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Re-creating the “Path of Colors”

“I wasn’t sure if it would happen.” That’s how artist Jackie Ferrara describes the collaboration between herself and Jan Towsley, a weaver and textile designer from the Rochester, NY area. Ferrara designed Marking Crossways, the serpentine red and orange brick walkway that connects the front entrance of the Memorial Art Gallery to the plaza space at the corner of University Avenue and Goodman Street. Portions of the pathway feature patterns using red and dark brick that spells out “Memorial Art Gallery” and “University of Rochester” in Morse Code.

Jackie Ferrara's Morse Code

Jackie Ferrara’s Morse Code

The Morse Code, a subtle but very unique aspect of the design (see above lower right), was specifically chosen by Ferrara to be incorporated into the walkway. She had used Morse Code in a previous installation at Tuft’s University to honor a student who had committed suicide. Jackie felt that using the code was a way to memorialize the student without actually using his name – a way to create an abstract design that literally had meaning behind it.

When Towsley received the designs of the walkway from Ferrara, she recognized that incorporating the code details would be a difficult task. “The Morse Code had to be specifically placed” stated Towsley when I visited her studio during First Friday in Rochester. “If the code was not properly placed, the translation would be incorrect.” Towsley used a printed “cartoon” of the walkway design and then pinned the cartoon to the warp on her loom in order to guide her weaving to create of the one-of-a-kind scarves.

Jackie Ferrara cameo
Jackie Ferrara cameo

Another challenge Towsley faced was how to translate the mosaic squares or cameos that Ferrara designed in the MAG’s walkway into a textile design for the scarf. She decided to hand bead each one. Towsley was concerned that this might be difficult as she had no official training in beading. Each minutely detailed square took a minimum of two hours to complete.

Jan Towsley beaded detail

Jan Towsley beaded detail

A project that was proposed in the spring of 2013 has now come full circle. A total of 10 beautifully unique scarves are woven and detailed and for sale in the Memorial Art Gallery’s Store as well as online. Click here.

spice scarf

Spice Scarf by Jan Towsley


Jackie Ferrara has designed and built courtyards, terraces, and architectural structures since the early 1970s. Ferrara is one of several artists who emerged during the seventies by using the forms and materials usually associated with architecture in order to enrich the definition of sculpture and challenge the assumptions and conventions of the typical built environment. Ferrara’s complexly patterned paved areas, based on a grid system, transform bland outdoor plazas or indoor lobbies into animated spaces which help to enliven or accentuate their architectural context.”-via the Stuart Collection at UC San Diego. Watch a video on the creative process at MAG.

Jan Towsley has been working in weaving and textile design in the Rochester area for over 40 years. She earned a degree in weaving and textile design from the Rochester Institute of Technology in 1970. Towsley has been working at her studio in the Anderson Art Building next to Village Gate since 1990.

Submitted by Gallery Store and marketing intern Jaclyn Bergin.

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