Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2012, 12:05 pm

Augustana art chair exhibits tapestries in Beijing

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By Jonathan Turner,

Rowen Schussheim-Anderson.
The tapestry 'Crimon Prelude,' by Augustana College's Rowen Schussheim-Anderson, is part of an international fiber-art exhibition in Beijing.

Some artists paint; others draw, or sculpt, or sing. Rowen Schussheim-Anderson loves to express herself by weaving tapestries, and she's been honored by having two of her works on exhibit in Beijing, China for the past five weeks.

Her pieces -- "butterflyte" and "Crimson Prelude" -- are among 300 fiber artworks from 37 countries on display in the prestigious "From Lausanne to Beijing" International Fiber Art Biennale through Saturday.

"I have known about this exhibition since I was a student and have always held great respect for its significance as a venue of cutting-edge work by the most prominent artists in the textile arts field," the 59-year-old chair of Augustana College's art department said this week. "I was mildly shocked and than elated when I read of the juror's decision to include two of my tapestries. And then I had to figure out how to get them shipped to China."

The theme of the "From Lausanne to Beijing" Biennale is to encourage international communication and popularization of fiber art. It enhances Chinese culture through creativity; stimulates the development of the information industry and provides an opportunity to demonstrate a new field of vision, according to the organization.

Ms. Schussheim-Anderson received her bachelor's degree at the School for American Craftsmen at Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, and a master of fine arts from Arizona State University. She has taught at Augustana for 30 years, and also co-directs Kaleidoscope, the college's community art program for youth.

Ms. Schussheim-Anderson has received numerous awards in juried exhibitions throughout the U.S., including second prize in the Rock Island Fine Arts exhibition in 2011. Her work has been included in several books, and is represented in many private and permanent collections including the Bettendorf Public Library, the IBM Collection in Tucson, and the State Department in Washington.

She has woven tapestries for more than 35 years, and teaches traditional tapestry techniques to students at Augustana.

"It is a privilege for Augustana to have someone like Rowen, who is a master of her craft and always willing to teach it to others," said Rebecca Black '13, a chemistry and English major from Berwyn, Ill., who has a class with Ms. Schussheim-Anderson. "I never thought that I would get the opportunity to weave on a loom. It is not as easy as it looks."

Although the technique is anything but modern, Ms. Schussheim-Anderson focuses on new innovations, elements and materials. "butterflyte" was created using various methods and materials, including beadwork and wrapping, which add more texture and interest to the surface.

Ms.Schussheim-Anderson's inspiration for the two pieces on display came from an experience she had with Augustana students during a foreign term in Latin America in 2009. "I had the chance to spend time in the Peruvian rainforest with Augustana students, where I saw gorgeous butterflies bigger than hummingbirds and more abundant than mosquitoes in Iowa," she said. "Crimson Prelude was inspired by a beautiful red, white and black 89 butterfly that rode next to me for eight hours on a bus window."

"Crimson Prelude" will tour the United States from 2013 to 2015 as part of the Fiberart International 2013 exhibition.

"Fiber is a wonderful material; row by row, line by line, fiber becomes color, fiber becomes shape, and fiber creates texture," Ms. Schussheim-Anderson said. "Fiber has dimension; it can be flat or shiny, it can be thick and thin. Working in fiber is like drawing with a line; everything is possible. Woven tapestry is a medium that is very expressive."