Final Weeks to See Sleight of Hand

Sleight of Hand closed on November 25, 2013. This visually interactive exhibition presented 14 contemporary artists, born between the 1930s and 1960s. Their works surprise the eye while challenging and intriguing our powers of perception.

These masters of alchemy transform materials ranging from anticipated to astonishing. Using time-honored textile techniques—embroidery, quilting, weaving, netting, crochet, coiling and ikat—the artists push them to unexpected extremes, or they invent new methods to achieve their creative vision. Ranging from Pop Art to present day, the sculptures, paintings, and imagery achieved by their magic span more than 30 years of creativity.

See the exhibition, here, in the slideshow.

Magdalena Abakanowicz (Polish, b. 1930), Standing Figure, 1981, Resin and sand on burlap, Neusteter Textile Collection: 1985 Collectors’ Choice, H 65”, 1985.364

Standing Figure appears to morph from or dissolve into seemingly unstable and unlikely materials: burlap, resin and sand. The artist’s earlier works were large self-named Abakans: woven hangings and environments created from rough materials This work marks a transition to her free-standing sculptural figures, now frequently made in groups and of bronze.

Olga de Amaral (Colombian, b. 1932)

Notas 2 (detail shown)


Woven linen and cotton with applied gesso, parchment, gold leaf and acrylic paint

Neusteter Textile Collection: Gift from the Volunteer Endowment Acquisition Fund in honor of Imelda DeGraw

W 67” x H 41"


Woven strips of cotton and linen become a shimmering chimera through the application of gesso, parchment, gold leaf and paint. The hanging changes its appearance as one walks by. Acquired in honor of former textile curator Imelda DeGraw (1924-2008), Notas 2 joins two other works by Olga de Amaral in the collection: an early interlace piece, Muro Triple y Lila ref. 59, and a small transitional work, Fragmento Once, one of the first in which de Amaral combines weaving with other materials, including gold leaf. See the introductory gallery image for a full view of this piece.

Tracy Krumm (American, b. 1963), Specimen: Giant Needle and Specimen: Spool of Lace, 1999, Metal, wood, crocheted wire, Neusteter Textile Collection: Funds from various donors, by exchange, H 13”, Diameter 4.5”, 2000.7, .8

By embellishing sturdy found industrial objects with seemingly delicate crocheted metal lace, the artist prompts a dialog with the viewer, investigating perceptions of manufactured and handmade as well as masculine and feminine.

Rebecca Medel (American, b. 1947), Nierika, 1998, Knotted net of cotton and indigo resist-dyed linen with silver leaf, Neusteter Textile Collection: Gift of Alice Dodge Wallace, H 83” x W 45", 2003.986

In the language spoken by the indigenous Huichol people of Mexico, nierika signifies both the cosmic passageway and barrier between ordinary and otherworldly realities. Composed of five knotted-net panels, the resist dye and silver gilt threads that make-up the central spiral form of Nierika appear and disappear as the viewer changes his or her position.

Lia Cook (American, b. 1941)

Face Maze: Tera


Woven cotton and rayon

Neusteter Textile Collection: Museum purchase, by exchange

W 52” x H 46"


Fascinated by the way viewers respond differently to photographic images and textured weavings, Cook blends the two media. From a distance, the image of her niece is clearly visible, but as one approaches, it gradually dissolves into a woven maze. The artist continuously experiments with new technologies and ways to translate her images, simultaneously seeking to make the structure visible and palpable while transforming the image into a physical object.

Polly Barton (American, b. 1957)

Mind Stream


Warp ikat, silk and metal thread; silk eccentric weft insertions

Lent courtesy of the artist

H 33.5” x W 33.5"


The artist symbolically sees her thoughts drifting through a continually changing environment. The optical fluctuations inherent to ikat—a technique that involves resist dyeing the warp thread before weaving—and the glistening quality of the metal thread create and enhance the amorphous surroundings.

Jane Mathews (American, b. 1941)

DAM Crazy (detail shown)


Paper quilt with machine stitching and cotton backing

Neusteter Textile Collection: Helen Strange Patterson Memorial Fund and funds by exchange from Katherine Hicks

W 59” x 47.5”


Using images from the museum members’ magazine, On & Off the Wall, Mathews creates a paper quilt celebrating the Denver Art Museum. The composition is her adaptation of a quilt pattern: the circular motifs contain images of textiles from the museum’s collection and protectively wrap around other objects from the collection or the architecture of the museum itself. See the introductory gallery image for a full view of this piece.

Arlette Rose Gosiewski (American, b. 1941)

Reception at Batschelet Hall


Appliquéd fabrics with embellishments

Neusteter Textile Collection: Gift of Mrs. Patricia Rickman

W 70” x H 60"


Arlette Rose Gosiewski combines fact and imagination in her intricate pictorial narratives that she calls “appliqué tapestries.” Here she presents her vision of a wedding reception as it might have taken place years ago in Batschelet Hall on Main Street in Littleton, Colorado. The figural groupings, enlivened by carefully chosen details, imply additional stories. Even the glint of the bride’s ring suggests a happy life and sets a joyous tone.

Gugger Petter (Danish, b. 1949; resides in US)

Dog Barking at Two Women


Woven hemp and newspaper with paint

Neusteter Textile Collection: Funds from Mary Dean Reed and Fortunee Morrison, by exchange

W 78” x H 54"


Petter turns newspaper into her palette. She “weaves” tubes of selected and prepared newsprint to capture slice-of-life moments with bravura. Color is added via paint, and some details, such as the dog’s collar, are rendered in three dimensions.

Carol Eckert (American, b. 1945)

Beware of Cranes


Coiled cotton over wire

Neusteter Textile Collection: Museum purchased with funds from Salon du Musée

W 18” x H 12.5"


Using a technique that is normally associated with basketry, Eckert creates an animated menagerie. The detailed coiled birds and animals represent fables and stories that unfold in compositions combining the intricacy of an illuminated manuscript with the immediacy of a pop-up book.

Cindy Hickok (American, b. 1936)

Tea with Good Friends


Free motion hand machine stitched rayon embroidery; colored pencil

Neusteter Textile Collection: Funds from Miss Leah Helfer, by exchange

W 15.25” x H 11"


Hickok adapts iconic figures from Western paintings to create humorous compositions using an ingenious combination of free motion hand machine embroidery executed on dissolvable fabric.

Norma Minkowitz (American, b. 1937)

Legs I


Crocheted cotton over plastic

Neusteter Textile Collection: Acquired by exchange

H 5.5” x Diameter 5.5"


A visual pun, Legs I echoes the L'eggs-brand pantyhose concept of leg and egg together. Minkowitz started with the egg-shaped pantyhose holder, then covered it with numerous tiny crocheted legs.

Carol Shinn (American, b. 1948)

Summer Mud


Freestyle machine embroidery, cotton and polyester thread on cotton-polyester fabric

Neusteter Textile Collection: Funds from Mr. Henry Allard, Mrs. Frank Taylor, by exchange

W 18” x H 13.25”


Shinn has developed freestyle hand machine embroidery into a painterly art form. Layering different colors of stitches to impart depth and detail, she likens her process to drawing by moving paper under a stationary pencil. Although her work begins with taking photographs from which Shinn forms her composition – whether a close up or a panorama – she delves beyond the appearance of her subjects to elicit their very essence, here mud forming after a summer rain in Plaza Blanca near Abiquiu, New Mexico.

Chimney Rock


Freestyle hand machine stitched cotton and polyester thread on cotton-polyester fabric

Neusteter Textile Collection: Neusteter Institute Fund, by exchange

W 43.5” x H 16.5”


Chimney Rock is Shinn's first large-scale panoramic work. Here she captures the sweeping vista visible on a hike at Ghost Ranch, New Mexico.

Kay Khan (American, b. 1958)



Cotton and silk over armature; quilted, pieced, appliquéd, hand and machine stitched

Lent courtesy of the artist

W 31”


Kay Khan, Chameleon (2007), speaks enigmatically of her personal transformation through the images and words embroidered into her quilted fabric vessel. The form of the vessel and its palette speaks to Khan’s original training as a painter and ceramic artist.

Photo credit: Gary Mankus

Carla Stansifer is a former curatorial assistant in the textile art department at the Denver Art Museum. Carla worked in the Asian art department in 2000–2005 and in the textile art department in 2012–2013.

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