Women Artists

Between Fiber and Color: The Art of Sheila Hicks

Natalia Tiberio 21 November 2022 min Read

Celebrated as one of the biggest names in textile art, Sheila Hicks has a long history of studying ancient techniques and cultures. She has traveled through the continents researching and developing her craft which expands from weaving and sculpture to installations and much, much more.

Sheila Hicks (b. 1934) began her career as an art student at the Yale School of Art in the 1950s. There she had classes with ex-Bauhaus teacher Josef Albers, who trained her on the use and impact of color, and with George Kubler, an influential scholar whose studies about pre-Columbian art nurtured her interest in ancient cultures. 

When she started to explore textiles, Hicks met Anni Albers (Josef’s wife), a weaver who had worked in the leading textile laboratory at the Bauhaus. Anni Albers played an important role in the artist’s training, showing her different possibilities not only on the weaving loom but also with fibers and other materials.

Exhibition view of Sheila Hicks: Off Grid at The Hepworth Wakefield, 2022.

Exhibition view of Sheila Hicks: Off Grid at The Hepworth Wakefield, Wakefield, UK, 2022. Photograph by Tom Bird.

Following a one-year scholarship in Chile in 1958 to study pre-Columbian textiles, Hicks moved to Mexico where she stayed for five years. During this time she taught at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and collaborated on interior design for leading architects. In 1964, the artist moved to Paris, where she still lives and works.


Weaving Art 

Throughout her career, Sheila Hicks has played with the boundaries of what textile art can be. She has created small to large-scale sculptures, tapestries, and installations while at the same time interacting with architecture, decoration, and even spiritual practices. Her mastery of color plays a big part in the works, creating a multi-sensorial experience. Hick’s creations are an invitation to the touch of fibers, to feel the different textures, and to notice the intensity of hues.


Pilar of Inquiry

In this large-scale installation, we see long multicolored ropes coming from the ceiling. It interacts with the space’s architecture and plays with structure and balance. Here the soft knotted cords appear rigid and static.


The Minimes

As the artist likes to say, she’s always working, even when there’s no commission or exhibition in sight. So, what she calls Minimes has been a practice throughout her life. They are small pieces that she usually produces on portable weaving looms, experimenting with materials and ideas. It works like a diary or a book of sketches.


2017 Venice Biennale

Of all the important exhibitions Sheila Hicks took part in, one of the most memorable is the 2017 Venice Biennale. In the Arsenale, she showed Escalade Beyond Chromatic Lands, an enormous installation that consisted of a wall of big balls of fluffy fabric in different colors, from ceiling to floor. It was so fun and inviting, that the organization had to kindly ask people not to jump on it and take a nap.


Since the beginning of her career, Hicks has been exhibited extensively all over the world. From the São Paulo Biennial to the Triennial of Fiber Arts in China. Her work has also had retrospectives at the Center Pompidou in Paris, and most recently at the Hepworth Wakefield in Wakefield, UK.


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