The exhibit The Creative World of Judith Weichsel Carr at Open Space Visitor Center is a remembrance. Carr died in March of 2018 and the exhibit was put together by friends and family who wanted to show the world her work. Carr was classically trained as a weaver, receiving an M.F.A. from Michigan’s Cranbrook Academy in 1970 and going on to work as an instructor in the craft at UNM. This exhibit is a collection of her work spanning decades, the majority of which was never shown publicly.
There are two things compelling about Carr’s textiles. The first is exemplified in this 1978 weaving that was named by the curators “Weaving for Momo” (it was apparently rare for Carr to title her work). Made as a gift for the artist’s mother, Momo, it is a magnificent example of American textile work of the late 1970s. The blend of browns, the rainbow line and the thick texture evoke the time period perfectly. The text accompanying the piece offers the commentary that her woven tapestries are “strong and contemporary almost 50 years later.” I’ll leave the viewer to decide that for themselves.
The second compelling thing is that she quit weaving. In the text accompanying the exhibit, it is explained, “She exhibited for several years at La Mariposa Gallery, but finally realized she could not charge enough for her work to balance the time she invested in it.” It goes on to say, “Judith sold her loom and gave up weaving in 1991.” All of the other work in the exhibit after that date is fabric of other types.
Lily Tomlin quipped, “The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you're still a rat.” Being an artist can often seem like that when commercial considerations swamp your art. It seems that Carr came to that realization and simply moved on to doing her art in other ways and in private. After a 25-year career as a weaver, that takes a bold level of self-awareness. Kudos to Carr for a life well lived, and to her friends and family for putting together an exhibit that not only shares her beautiful work with us, but also an incredibly vital lesson about the whole point of living a creative life.