Courtesy of Demisch Danant
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Sheila Hicks

Prayer Rug, 1978
56 3/8 x 20 1/2 inches
Contributed by Demisch Danant

The great Sheila Hicks presides over the story of fiber art like a queen of old – though she has never been much interested in holding court. She is an inveterate and curious traveler, much affected by her time in Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America, in India, and in Paris, where she now lives and works, among many other parts of the world. Hicks is also a deep student of fiber forms, and it is perhaps unsurprising – given her global view of the subject – that at some point, her eagle eye would have lit upon the prayer rug. One cannot imagine a more spiritually charged textile genre, though she typically made it her own, while respecting the cultural source. The example shown at the Noyes House, from 1978 - a nod to the tapestries by artists such as Henri Matisse and Joan Miró which once were here - adapts the rough composition of a traditional prayer rug. These typically feature arches, evoking the architecture of a mosque, and are laid out with the motif pointing to Mecca, in the direction of worship. Hung vertically on the wall, Hicks’s work suggests a broader narrative about spiritual elevation, while also recalling abstract painting, which was her first métier, when she studied at Yale with Josef Albers – not too far from New Canaan.

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Image credit:
Courtesy of Demisch Danant
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Courtesy of Demisch Danant