Review by Paul Dorn, the Davis Enterprise Art Critic
"This work is enchanting--delicate and powerful at the same time, engaging the senses and the imagination. Thank you." Sarah Post, artist, July 2010
"Marlene Bloomberg's needlepoint tapestries are intimately scaled scenes full of lyrical imagery. Moons, climbing flowers, and fantastically plumed birds dominate her slightly surreal landscapes of regular stitches, punctuated by fancy knots to create texture and depth." Natalie Nelson, Director, Pence Gallery.
"Other included works of art [in the Consilience of Art and Science exhibit at the Pence Gallery, Davis, California, March-April 2009] investigate graphic depictions of complex mathematical equations, or fractals, all by using very traditional media. Marlene Bloomberg's "Fractale" is a gorgeous, textured needlepoint that brings the complicated pattern of a fractal into view. The juxtaposition of the medium with its subject in this work gives the viewer a small surprise." Natalie Nelson, Director, Pence Gallery.
"Marlene Bloomberg, David Nasatar and Jeffery Ventrella give us elegant and surprising works based on fractals, "rough or fragmented geometric shapes that can be split into parts, each of which is (at least approximately) a reduced-size copy of the whole," according to mathematician B.B. Mandelbrot." Victoria Dalkey, Sacramento Bee Art Correspondent , Thursday, April 9, 2009.
"Marlene Bloomberg's small embroidery pieces isolate profound moments of her experience." Renny Pritikin, Director, Nelson Gallery, UC Davis, 2006.
"Mixing street art such as Paul Imagine's posters for local clubs with meticulous embroideries of flora and fauna by Marlene Bloomberg, the show has a vitality often missing from local group exhibitions that rely on the same artists year after year." Victoria Dalkey, Sacramento Bee Art Correspondent, July 16, 2006.
Nancy Servis, in her review in the Davis Enterprise of Jan. 16, 2000 says that the Pence Gallery exhibit From Stitch to Stage [Bloomberg is one of the exhibitors] is "designed to prompt aesthetic considerations from the viewer. [Those exhibits] are consistently thought-provoking, engaging and usually dynamic." "This dazzling exhibition reflects the frequent partnership between the performing and visual arts. Both artists [D. R. Wagner and Bloomberg] utilize literature, words or drama as a narrative component to their refined and colorful works." "Marlene Bloomberg, a native of France, renders themes from French literature in her canvas work. Lively scenes at times like textile siblings to illuminated manuscripts invoke both mysterious interpretation of imagery and appreciation for technique."
About Bloomberg and D. R. Wagner's joint exhibit at the Pence Gallery, Karli Kane comments in her article in the California Aggie (Jan. 20, 2000) that "despite the two different styles of expression used by the artists, the handiwork alone is incredible and worth seeing. Being able to create such lively and detailed compositions from simply a needle and thread is truly a gift."
Janet I. Martineau says in
her review in the Saginaw News (March 11, 2000), that "Snails,
Snakes and Seahorses" have joined the "Birds in Art" exhibition at the
Saginaw Art Museum.
"And all because a French-born, 62-year-old California woman took the bull by the horns when it came to the 'woman's art' of petit point.
"I prefer to call my art canvas work, or tapestries, or fiber work," says Marlene Bloomberg of her 23 creations hanging on the walls of the museum at 1126 N. Michigan. "I am not a feminist or paranoid, but the fact is if you call them needlepoint they are viewed as woman's work, as something a housewife does, and they are not valued."
"It is my goal to make women's work more valued, by booking museum shows like this one."
Collectively titled 'Of Snails, Snakes, Seahorses and Other Animals,' the 20-inch by 15-inch works are on display through March 26.
Bloomberg, who emigrated to the U.S. when she married in 1962, exhibits a sense of whimsy in the works.
" Five Seahorses and a Dozen Roses" depicts just that, as does " One Dragon and Three Dragonflies".
"The Night of the Iguana/Day of the Locusts" was inspired by her viewing and reading the movie and novel respectively, and because Bloomberg felt the two titles were natural companions.
And "La Dame Blanche" finds a white owl paired with a couple of pieces of jewelry.
"That last one is based on a show on French television," Bloomberg says in her still-very-French accent. "It runs an hour and is called ' La Dame Blanche,' or 'The White Lady.' It took me a long time to realize the character is in fact a barn owl."
"I also saw an exhibit of jewelry in Paris by a famous artist and I did a sketch of some of the pieces, and so I put that together with the owl. I like to take two completely different things and put them together."
As Matisse said, 'I don't do just pretty things but the relationship between them.'
One of her favorites in the show is ' Metaphor,' which depicts a flower that is at the same time a bird. "It is not one thing or another but something in between."
She also, she stresses more than once, believes art is meant to set people free from the humdrum of everyday life and must offer beauty and pleasure.
"Art does not need to dwell on shortcomings or make statements but rather it needs to put a spiritual dimension in life."
Bloomberg's pictures count 24 stitches to the inch on those pieces of canvas, and she calls it therapy that has saved her from spending countless dollars on a psychologist.
"Needlework," she claims, "gets you close to nirvana. All needlework people will tell you the same thing."
"I think it is because it keeps your hands busy. It is good to have your hands busy because people get antsy if they think all the time. When your hands are busy your mind can drift."
Bloomberg estimates it takes 40 hours to do one of the works, which she first creates on paper and then traces on the canvas. She works seven days a week, year-round, coming up with a new idea for a work once a month.
Eight years ago she decided to attack the museum world, in the hope that she could have her work considered more than a craft, as serious work rather than a housewife's hobby.
"Marketing takes a lot of my time now and it's pretty boring. It's a lot of grunt work."
So far Bloomberg, who lives in Davis, has convinced nearly a dozen museums or galleries to give it a try. Saginaw came into the picture when Bloomberg bought the Art in America magazine issue that lists all the museums in the country and what they like to display or will consider displaying.
Bloomberg says she has always worked with the needle. Thirty years ago, she did a needlepoint kit to see how it was done. After that first attempt with its pre-drawn design, she began creating her own and urges others to do the same.
"People need to take it just one step at a time. First do a drawing, or go to Kinko's and make a copy of something you like. Then trace it on a piece of canvas. Then go to a needlework store and pull out the DMC brand of threads and start picking your colors."
"That is one of my favorites, sorting through all the colors and using my imagination."
Excerpt from Art Week, June 2005, Volume 36, Issue 5.
The last exhibition at the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles current site before they move into a larger space will feature the work of two contemporary Northern California Textile artists. Tapestry weaver Deborah Corsini and needleworker Marlene Bloomberg have been paired together by exhibitions curator Robin Treen in a poetic theme she terms as "lucid dreams."
Bloomberg, born in France between the wars, works with imagery informed by French literature, the Bible, mythology and her own imagination. Her small-scale figurative works are carefully crafted so as to draw the viewer into her private world in order to separate them from their everyday lives.
Octopus features a curled-up pink and orange octopus. It rests on a carpet or a cloud, above many stars and a crescent moon, all of which is enveloped by a black field. Measuring 20-by-22 inches, the piece is rather big for needlework.
Cat Man Looks like a portrait, created as though a contour line drawing. The face, totally white like a pantomime artist, is on a background of blue-gray, with stars floating around. The head looks clearly human, but with a strong sense of theater.
By Debra Koppman
Excerpt from Mercury News Online Edition, August 5, 8, and 12, 2005.
Lucid Dreams, the last exhibition at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles, 110 Paseo de San Antonio, before its move to bigger quarters, strikes you at that subconscious level between dreaming and wakefulness. Subtitled Fabrications by Marlene Bloomberg and Deborah Corsini, the exhibit's contemporary works flow from two major twentieth century artistic movements: Surrealism and Art Deco.
Surrealists took their doctrine partly from Sigmund Freud's "The Interpretation of Dreams," which in 1900 argued that dreams represent manifestations of repressed urges. French poets like Andre Breton seized the chance to express themselves without the impediment of the conscious mind. The movement soon spread to film and other visual arts.
However, it took me a few minutes of staring at the oil painterly colors of Bloomberg's pieces before I realized that I was looking at surrealistic needlepoint, complete with daisy stitches and French knots. She prefers to call it canvas work, because she doesn't want her art pigeonholed as women's work. She needn't worry-these carefully crafted and vibrant designs have very little of the traditional domestic sampler about them.
Born in the Paris garment district in 1937, Bloomberg enrolled in the Sorbonne to study French literature and to escape the "grossly underpaid world of the threaded needle." Marriage brought her to the States in the 1960s (she lives in Davis), where, ironically, she returned to the needle and thread via petit point canvas (which uses smaller holes than other needlework).
Bloomberg's canvases draw upon French poetry by Victor Hugo ( "The Eye was in the Coffin Looking at Cain" based on "La Conscience" has a frightening Egyptian eye staring out from several brown rectangles ) and Alfred de Musset ( "The Gods are Dreaming"), medieval tales like The Chevalier and the Lion, Oedipus, the Burning Bush story from the Bible and even Jean Cocteau's film "Testament to Orpheus".
The provative subjects on the canvases
may seem familiar; you may have seen them in your dreams. For example, "La
Valse", inspired by Maurice Baskine's painting, shows dancing white masks
or skulls, each biting a thin red thread. Yellow stars twinkle above them, creating
a sort of comic horror equal to any of Edgar Allan Poe's grotesque stories.
In fact, humour noir was a hallmark of the Surrealists. Moons and stars permeate
the pieces, which are often divided into two fields of color as if to insinuate
night and day or conscious and subconscious.
One of the most detailed canvases, "The Night of the Iguana/The Day of the Locusts" combines two popular references. It's based on the 1950's Ava Gardner and Richard Burton movie and the Nathaniel West novel. Three orange locusts crawl over the lighter "day" section of the piece, while a dark iguana inches toward an inky Mexican sky.
The Parisian native plays with several popular cultural icons. "Le Cirque du Soleil" I, whose white clown in a pointy jester's hat dances in a halo of light, perfectly captures the magic of that circus.Another, "Snake with Blue Eyes, was inspired by a TV show on Indian snake charmers. This snake has a thinly coiled white body topped by a wide teardrop face with electric blue eyes. Its cartoonish quality recalls the blurry edges of a forgotten dream. Bloomberg uses this sleepy ambiguity often. In "Metamorphosis" an owl morphs into a cat, as it just might in your dreams. "Cat Man" has a head of brilliant orange hair and grayish brown fabric pieces that resembles beastly fur.
Bloomberg doesn't believe in conveying messages through her art, but tries to elevate the viewer from the "hum-drum reality of everyday life." Her art for art's sake compositions provide a peek into "the eternal triangle of truth, goodness and beauty."
Wander into this museum (sandwiched between the San Jose Repertory Theatre and SJ State) before this exhibit ends on Sunday, Aug. 28. It's well worth an hour or two of your time. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, open until 8 p.m. on Thurdays.*
*Shortened version of this review.
Review by Eren Göknar
An exhibit at the San José Museum of Quilts and Textiles, "Lucid Dreams," touches on themes from Oedipus to Jean Cocteau's "Orpheus." The show strikes the subconscious zone between dreaming and wakefulness. One French critic, Gaston Bachelard, proposed that dreams are building blocks to the imagination.
The exhibit's contemporary works flow from two 20th Century artistic movements - surrealism and art deco. The French surrealists took their doctrine partly from Sigmund Freud' idea that dreams represent manifestations of hidden urges.
One featured artist in the exhibit, Marlene Bloomberg, uses petit point canvas, which has smaller holes than other needlepoint. A gallery-goer might stare at Bloomberg's oil-painterly colors before realizing that this is surrealistic needlepoint. Because she does not want her art pigeonholed as women's work, Bloomberg prefers to call it canvas work. She needn't worry - her vibrant designs have little of the traditional domestic sampler about them. The Parisian native uses sleepy ambiguity often. In "Metamorphosis" an owl morphs into a cat, as it just might in a dream. "Cat Man" has a head of brilliant orange and grayish brown fiber resembling fur.
Pacifican Deborah Corsini's abstract art deco tapestries have no recognizable shapes. A former textile designer, she is inspired by Navaro rugs. He weaving emits a higher voltage than Bloomberg's quiet stitchery. One striking eight-foot-tall tapestry is "Sunday strip." The Silly Putty pink reminds one the pastel funny pages. But there are no cartoon characters, just black ink lines in various widths moving in ahd out like lightning bolts.
The exhibit is well worth an hour or two of your time. The exhibit ends on Aug. 28.
The museum is at 110 Paseo de San Antonio. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. The museum is open until 8 p.m. on Thursdays. For more information, call (408) 971-0323.
Review by Eren Göknar, Special to the Los Altos Town Crier, August 23, 2005.
"Born in France in the inter-war years, Marlene Bloomberg was educated at the Sorbonne before immigrating to the United States. Although she is fluent in various fine art mediums, she returned to the threaded needle as a form of self-expresssion in the late 1960s. Aesthetically referencing Surrealism, the imagery of her canvas work is heavy with content, informed by French literature, the Bible, mythology, and poetic invention. Like precious gemstones, her small-scale figurative works are multi-faceted, magical, filled with intellectual lines and extravagant gestures that demand to be the center of exquisite attention. Sophisticated vocabularies seek to balance emotion, shape and color in art that is meant to set the view free from the mundane realities of everyday life." Robin Treen, Exhibits Curator, San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles, May, 2006.