-pile textiles that could function either as rugs or wall hangings and are created by Eckert, fiber studio instructor at University of Tennessee at Martin and VTA Gallery coordinator. Her work reflects a love of color, surface and textures. Her fiber pieces can be found in personal and public collections in England, Wales and the United States, and in many fibers related publications.
Born in Illinois, Eckert left home in 1970 and first exhibited and sold paintings in 1973 while living in Australia. She returned to the United States to earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts with emphasis in painting from Illinois State University in 1977. Some of her early works are altered self-portraits in which she posed as a figure in various famous art works. The idea was to transform herself from model into artist and explore women’s roles. Back when she still felt a need to prove she could paint “properly,” she made a series of large photo-realistic “sleeping” self-portraits. She began hand weaving her own paint supports in 1978.
For most of the two decades from 1970-1990, she lived overseas, always working as an artist. At one point, her paint ran out and art supplies could not be purchased locally. This led her to explore ways of constructing both surfaces and images from torn strips of printed fabric, which were abundant. Tapestry weaving such pieces was difficult, but in that slow process, she found her voice. Since then, she has not used painting as a sole form of expression, although she has painted on some of her handmade textiles and used watercolor in her diaries. In 1979, she settled in England and abandoned the torn cloth for dyed wool yarn, greatly appreciating its depth of color and durability for hand woven tapestries.
Eckert’s tapestry work was exhibited widely in England, and she was awarded numerous sponsored artists’ residencies and public commissions. By 1987, when she had completed 80 hand-woven tapestry wall hangings, she began experimenting with hand-tufted, loop-pile textiles that could function either as rugs or wall hangings. Her tapestries and hand-tufted pieces are in many collections, including in London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. In 1988, she was presented to Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother on the unveiling of her triptych, “Earth, Sea, Sky” at Paddington St. Mary’s Hospital in London.
Two years later, she returned to the United States and focused on hand tufting. She says this technique still excites her, and she has designed, made, exhibited and sold hundreds of one-of-a-kind tufted fiber pieces. In 2005, she moved to Tennessee as artist-in-residence at the University of Tennessee in Martin, and has taught weaving and fibers there since 2006. In 2008, she designed and built a private studio/residence in Paris, Tennessee, where she makes tapestries and rugs plus one-of-a-kind knitted and loom woven pieces.
For those researching her work, she used the name Grace Eckert up to 1970 and again from 2002 to the present. Professionally, she also used “Passion and Grace” in 2001, Grace Erickson Wiant from 1991-2001, “Underfoot Rugs” from 1988-1990 and Grace L. Erickson from 1970-1991.
The Dobbins Center Hallway Gallery is open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday.