Gloria F. Ross – GFR Tapestry Center

The New York Times

June 23, 1998

Gloria F. Ross, 74, Tapestry Designer


A GFR Tapestry designed by Robert Motherwell, 1970

NEW YORK – Gloria F. Ross, a widely known tapestry maker who brought painters and weavers together to create contemporary wall hangings, died on Sunday at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan. She was 74 and lived in Manhattan. The cause was lung cancer, her son Clifford A. Ross said. Translating paint into wool, as she put it, Ms. Ross worked with Robert Motherwell, Louise Nevelson, Jean Dubuffet, Frank Stella, Jack Youngerman, Romare Bearden, and more than two dozen other artists to make tapestries of their paintings.

The actual weaving was done by professionals in Felletin, a small French town near Aubusson, and at the Dovecot Studios in Edinburgh, although Ms. Ross played a hands-on role in the process. During the 1980s, realizing that the chevrons and targets of Kenneth Noland’s paintings were a perfect match for the Navajo loom and color range, Ms. Ross developed a series designed by Noland and hand-woven by Navajo weavers in Arizona and New Mexico.

Her tapestries were collected by individuals, corporations, and museums. Work by Motherwell and Helen Frankenthaler rendered as tapestries, for example, hangs in the entrance to the Philadelphia Convention Center, and museums owning Ross tapestries include the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Textile Museum in Washington, and the Denver Art Museum. In 1997, although retired from professional work, Ms. Ross was active in the production of an ark curtain designed by Mark Podwol for Temple Emanu-El in New York. That year she also founded the Gloria F. Ross Center for Tapestry Studies in Tucson, Arizona, a nonprofit research institute and educational foundation. The center grew from her belief in tapestry as “a vital contemporary art form with rich historical connections,” said Dr. Ann Lane Hedlund, director of the Center. The center sponsors public lectures, workshops, research projects and exhibitions devoted to tapestries, from prehistory to the present.

During her travels in the Southwest, Ms. Ross collected Navajo rugs and other textiles of native design, which she donated to the Denver Art Museum. An exhibition of them organized by the museum and supported by the National Endowment for the Arts toured the country from 1992 to 1997, ending at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York.

Born in New York on Sept. 5, 1923, Ms. Ross was the daughter of Justice Alfred Frankenthaler of the New York State Supreme Court and Martha Lowenstein Frankenthaler. She graduated from Mount Holyoke College in 1943. Her first marriage, to Arthur Ross, ended in divorce in 1970. In 1975, she married Dr. John Bookman, a nutrition and diabetes specialist at Mount Sinai Medical Center. He died in 1988. Ms. Ross served on the Mount Holyoke College board of trustees from 1986 to 1991, and on the advisory board of the college’s art museum from 1975 on. Since 1991 she had been an active trustee of the Textile Museum.

Besides her son Clifford, she is survived by another son, Alfred F. Ross, of New York City; a daughter, Beverly Ross; two sisters, Marjorie Iseman and Helen Frankenthaler, the artist, both of New York; a stepdaughter, Ann Bookman of Brookline, Mass.; a stepson, Richard Bookman of Coral Gables, Fla.; two grandchildren; four step-grandchildren; and her companion, Henry Kohn, also of New York.


The Textile Museum Bulletin

Fall 1998

Gloria F. Ross 1923-1998

Textile Museum Trustee Gloria F. Ross, a widely known tapestry producer, brought painters and weavers together to create handsome hand-woven wall hangings now held in the collections of museums, corporations, and individuals around the world. Throughout her career, she worked to bring serious attention to tapestry as an art form and contributed substantially to the renewed interest in the tapestry medium, here and abroad.

Gloria Ross (l) and Navajo weaver Audrey Wilson (r), 1981

In her professional life, Gloria worked with weavers in France, Scotland, New York and elsewhere to “translate paint into wool.” She collaborated with many artists, including Robert Motherwell, Frank Stella, Louise Nevelson, Romare Bearden, and her sister Helen Frankenthaler. In 1979, Gloria began working with Navajo weavers to create tapestries based principally on the chevron and target designs of Kenneth Noland. At the same time, she began to collect contemporary work by Navajo weavers, a selection of which toured the country in the exhibition “Reflections of the Weaver’s World: The Gloria F. Ross Collection of Contemporary Navajo Weaving,” organized by the Denver Art Museum.

With the establishment of the Gloria F. Ross Center for Tapestry Studies in 1997, Gloria ensured that her passion for “true tapestry” from prehistory to the present would live on. The GFR Center, located in Tucson, Arizona, is directed by TM Advisory Council member Ann Lane Hedlund, and sponsors public lectures, research projects, workshops and exhibitions devoted to the understanding and appreciation of worldwide tapestry production.

As a Trustee of The Textile Museum, Gloria took particular interest in educational programming, especially programs for families and children. Always concerned with presenting programs of the highest quality, she was also a realist, encouraging the creative use of limited resources. Her guidance and unfailing support of the Museum made an indelible mark on our institution.


Textile Society of America Newsletter
Summer 1998

GLORIA F. ROSS (1923-1998)

A GFR Tapestry designed by Romare Bearden, 1976

The founder and namesake of the Gloria F. Ross Center for Tapestry Studies died in New York on June 21, 1998, following a three-year battle with lung cancer. A long-time TSA member and staunch supporter of the textile arts, Ross developed an innovative career as tapestry editeur [italics] beginning in the 1960s. She worked with many well-known painters who provided her with imagery to be translated into tapestry-woven wallhangings.

Among the several dozen artists whose designs became GFR Tapestries were Frank Stella, Kenneth Noland, Louise Nevelson, Robert Motherwell, Helen Frankenthaler, and Romare Bearden. Most of the weaving took place in Scotland, France and the United States. The resulting tapestries are now in museum, corporate and private collections worldwide.

In 1979, Ross began working with Navajo weavers to create tapestries based upon the bold geometric paintings of Kenneth Noland. This successful series also brought her into contact with the weavers’ own designs. The Navajo rugs purchased by Ross during her travels formed the basis of a traveling exhibition, “Reflections of the Weaver’s World: The Gloria F. Ross Collection of Contemporary Navajo Weaving,” organized by the Denver Art Museum.

Gloria Ross founded the Center for Tapestry Studies in 1997 as a non-profit research institute and educational foundation located at the University of Arizona in Tucson. TSA Board member Ann Lane Hedlund directs the Center’s activities, which include public lectures, research projects, workshops and exhibitions concerning tapestries from prehistory to the present. The Center’s mission supports Gloria Ross’s long-held belief that tapestry represents an important art form that deserves scholarly attention and public recognition. With her passing, the textile world has lost a great friend and professional contributor.

The translation process originally occurred in Ross’s own New York workshop, but rapidly came to involve studios in Scotland, France, the United States, and China. The role of editeur involved choosing the artist and image, determining the tapestry’s size and weight, selecting fibers, yarns and dyelots, supervising the weaving, and working with gallery representatives and collectors. Gloria F. Ross Tapestries can now be found in museum, corporate and private collections worldwide.





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