Bringing the Outside Inside: Professor Nancy Macko’s New Tapestry, Lola’s Garden, Comes to NEW Hall

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NEW Hall, Scripps’ newest residence hall, is home to 110 students and, now, a one-of-a-kind jacquard tapestry designed by Professor of Art Nancy Macko. Installed on a large, previously empty wall in the living room, the 6-by-12-foot tapestry is not only a beautiful addition to the building, but it also carries on the tradition of displaying tapestries and artwork by Scripps professors on campus.

Macko was inspired to create a tapestry for NEW Hall while touring the residence with its architect, Kaitlin Drisko, and Professor of Art History and Director of the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery Mary MacNaughton just after it was finished. The previous fall, Macko had taken a series of iPhone photographs of the newly planted garden in the median on Platt Boulevard, which borders the building. “It was sunny, four o’clock in the afternoon, and everything was sparkling,” she recalls. “I didn’t think anything of it—I just wanted to document it because it was so beautiful.” Later, upon learning that one of NEW Hall’s major donors was the Georgia B. Ridder Foundation, she had the idea to use the garden as the focus for an artwork in the space—Ridder was a great lover of gardens and endowed the furnishings in the NEW Hall living room. “The median is the garden right outside the building, so the tapestry brings the outside inside,” Macko says.

Professor Macko’s tapestry project,  Lola’s Garden, is named after Lola Trafecanty, Scripps’ own director of grounds, who initiated the plan to make the Platt Boulevard median a drought-tolerant garden in 2014. The design is based on one carefully selected photo that Macko meticulously enhanced to pull out the brightest colors. Macko’s artwork often involves photography and digital art, and she has drawn inspiration from honeybees and the gardens they inhabit for the past 20 years. This is the first time her work has been translated into a tapestry; she was inspired by an exhibition of photographs by the American artist Chuck Close, some reproduced in the form of fiber art, that she had seen in January 2017. “You can absolutely see the translation from pixel to thread,” Macko says. “You get crisp detail from a distance, but close up it looks like an impressionist painting.”

Magnolia Editions, the Oakland-based fine art print studio that created Close’s works, also had a hand in making Lola’s Garden. Over many months, Macko worked with their team to create a palette of colored threads customized to match the tones within her digital image. The studio then sent this information to a mill in Belgium that used innovative computerized jacquard looms to weave a traditional jacquard tapestry true to Macko’s vision. Jacquard weaving is a widely used method invented in early 19th century France that creates tightly woven, durable tapestries, which means Macko’s addition to NEW Hall will be available for the Scripps community’s enjoyment for many years to come.