One’s best work is often made by accident. Such is the case with internationally renowned textile artist Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam, who is debuting her largest-scale U.S. exhibit, “Whammock!,” in San Diego at the New Children’s Museum on June 15. The octogenarian harnesses crocheting and knot-making techniques to transform vibrantly dyed nylon rope into massive suspended environments, inviting guests to climb, frolic, or simply hang out.
Known for her breathtaking climbable sculptures, MacAdam was commissioned last year by Museum Deputy Director Tomoko Kuta, who first experienced MacAdam’s work at Hakone Open-Air Museum in Japan. “I was so inspired by ‘Woods of Net’ in Japan several years ago,” Kuta says. “It’s a thrill to be working with Toshiko and [her husband] Charles MacAdam.”
The New Children’s Museum has had a lot of firsts since it opened, and counts “Whammock!” among them. The exhibit is an interactive, three-dimensional textile environment that resembles a giant hammock of colorful crocheted circles, open pockets, and dangling pendulums. Installed on the museum’s upper level with a view of the two floors below, the exhibit is open to children and adults.
“My work is about the joy of bringing children together to play and having their movements and vibrations activate the art,” says MacAdam, who spent several weeks installing the piece onsite.
MacAdam’s earliest works were made decidedly for grown-ups until fate stepped in. Some 50 years ago, she spotted children climbing atop her three-dimensional textile sculptures, and rather than being horrified, she embraced it. Since 1979, she’s completed a whopping 18 large-scale interactive commissions, many of which have become key cultural and community gathering places in Shanghai, Dubai, Tokyo, and Rome as well as exhibits at MOMA in New York and the Palais des Congrès in Paris.
From her Nova Scotia studio, the Japanese-born artist hand-dyes and crochets thousands of feet of highly durable nylon with Charles’ help. She spent her early years in war-torn Japan, determined to devote her life to beauty. After earning her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Japan and her master’s in the U.S. in the early 1960s, MacAdam began creating textile-based installations and sculptures. In 1971, MacAdam was a rising star in the feminist fiber arts movement.
Today, just shy of her 80th birthday, what better time than now to celebrate the enduring spirit of her work. A semi-permanent installation, “Whammock!” will be featured at the New Children’s Museum for the next several years. 619.233.8792, thinkplaycreate.org