More than ten years ago, Ani Afshar had a boutique in Lincoln Park. She was a successful jewelry designer selling her one of a kind pieces all over the world. Bloomingdale's, Neiman Marcus, Harrod's in London, the Museum Store at Victoria & Albert Museum and in major department stores and boutiques in Japan. In 2006, Schiffer Books published four books on her jewelry techniques.
In 2003 or 2004, Ani opened her studio and workshop in Logan Square for an organization I belong to, the INTERNATIONAL WOMEN ASSOCIATES (IWA) comprised of dynamic women from over 60 countries. Ani was born in Istanbul, so the Turkish Culture Group planned a program in her studio in Logan Square. There were about 30 of us. Needless to say, we were all overwhelmed by the beauty of her designs and many of us purchased her jewelry.
That was before I knew she started out weaving bedspreads and throws in the 1970's when she lived in Iran. Fast forward to 2012, I was invited to an exhibition at the HYDE PARK ART CENTER of Ani's weavings and tulle constructions that was breathtaking in its scope and power. Woven Gardens, Shredded Shadows revealed a selection of acclaimed landscape tapestries Afshar produced in the 1990s and debuted artworks and installations created by Afshar since her return to weaving in 2007. These were shown publicly for the first time. The exhibition was guest curated by Frank Connet (artist and conservator) in consultation with Richard A. Born (Smart Museum, Senior Curator.)
Richard Born described her tapestries as “simultaneously utilitarian objects and works of independent beauty intended both for use and appreciation at the same time.” This rich foundation has been re-kindled and expanded in the upcoming exhibition at Hilton | Asmus Contemporary.
As for her silk and mohair weavings, depending on the size, each piece takes a few weeks to 5 months to create on her loom. It is a tedious and yet breathtaking process. Over the years, she has dyed her own yarns with natural materials such as cochineal, saffron and madder root.
"When I first started to weave in the 1970's, an Indian scholar and a friend introduced me to a famous weaver in Geneva, Switzerland, Nova Mayer. I told her about my weaving and fantasizing about dying my yarns etc. She brought out a huge pile of samples from Swiss yarn dealers and said - you have all this at your disposal, you can either spend your life learning to dye and spin to achieve this or you can use this to become a good weaver and textile artist. Today, I have found someone who can dye for me."
"Everything in my weavings starts with an impression, a mood. The first stage is a rough sketch in which through notations, shape and division of space I try to capture the feeling of that moment. When I start a piece I select the colors and try to match them with a sketch or vice versa. Once the work is on the loom I follow the chosen colors and overall division of space as closely as possible. The next stage, the details, are spontaneous, I use color like a painter, except mine are used in sequence. In my work, color, texture and beads are an integral part of the piece’s creation as it is woven. I never embroider or work on a finished piece so everything is done on the loom while weaving including the beadwork. Nothing is added to the completed work once I have gone forward I can not go back."
ANI AFSHAR "WEAVING GARDENS CASTING SHADOWS" opens at HILTON | ASMUS CONTEMPORARY on FRIDAY, APRIL 19 from 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm. THe Exhibition runs through May 25.