Cynthia Schira
Textile Artist

About the Artist


Cynthia Schira has been exhibiting internationally for over 40 years. Her work is represented in major public collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Smithsonian's Renwick Gallery of the National Museum of American Art and the Museum Bellerive in Zurich. She is the recipient of two NEA grants, a Tiffany Grant and an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from the Rhode Island School of Design. In 2000 she was awarded a Gold Medal from the College of Fellows of the American Craft Council.


Errant Line (2013)
In 2013 the Spencer Art Museum commissioned Ann Hamilton and me to create a site-specific installation within the museum. We were asked to consider the museum’s permanent collections in such a way that new ideas might enter our individual practices during our collaboration. The project, which developed over two years, was an evolving conversation between two artists, two generations, the fine arts and crafts, teacher and former student. Ideas were floated, rejected and developed during our many site visits as well as by email, Skype and phone.

The images in this portfolio are not individually captioned. The hope is that together they might convey a feeling for the entire installation. There is a book published by the University of Kansas titled An Errant Line: Ann Hamilton & Cynthia Schira. It contains many process and installation photos as well as an extended interview of both of us by Joan Simon. It is edited by Susan Earle as well as containing her essay.

Codes and Ciphers (2007-2009)
Often the terms 'code' and 'cipher' are used interchangeably. Within technical discussions, however, they are two different concepts. Codes work at the level of meaning - words or phrases are converted into something other. The rules for this exchange are usually contained within a codebook. Ciphers work at the level of individual letters or small groups of letters, even individual bits. They use an algorithm as the KEY for performing the encryption and decryption. In these works I focused on the multiple and enticing methods of encryption rather than the content of what was being encrypted. I continue to emphasize the visual and physical rather than the conceptual as I aim for a provocative result.

Ciphers (2006-2007)
The word CIPHER in former times meant the numeral zero, that circular symbol for nothing. It now more often refers to cryptography, a method of transposing or substituting letters or specially formed symbols to form a code, a secret method of communication. This presupposes that there is something to conceal rather than the insubstantiality of nothing. The possible duality or lack of duality of the two definitions interest me and extend some of the ideas I was working with in my previous series. I want the works to be provocative, yet ambivalent, emphasizing the visual and the physical rather than the conceptual.

Notations (2005-2006)
The visual notational methods or systems specific to different professions fascinate me. The staff of written music; the graph markings of the weaver; the layout of an architect; the equations of a mathematician - all are meaningful to the practitioners within the particular field but often are an indecipherable code to others. I am also intrigued by how these marks change and evolve over time, so although their usage remains the same, their appearance historically differs. In combining and juxtaposing parts of these various systems, new patterns and forms develop, provoking in my mind new allusions to follow. The complexity of the graphic relationships, these allusions along with the morphing of the marks by their translation into woven structures, continue to involve me.

Intersecting Traditions (1998-2005)
This work continues the theme of a previous series which focused on visually relating traditional textile design motifs with fine art drawings. It continues to juxtapose visual fragments but they now reference an expanded range of traditions that I have experienced. Additionally, unreadable computer gibberish has been integrated into many works to symbolize the continuum of the meaningless chatter of our modern world. I weave the images together physically as well as visually.