Informed by Travels

Elizabeth Whyte Schulze’s sculptural basketry
Elizabeth Whyte Schulze informs readers up front that the inspiration for her sculptural baskets are based on her travels across the globe. “From petroglyph sites in the American Southwest to Australia’s Aboriginal Art Centers, each experience provides an opportunity to appreciate the art and culture of the country and its people,” she writes. A recent show at Harvard Art Museum, EVERYWHEN, the Eternal Present in Indigenous Art from Australia, reacquainted her with the art of indigenous artists.  Schulze's latest work is currently on view at Mobilia Gallery in Cambridge, MA.
Influenced by her travels in Asia when she watched women making baskets, Whyte has been weaving or coiling baskets since the 1970s after taking a workshop where she learned the basics. Her early baskets were woven on and off the loom and made from yarn and rope. She, however, enjoyed the repetitive process of coiling, and soon began to incorporate natural materials in her work. “My basketry sculptures are made from pine needles and raffia coiled into sturdy, graceful shapes,” according to her artist’s statement.  Later she began adding geometric images and embellishments to the basket’s interior and exterior surfaces.
To create the various designs, she adheres a thin layer of Japanese rice paper that retains the basket’s texture. On that surface, she begins to layer images, text, overlapping dots and various marks. “Inspired by petroglyphs and cave art, I like the marks to pulse and recede on the uneven basket surface. Each work is embellished with an added bit of woven fiber such as vegetable scrub brushes from India, Japanese calligraphy brushes of bamboo and horse hair as well as Chinese paint brushes for the home,” she adds.
While the petroglyphs in the American Southwest have been a great source of inspiration for Schulze, contemporary graffiti  also intrigues her. She wrote in American Basketry Organization, “When I use graffiti, I want the words and images to confront the narrative on the basket surface. LOOKOUT, LISTEN TO ME and SIT DOWN NOW! Are the words and declarations calling out to the viewer to react, and perhaps respond?” 
Schulze's new collection of baskets is currently exhibited at Mobilia Gallery in Cambridge, MA through December 15th. For more information, visit


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