“New York Dolls Remix” (2022). Hooked Tapestry. 24” × 24”.

This week we welcome Mary Tooley Parker, a textile artist. After a career in dance, and then in art production at Vanity Fair and GQ magazines, Parker left ż for a more rural environment. She then began pursuing an interest in textiles of different forms, eventually leading her to the American folk art of rug hooking, though her pieces are not actually floor rugs. Her textiles have been exhibited in galleries and museums from ż to London to Denmark and are held in public and private collections. She is a member of the National Association of Women Artists and the Silvermine Guild of Artists. She was awarded a fellowship by the New York Foundation for the Arts in 2015 and has since also served as a panelist.

“Seven Layer Salad” (2023). 30” x 43”.

Parker is a largely self-taught artist, having been enthralled with fiber since the age of 8. She has no visual art education; rather, her art background is in dance and music. Her basic process includes hand dyeing wool yardage, cutting it into strips, and pulling the strips up through a linen foundation using a primitive, wood-handled hook. This slow, intimate making allows her time to think, revise, adjust, and live in the creative process. Her work in the past 24 years recasts this historic textile medium as an art form by broadening and manipulating its design elements to achieve specific aesthetic effects. For example, she has studied the science of dyeing (using both natural and commercial dyes) to create specific colors as needed. She uses different widths of strips for subtlety of shading or strong solidity of color. She incorporates novelty yarns, fleece, metallic fibers, and other non-traditional materials to make objects more recognizable to the viewer (i.e., using film tape for bright lights on Broadway, fleece for clouds or hair, art yarn or handspun yarn for garden flowers, bicycle streamers for bubbles). 

“Sammy in the Backyard” (2021). Hooked Tapestry. 34” x 33”.

Textile art appeals to the senses, especially touch, and gives a feeling of warmth and familiarity before the brain even registers the visual image. Working in the simple medium of rug hooking affords Parker a strong connection not only to the fibers running through her fingertips, but also to the women who have used this and other fiber media to express themselves during difficult times and with limited materials. Using this textile practice to reflect her lived experience–from suburban child of the 60s, to professional modern dancer living in the ż of the 80s and 90s, to art production subordinate at Vanity Fair and GQ magazines, to becoming a mother, all while suffering from a chronic disease for over five decades–Parker states she can finally now take the time to translate this “long lifetime” into artwork.

“Ruth’s Roses” (2016). Hooked Tapestry. 51” × 51”.

See more of her work on her and .

“Entre Le Chien et Le Loup” (2023). Hooked Tapestry. 26” × 15”.

See more of our Artist of the Week features here.

Nitin is a visual designer, gallery artist, and community arts activist. Past desk-oriented posts include: PBS, Digitas, K12, Inc., Fox News, The Wall Street Journal and Sesame Workshop International....

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