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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Alum’s Work Puzzles Generations of Carls

<me find it beautiful, some find it less-than-beautiful, and many have stopped noticing it or forgotten that it exists.

Regardless of our personal opinions, few of the hundreds of students who pass it each day have any idea of the significance the giant tapestry that encompasses the wall shared by the third and fourth floors of the library.

This woven work of art was crafted by a Carleton alum, Signe Midelfart Ortiz. The massive tapestry took Ortiz two years to complete using wools and linens from around the world.

After studying painting at Carleton in the early 1930s, Ortiz attended several different art schools including the Art Student League in New York City and the Art Institute of Chicago. She later became interested in the art of weaving, which she went on to study at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan. As she began to master her new art, Ortiz took up a position teaching weaving at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and received several offers to create woven works for public spaces.

At the age of 72, after attending her 50th class reunion, Ortiz was inspired by her alma mater’s grandiose new library to create a work specifically to decorate its interior.

Carleton offered her the commission shortly thereafter. She immediately began work on the 21-by-18 foot woven masterpiece, which she envisioned as “a growing tree,” that represents the “growth of the intellect or the growth of the human being.”

Ortiz passed away in 2004.

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