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New Mexico: another dimension looms.

When Nancy and Janusz Kozikowski ski set up their studio in a New Mexican adobe village, they figured they'd have a tough time making their mark on the state's venerable weaving tradition. "We knew people didn't come to New Mexico to buy Anglo weaving, even Anglo weaving that was very, very different," Nancy says. And different it was. In contrast to the two-dimensional, geometric New Mexican rug and blanket patterns that have prevailed for hundreds of years, the Kozikowskis' three-dimensional tapestries of landscapes, portraits, and abstract designs looked more like painting than weaving.

Today, three-dimensional designs are found side by side with more traditional patterns in weaving shops and art galleries across New Mexico, and the Kozikowskis' own work is prominently displayed in public places. One of Nancy's tapestries, longer than a stretch limo and valued at $24,000, decorates a new wing in Albuquerque's airport. Janusz (YAN-ish) sells pieces in his "Chair" series (likelife depictions of Indian blankets draped on overstuffed chairs) for $8,000, and both artists have received considerable commissions for their work in hotels and other public buildings.

But it wasn't that way when the Kozikowskis arrived in the village of Medenales in 1973. John Cacciotore, the owner of the Dartmouth Street Gallery in Albuquerque, says, "There was no change, or very little, in New Mexico weaving for centuries. With the Kozikowskis, in 15 years there's been a big change."

Typical New Mexican weavers make the back of a piece as flawless as the front; the Kozikowskis let yams hang untidily from the back of their decidedly one-sided tapestries. Traditional weavers also allow their two-dimensional geometric designs to unfold spontaneously. By contrast, the Kozikowskis carefully draw complex three-dimensional designs on the warp of the loom. The Kozikowskis dye their own yams, but they use dozens of colors instead of the usual five or six. Employing more colors, the two found, helped create a painted effect.

The Kozikowskis' tapestries began selling around the country through galleries they'd contracted with while living out-of-state. Local weavers gradually realized that the Kozikowskis could help them market their own work nationwide. Some even began studying with the pair to learn the curving, shading, and yarn-dying techniques used to provide depth.

In the established New Mexico art market, Indian shops sold Indian weaving and Hispanic shops sold Hispanic weaving. "There was no place to show our pieces in the right context," Janusz says. "Even the galleries had to be convinced that our pieces were art, not just craft, because they contained an idea." A promotion program that included publishing articles about the Kozikowskis' work and bringing bus loads of tourists to the studio in Medenales eventually convinced local shopkeepers and gallery owners that three-dimensional tapestries were marketable.

Now amicably divorced but still following parallel paths, the Kozikowskis keep their looms busy with commissioned work. Both say they'll continue to promote three-dimensional weaving to the New Mexico weaving industry. "People today are demanding that kind of quality in weaving," Janusz says. "And New Mexico right now is setting the standard in weaving. It has the tradition; it has the weavers who really know how to weave. We'd like to keep contributing to that tradition."
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Title Annotation:weavers Nancy and Janusz Kozikowski
Author:Chaney, Dale
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Article Type:Biography
Date:Apr 1, 1990
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