Making Space: Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction

Sheila Hicks. Prayer Rug. 1965

Hand-spun wool, 87 x 43" (221 x 109.2 cm). Gift of Dr. Mittelsten Schied

Sheila Hicks: My name is Sheila Hicks. We are looking at Prayer Rug, 1965.

When I discovered in Morocco, the prayer rugs and the architecture with the arches, I became fascinated with the idea of the feeling of ascension, ascension through this arched form. And it had a kind of religious significance to me that was all encompassing. It could serve, I thought, for people of all religious faiths who were looking for a way to communicate with something greater than themselves, something bigger, powerful, beautiful.

It awakens and caresses the soul in a very simple and modest way, not pretentious, not gold-leaf, not bejeweled, not fearful, fear of the great being. But it somehow reassures—reassures in a very quiet way.

And I myself am often saying that I'm agnostic, and yet I believe thoroughly that these prayer rugs have a mystical power.

And I’ve gone off loom. I'm sort of working in a funny, strange way like a ceramicist works, of having the material in my hands and molding the material in my hands and making even gobs or clusters of yarns move in space. You know, we learn to supposedly honor our materials when we work. I've developed a defiant attitude of making them do what I want them to do even though they don't want to do it and then figuring out how to -- like an untrained dog, still be the master of the dog.

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