In her stump series, Brandt examines the city environment through a group of hand-hooked wool rugs made from recycled thrift store clothing and blankets. Their designs are based on rubbings taken directly from tree stumps in Baltimore City. Brandt also photographed the rugs at their point of conception and produced a body of related postcards. The two are on view together, providing an experience that joins landscape and traditional folk craft. Brandt writes, “The landscape of daily life in Baltimore is punctuated by large curvaceous tree stumps. This form is easily lifted with a piece of graphite and represented in repurposed local thrift store clothing.” Brandt, who teaches fibers courses at the Maryland Institute College of Art, has researched the hooked rug tradition and explains that hooked rugs as we know them today are a uniquely North American folk tradition especially associated with the Maritime Provinces and New England. The burlap used for the ground or support of the rugs was readily available by the 1850s through trade with Calcutta, India. Thrift was a necessity in isolated fishing villages and by working with burlap, clothing and blanket scraps, and a hook derived from a marlinspike tool, the modern hooked rug was born. Brandt’s exploration of the city through the metaphor of the tree stump suggests the relationship of rus in urbe (the garden within the city). Landscape is often part of city planning (Frederick Law Olmstead not only designed Central Park in New York City but also Roland Park in Baltimore and Kentmere Parkway in Wilmington). Utilizing a folk art tradition to examine the remains of nature, a kind of ruin in the city, is specific to Brandt and demonstrates her conceptual approach to the field of fibers and material arts.
-Susan J. Isaacs, PhD
Curator of Special Projects