Born in Michigan City, Indiana, Renie Breskin Adams earned three degrees from Indiana University: B.A., psychology, 1960; M.A., anthropology, 1965; and M.F.A., fiber, 1973. She taught art at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, from 1973 to 1977 and since 1977 has taught art at Northern Illinois University.
Adams's embroideries are indebted to her early studies in drawing and paintings and her interest in anthropology. Drawing liberally from her doodles and from imagery available in publications and museums, she creates pictograms that are often enigmatic. Although the viewer may be unable to decipher the imagery, there is nonetheless a sense of storytelling.
Adams presents a range of rich hues, densely textured surfaces, and compositions often drawn from art history, ranging from Cézanne to western Asian carpets. Although Adams's embrodieries sometimes have the spirit of outsider art, her work is too sophisticated to be mistaken for the totally intuitive.
Kenneth R. Trapp and Howard Risatti Skilled Work: American Craft in the Renwick Gallery (Washington, D.C.: National Museum of American Art with the Smithsonian Institution Press, 1998)