Common Threads: Weaving Stories Across Time

Standard Incomparable

The group show ‘Common Threads: Weaving Stories Across Time’ features the work of contemporary artists redefining textile art through mediums including music, video, and participatory art. ‘Standard Incomparable’, one part of the exhibition, is a collaborative weaving project organized by Helen Mirra

Now on view at the Isabella Steward Gardner Museum  through January 13, 2019, Standard Incomparable was created by Mirra after being inspired by her artist residency at the Gardner Museum some years earlier. She asked 51 weavers each to create a textile according to her specifications. In 2016, these works were exhibited at the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena, California. 

Standard Incomparable on exhibit at the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena

A couple years ago I was Artist-in-Residence at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. While there, I was looking for the plainest of things in the collection, the ordinary among the extraordinary. The Museum is a dense and elaborate complex of artworks and artifacts collected by Gardner, a privileged international traveler in the late 1800s. This project is a kind of inversion of that approach.”  Helen Mirra

Each piece is roughly square, made from undyed yarn, in dimensions that match the length of the weaver’s arm. Each has seven stripes, whose width is determined by that of the weaver’s hand. The works are little self-portraits, recording the measurements of the hands and arms that made them.

The works displayed as part of Mirra’s solo exhibition ‘Gehen, weben / Camminare, tessere’ (Walking, weaving) at Kunst Meran / Merano Arte is on view through 24 September 2017. 

The pieces highlight how physical labor is measured and embedded in the warp and weft of weaving, which is essentially a grid. This typically impassive structure here serves as a meeting point where the impulse to reduce everything to numbers meets the irreducible physicality of the body.” Helen Mirra

In July 2018, the works were on view at A Coin In Nine Hands’ Part 7:
Standard Incomparable, GalleriesNow in London

Each weaver created two identical pieces: one for the exhibit and one to exchange with another weaver from around the globe.  

Standard Incomparable (partial) exhibited as part of Common Threads: Weaving Stories Across Time at the Isabella Steward Gardner Museum. Photo by Steward Clements.
Weaving by Donatella_Chiesa. She spun the mohair of the white stripes and the brown alpaca comes from the herd of a lovely lady in Liguria
Weaving by Mette Clausen 
Every other stripe is woven with double yarn to make a subtle yet noticeable difference in the stripes. 
Weaving by Alayna Rasile Digrindakis with undyed local fiber
Detail of weaving by Lauren Broom

Standard Incomparable includes weavings from sixteen countries, made by people born between the years 1946 and 2009. This is truly a unique collaborative weaving project. It is so interesting to see how each artist interpreted the specifications given.

On the loom weaving by Brittany Wittman McLaughlin @theweavingworkshop

‘The collection is like a unique kind of specialized encyclopedia.’

Helen Mirra


About Helen Mirra

Helen Mirra is a walking experiment. 
Along the way she undertakes to meet materials and non-materials. 
She has been a guest of the DAAD Kunstlerprogramm in Berlin, the Laurenz Haus in Basel, IASPIS in Stockholm, and OCA in Oslo, a fellow at the MacDowell Colony and Civitella Ranieri, and artist-in-residence with the Consortium of the Arts at the University of California at Berkeley, the Center for Book Arts at Mills College, and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. She has received awards from the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation, the Driehaus Foundation, and Artadia. She was a Loeb Associate Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University and a Senior Lecturer at the University of Chicago with the Committees of Visual Art and Cinema & Media Studies. 
Long-term subjects of particular interest include rocks, and current particular subjects of interest include slopes and other angles. 

Peter Freeman, Inc. New York/Paris
Galerie Nordenhake, Stockholm/Berlin
Galleria Raffaella Cortese, Milan
Meyer Riegger, Berlin/Karlsruhe
Taka Ishii Gallery, Tokyo 


Standard Incomparable is one part of the contemporary exhibition, Common Threads: Weaving Stories Across Time. On view in Hostetter Gallery at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, October 4, 2018 – January 13, 2019

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