Peruvian artist and poet Edwin Sulca, weaver of the tapestry that hangs in The Class of 1945 Library, passed away on May 15th from COVID-19 in Lima.
According to Dr. Gordon McCord ’98 who informed us of Sulca’s passing, Exeter was the place of the third-generation master weaver’s first US exhibit. Previously, Sulca had been exhibiting his work and poetry in both Peru and abroad. Sulca’s tapestries are made of sheep wool dyed using plants and insects and are in the “punto arwi” – a pre-Incan technique (Bio). The 1997 exhibit at Lamont Gallery titled Woven History: The Andean Tapestries of Edwin Sulca, “presented in gothic, ten-foot wide tapestries captured the strife felt by his country through its turbulent past and present” (Soland, Exonian, 8 June 1997).
In 1998 the senior class commissioned Sulca to create a tapestry as a senior class gift honoring three faculty members who had recently passed, Anja Greer (Mathematics), Bette Ogami-Sherwood (Theater), and Fred Termallao (English). Sulca in his own words describes the work and meaning behind the tapestry that now hangs in The Class of 1945 Library’s main floor:
“This tapestry is an homage to the virtue of the teachers who came through the classrooms of this academy, being guides for the children who come to study from all over the world and from all the races. These children take each other by the hand and come as cocoons to Phillips Exeter Academy, which was founded in 1781. After some years, they fly like butterflies into the world, and on that flight carry messages of peace and love that will flow like the notes in a song or the water from springs, giving prestige to their alma mater and its teachers who guided them on a good path at Phillips Exeter Academy.
During this year, 1998, three teachers left us – three teachers who radiated light within the academy and left in their footsteps a halo of teaching, virtues, knowledge, patience and hope. They left voices which will reach ears like the whispering of the spring rains, like the trills of the little birds that fly with messages of peace, love and faith like musical notes bursting forth as water does from a spring. Thus does knowledge flow from the teachers that work, sculpt, mold and every day satisfy the hunger for knowledge in their students as if they were their own children. On the path ahead of them, they will always find a teacher that sows the morning stars in the sky and the light of hope in the eyes of their people.” (Sulca, Voices of the Soul).
After his US debut at Exeter, Sulca went on to have a successful series of U.S. exhibits at Harvard University, Williams College, the Peabody Essex Museum, the South Dakota Museum of Art, and many other galleries and museums. In 2000, the Canadian film company Avanti Pictures produced a documentary about his life and work titled “The Voices of Ayacucho, Peru.” (Edwin Sulca, Curriculum Vitae).
McCord ’98 tells us “Edwin always held Exeter in a special place in his heart, and looked forward to the opportunity to visiting the campus once more. Alas, it never came to be.”
View and learn more about Sulca’s work here: