Susan Meller and her robust, profound, abiding love of textiles first crossed my radar in 1991 when I was asked by Artforum to review her astonishing book: Textile Designs: Two Hundred Years of European and American Patterns Organized by Motif, Style, Color, Layout, and Period by Susan Meller and Joost Elffers (Harry N. Abrams, 1991, 2002). It is a pretty wild roller coaster ride over a glorious and eclectic range of designs gleaned from Meller’s encyclopedic collection which was then housed as a reference archive called The Design Library.
Some years later, Susan asked if I would like to write a short piece for her next book: Russian Textiles: Printed Cloth for the Bazaars of Central Asia by Susan Meller (Abrams, 2007). This material interested me as a collector of Central Asian ikats and embroideries. I had often noticed the remarkable print textiles on the reverse side of my textiles, but I knew nothing about them. Here was an entire book devoted to these Russian export fabrics. I wrote “More Might Not Be Enough” a send up of the “less is more” aesthetic and a breezy tour of what made these fabrics so much fun to look at.
More recently, our same intrepid Meller undertook the enormous and informative Silk and Cotton, Textiles from the Central Asia That Was (Abrams, 2013). She invited me to identify just what was so interesting to me about Suzanis, the bold embroidered wall hangings that were created until very recently all over Central Asia. I wrote “Suzani Sonata” a love ode to this remarkable, rich, profound tradition which had become a mainstay of my painting experience.
Here is that essay: