Image: Lenore Tawney, Magritte, 1976. Pen and black ink and pencil and collage. © Lenore G. Tawney Foundation. All images courtesy of Cleveland Museum of Art.
When the pandemic upended international travel in March 2020, temporarily delaying projects that had been in development for years, Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio, reimagined its schedule of exhibitions by drawing on its own resources. Stories from Storage offers a thoughtful and focused examination of multiple important themes through seldom-seen works of art carefully selected by the museum’s director, chief curator and 17 curators. The exhibition seeks to highlight works seldom on view, spanning the museum’s encyclopedic collection, from the ancient world to today. The unifying feature of the 20 micro exhibitions is the glimpse into storage that each story provides. Together they convey not a single, linear narrative but multiple stories that complement one another.
Image: Lenore Tawney, The King of Beasts, 1977. Pen and black ink and collage. © Lenore G. Tawney Foundation.
On view for the first time at the museum since 1985 — and selected by Emily Peters, Curator of Prints and Drawings — are a series of collaged postcards by pioneering fibre artist Lenore Tawney. While she is primarily known for her large-scale public installations and radical experimentation with weaving, the postcards on display were personal missives to close friends on an intimate scale.
Image: Lenore Tawney, Leaves from My Book of Days with Envelope, 1980. Pen and black ink and watercolor and collage; envelope: pen and black ink. © Lenore G. Tawney Foundation.
The 44 postcard collages in the CMA’s collection were sent in the post by Tawney to her friend, the art dealer, curator, and critic Katherine Kuh between 1969 and 1981. Using natural objects and ephemera that she compiled over a lifetime, Tawney’s collages display the artist’s personal vocabulary and poetic response to materials. Recurring images- such as eggs, feathers, birds, baby animals, crosses and circles - engage with universal themes such as vulnerability, resilience, infinity, and spirituality. Tawney’s love of words, and in particular her knowledge of poetry and mystical writings can be seen across the postcard collection, from her spindly handwriting — puzzling, amusing and beautiful — to the incorporation of printed manuscripts in a variety of languages. In the above postcard the “book of days” likely refers to one of many volumes Tawney kept with collections of leaves, feathers and natural objects.