Elizabeth Billings: The Ties that Bind

May 26 - October 4, 2009
Wolcott Gallery

In her Handprint Series, Vermont artist Elizabeth Billings combines the traditional method of ikat weaving with embroidered text drawn from the diary of a 19th-century Vermonter, Harriet Warren Vail, a distant relative of the artist, who wrote one line each day from 1850-1865 noting her observations on nature and work. Ikat is a style of weaving that uses a resist-dyeing process to create a pattern or design. In the Malay language, the word ikat suggests "to tie" or "to bind"; thus, Billings' ikat weavings suggests the threads that connect or bind generations together.

Also included in the exhibition is a large weaving of twigs from local apple and sumac trees, which Billings views as the very essence of ikat. In this piece, the threads, or twigs, speak individually, and connect us to the earth and to a particular place, whereas in her ikat weavings, they speak as a whole, binding us to traditions of diverse cultures and peoples, to the past and to the present.

Elizabeth Billings was trained in Vermont by master weaver Norman Kennedy and subsequently apprenticed to ikat weaver Keiko Shindo in Morioka, Japan. She received an M.F.A. from Cranbrook Academy of Art. In 2002, Billings was selected by the National Museum of Women in the Arts, in Washington DC, to represent Vermont in their From the States exhibition program.