Tucked in the back nook, on the first floor of the Mills College
Art Museum, hangs Lia Cook’s Binary Traces exhibit. These
fantastically organized tapestries are reworkings of her family
The eight pieces at the current exhibit were all done in 2004.
In black and white cotton fabric, Cook’s childhood memories are
blown up and woven into detailed hangings. From a distance, you can
see nothing other than a photograph of a child or hands. As you
move in closer to the pieces, you see they are a complex design of
tightly knit textile.
In order to create this unique art form, Cook scans her pictures
onto a computer, which then works the photo into a complex weave
design. Cook then must use a jacquard loom, where each thread is
operated separately. The end result is a pixilated picture, rich
with texture and life.
The history of weaving dates back to the beginnings of
humankind. Thousands of years ago weaving grasses and leaves
together were used for clothing and shelter. The first weaving of
textiles was first adopted in the Stone Age.
Women in Egypt, Persia, China and Vietnam were also significant
to the history of weaving. Creating baskets, carpets, and clothing
were vital to the livelihoods of women in these countries.
Cook was born in 1942 and raised in Berkeley. She received her
BA in 1965 and her MA in 1973, both from UC Berkeley. She is now a
professor at the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland.
Her work has been displayed in museums all over the nation and
She has had exhibits in the MH de Young Memorial Museum in San
Francisco, the Smithsonian National Art Museum in Washington, D.C.,
the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and at the Museum
Bellerive in Zurich, Switzerland, just to name a few.
“It’s [weaving] a woman’s field, at least in our culture. It’s
an art form that is at least as old as painting. If you look at
cultures other than western culture, weaving plays a very important
part,” Cook said.
In the world of art, when artists seem to be forgetting the past
and moving toward technology, Cook takes us back to a romantic
combination of the tapestries of Goya and the photography of
Dorothea Lange. The exhibit, which started in early October, will
continue through the 17th.