Monday, December 23, 2013

Fantasy Christmas Present III

Edward Savage (1761–1817 ,US), Ebenezer Seaver, 1795–1800. Watercolor on ivory in gilt copper locket, 5.1 x 4 cm (2 x 1 1/2”). © Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, MA. (WAM-184) Ebeneze Seaver (1763-1844), born in Roxbury, Mass., was a US representative from Massachusetts (1803-1813). He was also a state representative 1822, 1823, and 1826.

I love miniatures from early American art! I dearly want a miniature of myself hanging from my loved one’s keychain as a Christmas present!  However, miniature artists are few and far between these days. I’ve already written about miniatures in this blog, so let’s concentrate on Edward Savage. He is a fascinating example of an artist who made a living in the early years of the republic, relying on good old American determination.

Savage was born in Princeton, MA and initially worked as a goldsmith and engraver. In 1790 he traveled to London, briefly studying under ex-patriate American artist Benjamin West (1738–1820). He also traveled to Italy to check out great masterpieces of art from the Renaissance and Baroque. When one compares his family portrait (pre-Europe trip) to his portrait of the Washington family, one can see his progress. However, like most self-trained artists of the early American period, he reveals a lack of solid understanding of anatomy. That notwithstanding, his ability to imitate the effects of materials in his paintings is remarkable. His portrait of the Washington family, initially in mezzotint form, was immensely popular, posted in buildings all over the new United States.  

Edward Savage, The Savage Family, ca. 1779. Oil on canvas, 66 x 88 cm (26 x 34 5/8”).
The Savage Family is, by far, my favorite work by Savage. I love the way he lined the family up in order of height! It’s an early work (he was 18), and the comparison with this family portrait and the miniature are indicative of his progress as a self-trained artist.

Edward Savage, The Washington Family, 1789–1796. Oil on canvas, 213.6 x 284.2 cm (7’ x 9’ 4 1/2").  © National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. (NGA-P0752)

The Washington Family is a much more accomplished work of perhaps fifteen years later, after the Revolution. The family posed for Savage in New York in the winter of 1789–1790. At the time New York was the US capital. He initially produced prints of the portraits, and eventually finished a large version in oil in 1796 after he returned from Europe.

Correlations to Davis programs: Explorations in Art Grade 1: 2.7, 2.8; Explorations in Art Grade 3: 1.2; Explorations in Art Grade 4: 2.7; Explorations in Art Grade 6: 1.1, 1.2, 6.31; A Community Connection: 2.3; A Personal Journey: 6.4; Discovering Drawing: 7

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Fantasy Christmas Present II

Steven Ford and David Forlano (both born 1964, US), PillowCollar Necklace X, 2009.

Although I don’t wear a lot of jewelry other than my wedding ring, I’ve always been fascinated with jewelry design. I’m pretty sure that jewelry was one of the few art forms that did not succumb to mass-production during the industrial revolution, unless one is talking about costume jewelry. I’ve known countless jewelry artists and each one has given me a greater and greater appreciation of the art form, especially those who make the elements of their pieces (be it ceramic, glass, metal, etc.) themselves. I have a friend who makes gorgeous jewelry that features glass beads she makes by hand. Each of her pieces is unique as the result of her working the glass. For unique elements of a piece of jewelry, Ford’s and Forlano’s works are certainly standouts!

While many artists in the past have risen to prominence as jewelry artists, such as René Lalique, Louis Comfort Tiffany, and Henry van de Velde, these artists mainly designed jewelry that was then hand made in their studios / workshops. Tiffany had a particularly big enterprise for jewelry production. Steven Ford and David Forlano emphasize one-of-a-kind, hand made jewelry that is a total collaboration.

The two artists met while they were painting students in Italy. Forlano’s abstract paintings emphasized surface build up while Ford concentrated on making paintings that had three-dimensional impact. They began designing jewelry as a collaboration in 1988. One can certainly see their backgrounds as painters in their work.

Detail of PillowCollar Necklace X

They work in the relatively new medium of polymer clay, which is not actually real clay, but consists of polyvinyl chloride. It has many benefits, such as a low firing temperature that does not require a traditional kiln and a variety of colors that can be blended like paint, It can also be sliced and woven together, and it does not shrink when dry like real clay. Ford and Forlano have exploited the medium to brilliant effect. This necklace shows their recent work that emphasizes forms that could be found in nature such as shells, seeds, and flower buds (which are certainly evident in this necklace). In their work, even in the case of earrings, they try to make each element distinct from the rest, while keeping an overall sense of unity with size and color.

View a gallery of their recent work:

Studio activity (A Community Connection): Make a piece of jewelry that suggests natural forms. Use inexpensive materials such as clay, wood pieces, leather scraps, heavy paper, or wire. Experiment with ways to connect the materials, e.g. to make coils with wire wrap around a pencil or stick and then gently slip it off; to make loops, wrap wire in figure eights between nails on a board. Try to think how to express your own personality with shapes that echo nature.

Correlations to Davis programs: Explorations in Art Grade 2: 2.11; Explorations in Art Grade 6: 5.29; The Visual Experience: 10.7; A Personal Journey: Chapter 7 Connections; A Community Connection: 5.2

Monday, December 9, 2013

Fantasy Christmas Present I

Paul Revere Pottery Company (and “A.M.” maker, firm 1909–1942, Boston), Vase, ca. 1910. Incised, painted, and glazed earthenware; height: 14 cm (5 1/2”). Private Collection. Photo © Davis Publications. (8S-7980)

Since I am not expecting to see a new car with a red bow on top of it for a Christmas present, I thought I would use the month of December to present gifts that I would absolutely LOVE to get (but never will). Of course they come along with full information about the artists’ interesting backgrounds. You all know my love of the genre called “American art pottery.” The Paul Revere Pottery Company is a particularly interesting example of how Americans have supported the arts. I present my first Fantasy Christmas Present.

Yes, I would love a vase like this!

I am particularly fond of Paul Revere Pottery, because the history of the company is a tribute to working women. I have maintained that women have always played a major role in American society, especially the arts. Paul Revere Pottery was founded by two women—Edith Guerrire and Edith Brown—who were concerned about the lives of immigrant women in he north end of Boston, mostly Italian and Jewish immigrants around the turn of the 20th century. These forward-thinking women had gone to Europe and seen art ceramics (in the Art Nouveau style), and conceived a plan to help make young immigrant women productive members of American society. Their goal was to educate young women in how to get jobs and be independent.

Guerriere founded the Saturday Evening Girls Club to reinforce the view that women could be a valuable part of the American work force. Paul Revere Pottery evolved from this institution. The Storrow family, who had also established settlement houses for immigrant women, supported it. The pottery project was an effort to keep the young immigrant women off of the streets. It was established in the north end of Boston in 1909, after Brown and Guerriere had been experimenting with ceramics.

What makes the story of Paul Revere Pottery interesting is the dignity with which the young women were treated who produced the pottery. Unlike the sweatshops of the time, the workshops of Paul Revere Pottery were well lit and well ventilated. The rooms always had fresh flowers and the workers were read to from Dickens, Shakespeare, and other great authors. The young women’s working day never exceeded eight hours, as opposed to the norm of the time of 10 to 12 hours. The workers got a half-day off on Saturdays and a two-week paid vacation! How’s that for fairness compared to a contemporary Congress that won’t even raise the minimum wage!

Paul Revere Pottery closed for good in 1942. But it stands as a lasting example that no matter what the time period, there are people who think about bettering the lives of others. I think one thing that gets lost in current political debate is the on-going discrimination against people who are considered “others.” Paul Revere Pottery made an effort to change that mentality at the beginning of the 1900s!

Paul Revere Pottery Company (firm 1906–1942 Boston), Cup (“It is the Habit of Young Rabbit to Go to School”), 1917. Glazed earthenware, height: 9.2 cm (3 5/8”). © Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY. (BMA-2557)
Paul Revere Pottery Company (firm 1906–1942 Boston), Plate, 1910. Painted and crackled glazed earthenware, width: 20 cm (7 7/8”). © Newark Museum. (8S-7979)
Studio activity: Create a clay container that can be used in daily life. Determine what uses the container will have. Use neat, even coils to build the container. Either smooth the coils of the vessel together or embellish it with incised, applied, or found object additions.

Correlations to Davis programs:  Explorations in Art Grade 2: studio 17-18, Explorations in Art Grade 3: 6.35, Explorations in Art Grade 4: studio 23-24, Explorations in Art Grade 5: studio 29-30, 6 4.22, Explorations in Art Grade 6: studio 21-22, A Community Connection: 2.6

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Gettysburg Address and Art of Wartime

Isaac Dreyfus and Sons (printing firm, founded 1813, Basel, Switzerland), design by S. Chèvre (dates unknown), A. Lincoln, 1861. Lithograph(?) on silk ribbon, 21.6 x 12.4 cm (8 1/2 x 4 7/8”). © Library Company of Philadelphia. (LCP-65)
Last week was the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, a ten-sentence ode to the fallen of the Battle of Gettysburg, 1863, of the Civil War (1861–1865). The death toll was over 51,000, a staggering number. President Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865) wrote a speech that still rings true in times of war. His noble wish for reconciliation in the midst of awful bloodshed caused me to muse on art that reflects times of war. All too often, however, it does not reflect Lincoln’s desire for peace. I always remember Yoda’s statement to Luke Skywalker after he had said his father was a great warrior, “Being a warrior does not make one great.”

This is a ribbon meant to commemorate Lincoln’s inauguration in 1861. It’s not a flattering likeness, though, goodness knows, what Lincoln was facing would age any person. It is most likely a print copied from one of the many photographic portraits taken of Lincoln by Mathew Brady (1822–1896). In the day with no electronic media, such ribbons also served as campaign propaganda, along with copper tokens bearing a candidate’s likeness, trade cards, and even small effigies of candidates such as puppets and wooden figures. This inauguration image sadly reminds us of the horror the US was about to face in the Civil War.

Ancient Meroë (flourished ca. 700 bce–300 ce), Prince Arikankharer Slaying Enemies, 25–41 ce. Sandstone, 21.4 x 25.4 x 4.9 cm (8 7/16” x 10” x 1 15/16”). © Worcester Art Museum. (WAM-424)
The kingdom of ancient Meroë (southern Nubia, contemporary Sudan) co-existed with ancient Egypt on the southern end of the Nile, and adopted many of their artistic conventions. One such convention, unfortunately, was lauding a ruler as a great military leader in sclupture. Although this prince died young, he is depicted as a zealous defender of his kingdom.

Ancient Rome, Trajan Addressing His Troops, from the Column of Trajan, Rome, ca 112 ce. Marble. © Davis Publications. (8S-4763)
This monument was dedicated to the Roman emperor Trajan (ruled 98–117 ce) and his military campaigns against the “barbarians” along the Danube River (Austria) ca. 102–107 ce. Apparently crushing the native people of Germany, Switzerland, and France was not enough for the Romans. They conquered any culture they thought would be a threat. This column celebrates Trajan’s victory over the Dacians (Austrians) thus (supposedly) lending stability to the Empire. Roman art sought to not only honor ancestors, but also their deeds. Depictions of the deeds of emperors were spread throughout the Empire in the form of public sculpture.

Maya, Cup depicting victorious warriors (members of the Jaguar Guild), ca. 550–950 ce. Painted ceramic, 15.9 x 13.7 x 13.7 cm (6 1/4” x 5 3/8” x 5 3/8”). © Brooklyn Museum. (BMA-1750)

The Maya dominated Central America from Mexico through Guatemala and Honduras. Their culture flourished between 800 bce and roughly 1100 ce. It was unfortunately a society steeped in martial ritual, as many ancient cultures were. The Jaguar Guild was an elite warrior society that is represented here, on a ceremonial cup, as well as in temples and tombs. They wear animal headdresses and the jaguar symbol is belted around their waists.

What war isn’t stupid? This sculpture commemorates an event during the Hundred Years War (begun by the British in 1337) when the English besieged Calais and asked for the six most prominent citizens as sign of surrender. Rodin’s expressionistic depiction of this grim event in French history was influential on modernism in art of the early 1900s.

Diego Rivera (1886–1957, Mexico), Agrarian Leader Zapata, 1931. Fresco, 238.1 x 188 cm (93 3/4” x 74”). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. © 2013 Diego Rivera / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. (MOMA-P0747riars)
Rivera was a leader in the revival of frescoes and wall paintings. He did so in commemoration of the Mexican Revolution (1910). Through his murals, Rivera sought to elevate the Mexican people’s self image as divorced from Spanish conquest. This fresco depicts a famous Mexican revolutionary who was fighting for the rights of poor farmers during the Revolution.

Gino Severini (1883–1956, Italy), Armored Train in Action, 1915. Oil on canvas, 117 x 88 cm (46.1” x 34 5/8”). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. © 2013 Gino Severini / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. (MOMA-P2224svars)
Futurism was an offshoot of Cubism. It emphasized movement and the mechanized age. This work paints a pretty picture of an otherwise grisly phenomenon on World War I (1914–1918). It aptly blends the Cubist emphasis of time elapsed action with the brilliant color associated with Post-Impressionism.

An-My Lê (born 1960, Vietnam), 25 Palms: Infantry Platoon, from the book “Small Wars,” 2003–2004. Gelatin silver print, 67.3 x 96.7 cm (26 1/2” x 38”). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. © 2013 An-My Lê. (MOMA-P4235)
Lê was a migrant to the US after the fall of Saigon in 1975. She has since used photography to explore the ironies of war and the cost on human lives. This series of photographs documents the training of US soldiers for the war in Iraq. The desolate landscape enhances the idea that war is a waste.

Monday, November 18, 2013

An Ode to “Swiss”

I just returned from a week in Switzerland to visit family. Walking through their churches—stripped of all sculpture, painting, and Biblical stained glass because of the Reformation’s frowning on “idolatry”—I mused that few people realize that the “Renaissance” happened in countries other than Italy, France, Spain, Germany, and Flanders. Also, I think most people do not realize how much Swiss artists have been an intricate part of art history right up to the present day.

As part of the stylistic term “Northern Renaissance,” the Swiss version was a very short-lived period. It was fueled by the wealth of booty taken from the Flemish ruler Duke Charles the Bold (died 1477), who tried to establish a Flemish kingdom from Flanders through Alsace to Italy through Switzerland, but the Swiss defeated him in Murten (Morat) and then Nancy. The brief explosion of money available for art commissions was extinguished in the Protestant Reformation that evolved in Switzerland around 1523–1525. Most artists assisted in the destruction of their own artworks that depicted Biblical scenes.

Bern was an active center of painting and also stained glass works. Most painters supplemented their incomes by doing stained glass. Many Swiss artists of the period naturally visited Rome and other Italian centers of art to learn the latest style.  After the Reformation, allegorical, classical and mythological scenes were popular, as was, particularly, the celebration of lineage through windows donated to churches by wealthy families. This window, dedicated to a wealthy burger of Bern, displays the peculiar influences that dominated Swiss art through the 1600s: a combination of the Danube School and Italian Renaissance classical motifs.

Here are some other Swiss artists you may not know:

Jost Amman (1539–1591), Head of a Bearded Man, 1572. Ink and white wash on blue prepared paper, 15.6 x 11.5 cm (6 1/8” x 4 1/2”). © National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. (NGA-P1034)
Amman, born in Zürich, was a prolific draughtsperson and printmaker. Unlike Gössler, he reflects more of the Danube School (German) influence in late Renaissance art, and he carries on the tradition of the great German Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528). His work is quite similar to the German artist Albrecht Altdorfer (1480–1538). Works such as this allude to the Swiss penchant for mercenary military service.

Jean-Étienne Liotard (1702–1789), Portrait of François Tronchin, 1757. Pastel on parchment, 38 x 46.3 cm (15” x 18 1/4”). © Cleveland Museum of Art. (CL-45)
Although Liotard, a Genevois, studied and worked in Paris, he produced most of his portraits of the influential people of Geneva. Tronchin was a lawyer, writer, and art collector in Geneva. Liotard ably incorporates the 1700s Rococo style. While stressing a reserved elegance, Liotard endows the portrait with a dignity that alludes to his scholarly accomplishments. His beautiful pastel portraits measure up to the ablest French Rococo portraitists.

Angelica Kauffmann (1741–1807), Portrait of Helena Mecinska, 1790s. Oil on canvas. Private Collection, Photo © Davis Art Images. (8S-6487)
Born in Chur in Graubünden, like most women artists of her time, Kauffmann was trained by her artist father. She moved to Rome where her portraits became fashionable among English visitors. She subsequently moved to England for several years. Returning to Italy, she married a Venetian artist, and was buried in Rome with great pomp. Her portraits reflect the Neoclassicism of late 1700s and early 1800s painting. This portrait of a noble Polish woman in Rome is very similar to those of another prominent woman artist of the period, the French Marie Louise Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun (1755–1842).

Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen (1859–1923), Poster for Compagnie Française des Chocolats and des Thés, 1895. Color lithograph on paper, 30.7 x 23.2 cm (12 1/16” x 9 1/8”). © Cleveland Museum of Art. (CL-951)
Starting in the late 1800s, Switzerland became a major influence in graphic design, particularly in poster art. Born in Lausanne, like many Swiss artists of the period, Steinlen migrated to Paris. His lithographs betray the influence of the French Post Impressionists, particularly the group called the Nabi, who reduced compositions to colored shapes and areas of contrasting patterns. Although he began as a painter, his major influence is in poster design.

Meret Oppenheim (1913–1985), Object, 1936. Fur-covered cup, saucer and spoon, saucer width: 23.7 cm (9 5/16”). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. © 2013 Estate of Meret Oppenheim / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. (MOMA-S0108opars)
Born in Germany of a Swiss mother from Delémont, Oppenheim first exhibited the fur tea cup in Switzerland in 1936. She studied in Paris under such avant-garde surrealists as Jean Arp (1886–1966, born France), Alberto Giacometti (1901–1966, Switzerland), and André Breton (1896-1966, France). She exhibited in Surrealist exhibitions until 1960. Object takes an everyday piece and subjects it to the subconscious combination of irrational elements (such as the Chinese gazelle fur on a tea cup).

Paul Klee (1879–1940), Young Moe, 1938. Gouache on newspaper mounted on burlap, 53.0 x 70.8 cm (20 7/8” x 27 7/8”). The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC. © 2013 Estate of Paul Klee / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. (PC-197klars)
Although associated with Germany because of his tenure at the Bauhaus, Klee was born and died in the Canton of Bern. He was a friend of my grandfather’s sister Helena. His personal form of fantasy had connections to Surrealism, but also the fragmentation of Cubism. This work combines both strains of early modernism.

Le Corbusier (Charles Édouard Jeanneret, 1887–1965), Notre-Dame-du-Haut, 1950–1954, Near Ronchamps, France. Photo © 2013 Davis Art Images. (8S-15093)
Born in La Chaux de Fonds, Le Corbusier became a French citizen in 1930. He is one of the pioneers of the International Style in architecture, in both the organic and geometric strains. This pilgrimage chapel is a perfect example of the organic strain emphasis on groupings of masses as opposed to strict geometry. Both strains avoid any undue surface ornament or allusions to classical architecture.

Silvia Bächli (born 1956), Lines 39, 2007. Ink on paper, 198.8 x 149.9 cm (78 1/4” x 59”). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. © 2013 Silvia Bächli. (MOMA-P4358)
Basel-based artist Silvia Bächli is famous for her sparse, intricate drawings. Her work documents detailed aspects of the physical world. She believes that the drawing exists beyond the edge of the paper, so that her works take on the nature of close-up objects. Lines 39 could represent the weave of a textile, or merely Bächli’s interpretation of that. She currently is also working with photography.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Impressionist Sculpture?

Medardo Rosso (1858-1928 Italy)   Ecce Puer (Behold the Boy), 1906-1907, wax over plaster, 40.3 x 24.1 x 17.1 cm (15 7/8 x 9 1/2 x 6 3/4")   © Philadelphia Museum of Art

Ever think “sculpture” when you think “Impressionism”?   Sculpture gets a bad representation in art history books during the 1800s, unless you want to look at endless (yawn) “classically” inspired works of art. It wasn’t just the US that was obsesssed with classicism when it came to sculpture in the 1800s. That’s why the works of Rodin stand out so much in that century. However, Rodin’s sculpture was strongly influenced by “classical” sculpture, and that’s why I prefer the work of his student, Medardo Rosso, though, goodness knows, Rodin was on a path to modernism with his works!

Well, the popular perception in Western art history is that the sculpture of Rodin was the springboard to modernism in 1900s sculpture. Granted, Rodin’s idea of capturing fleeting moments in sculpture, including copying ancient Greek and Roman sculpture with missing heads and arms was evocative of “the moment,”  I think Medardo Rosso by far got a grip on the Impressionist idea of the stolen moment that would never be repeated. There’s far too much classical (Western) reference in Rodin’s sculpture for him to be (for me) the epitome of the modern aesthetic, although, I must admit to liking Rodin’s flying figure.

Rosso originally studied to be a painter until about 1880. He lived in Paris after 1883 for two years where he was exposed to the sculpture of Rodin while studying under the romantic-realist sculptor Aimé-Jules Dalou (1883-1902), who despised the academic (Neoclassical) style of sculpture. Rosso was impressed with Rodin’s emphasis on mottled surfaces that reflected light in ways that made the sculpture seem to visually vibrate. Instead, however, of contemplating subjects with grandiose allusions to antiquity, history, religion or emotion as Rodin did, Rosso tackled subjects from every day life.

Rosso did several versions of young children he saw on the streets of Paris. After 1889 Rosso spent mostof his active career in France, and his sculpture subsequently became more associated with French, rather than Italian art. The many-textured, suggestive surface of this work, reflects Rosso’s perception that “Nothing is material in space.”  His favorite medium was wax, which allowed him to create surfaces that immitated the soft nuances of light of Impressionist painting. His ability to capture an intimate moment, as Impressionism did in painting, was a great influence on sculpture in the early modern period of the 1900s.

Other works by Rosso:

Another artist whose sculpture expressed an Impressionist aesthetic, Edgar Degas.

Edgar Degas (1834-1917, France) Woman Rubbing Her Back, ca, 1900, cast after 1922, bronze, height: 46 cm (18 1/8”) © Philadelphia Museum of Art  (PMA-1537)

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938 Germany)   Head of a Woman, 1913, painted oak, 50.8 x 32.7 x 31.3 cm ( 20 x 12 7/8 x 12 3/8”)   National Gallery of Art, Washington (NGA-S0086)  

German Expressionist sculpture explored the mottled surface much like Impressionist sculptors. However, it was more associated with the interest in the active surfaces of Medieval German sculpture than with an interest in the transient effects of light. 

Correlations to Davis programs:  Explorations in Art 3 1.3-4 studio; Explorations in Art 5 1.1-2 studio; Explorations in Art 6 1.4

Monday, October 21, 2013


Kuna People, San Blas Islands. Mola. 1960 / 1969. appliqué and reverse appliqué in cotton plain weaves, some printed; embroidered with cotton in buttonhole, chain, running and satin stitches. 43.2 x 49.5 cm (17 x 19 1/2”)  © Art Institute of Chicago (AIC-402)

Many years ago I was fortunate enought to go to an exhibit of Kuna Mola textile art in Chicago. It actually blew my mind, because it is very complex. And yet, it is the common textile art form of the Kuna, and has become world-famous. Textile arts have always been a special interest of mine, and I love finding out as much as I can about them. Well, this was my “epiphany of the week” for my co-workers when I added it to our collection. It’s so beautiful I had to share it with you!

The Kuna culture was primarily in Colombia until the Spanish invaded in the early 1600s. Fleeing the Spanish, they migrated to Panama, eventually to the San Blas region, particularly on the small islands off the coast. Mola cloth was a traditional part of Kuna culture, and the Kuna staged a rebellion in 1925 with the newly independent Panamanian government tried to enfore “national culture” on them and discourage the production of Mola. By 1945 the Kuna had established a semi-autonomous reservation in the San Blas region. Mola textiles contiue to be a source of national identity for the Kuna.

Mola cloth is used in a variety of forms, including dresses, shirts, pillow covers, and carrying bags. The technique is incredibly complex. Normally, as many as two to seven different layers of differently-colored cotton cloth are basted together. Each design (meaning, each individual line, is cut from one layer of color, folded under, and sewn to the lower layers. This painstaking work is usually done with hand stitching, though in the late 1900s, artists used sewing machines to apply the finished textile to a background support, usually plain weave cotton.
This particular piece uses some printed textiles as layers. Chain, running and satin stitches are the kind we see in embroidery. Mola tends to be a comination of embroidery and appliqué. Traditional designs tended to be geometric, while modern designs reflect not only native cultural influences but also contemporary society. This piece seems more traditional.

A Kuna blouse from the 1970s with Mola panel attached. Private Collection, Davis Art Images (29267)

Fon People, Benin, Appliqué cloth, 1970s Private Collection, Davis Art Images (10666) While the technique is different in pure appliqué, where cut out pieces of cloth are sewn onto a ground, the forms remind me very much of what is seen in Mola pieces.

Correlations to Davis programs: Explorations in Art 4 5.25-26 studio

Activity: Show this image to students and see if they can identify how many layers of colored / printed cloth comprise this textile.