Art Matters: ‘Fields of Transformation’ by Claudy Jongstra

A monumental textile mural in the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center symbolizes knowledge evolving into wisdom.

An image of the Moelis Reading Room, where students study at long tables. In the background, a textile mural is shown.
The Moelis Grand Reading Room, where students study near “Fields of Transformation.”

Claudy Jongstra (B. 1963)
“Fields of Transformation” 2017
Wool and silk mural
Location: Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center, 3420 Walnut St., First Floor, Moelis Grand Reading Room

Fields of Transformation” is an abstract felted mural described by the artist as a visual representation of knowledge evolving into wisdom as it moves from the head to the heart. To realize this vision, Claudy Jongstra, a textile artist from the Netherlands, used more than 10,000 silk stitches and hand-spun wool from Drenthe Heath sheep, a breed native to Northern Europe.

The work utilizes the wool’s natural range of grey and cream, along with plant dyes created from indigo, woad plant, and golden onion skin. Jongstra’s team felted the dyed wool and alpaca fibers outside her Dutch farmhouse, later assembling the piece with silk whipstitching on site in Van Pelt, says Sarah Reidell, the Margy E. Meyerson Head of Conservation. “Fields of Transformation” encompasses three panels designed specifically for the Moelis Grand Reading Room and is so large that Jongstra never saw it hanging in the Netherlands because her studio could not find a space large enough.

“We always make a work for the place, for the location, for the building,” said Jongstra in a 2021 artist talk. “It’s not a work in a stock list. It’s meant to be really connecting to the building.”

Art Matters” is a series in Penn Today highlighting the many works of fine art on and around Penn’s campus.

A close-up of fields of transformation, showing wool in grey, cream, indigo, and gold
A close-up of “Fields of Transformation.” The wool was hand-dyed using natural materials, including onion skin and indigo. (Image: Brian Hogan)