Lou Cabeen: Charting the “Geography of Hope”

Lou Cabeen

Accomplished Seattle textile artist Lou Cabeen is a former professor at the University of Washington, so it’s no surprise that her artworks develop from a place of intellectual inquiry. Says Lou, “My work reflects my ongoing effort to discover what I know by bringing to my worktable my experience, my insight and my questions, trusting that meaning will emerge as I see surfaces, textures and imagery emerge.” In short, she makes art to help her understand a subject she doesn’t know.

Hailing from the relatively flat landscape of central Illinois, one subject unknown to her when she moved to the Puget Sound region was the imposing geography of mountains—Mt. Rainier in particular. She recalls the sense of awe she felt realizing that something so enormous and close on the horizon could actually appear and disappear from view. “It was terrifying,” she says.

As she came to know the region better, she was further fascinated by the mountain’s natural watershed system—another new subject to explore as a Midwesterner who was only familiar with watersheds in the man-made context of agricultural industry.

Lou Cabeen, Cedar River Watershed (detail). Silk organza and hand-stitching.

In our April exhibition, “Geography of Hope,” Lou Cabeen’s artist books and other textile works show us her path of contemplation and inquiry from the Pacific Northwest to Appalachia as she literally traced paths of watersheds and rivers with her stitches and collage, honoring both her gratitude for the natural order, and her grief for its degradation at the hands of human intervention.

While the work is painstaking, it is what keeps her grounded. “My hand-stitching is a physical act that slows me down and helps me make sense of that which I don’t understand.”

“Geography of Hope” will run from March 31 through April 23.

On Saturday, April 8, join Lou at BAC for a free gallery talk, which will include readings from her artist books, discussion and Q&A focusing on the creation of the works and the topical themes which inspired them.