with fiber art
A new report released this week by an Australian agency says that the 1,400-mile Great Barrier Reef has undergone its sixth mass bleaching. About 91 percent of the brightly colored marine ecosystems were affected by this most recent catastrophe, which occurs when water temperatures rise. Disasters like this are becoming more frequent as the climate crisis intensifies, prompting artists like Christine and Margaret Wertheim to respond with striking displays of what could be permanently lost.
The Australia-born, California-based sisters began the Crochet Coral Reef project in 2005 to confront the devastations of bleaching, over–fishing, tourism, and agricultural contaminations through sprawling, labor-intensive environments. More than 40,000 of the oceanic works are now on view at the Museum Frieder Burda in Baden-Baden, transforming the gallery into textured ecosystems resting atop pillars and protected in glass cases. The Wertheims explain the project:
Like the organic beings they emulate, these handmade sculptures take time to make—time that is condensed in the millions of stitches on display; time that is running out for earthly creatures, including humans and cnidarians. Time forms a framework for the Reef project, for as CO2 escalates in our atmosphere time is increasingly in short supply, and what we choose to spend time on is a reflection of our values.
Part of the intention for Crochet Coral Reef is to involve local communities, and so far, almost 20,000 people have contributed their own fiber-based forms, with about 5,000 participating in the show in Baden-Baden alone. Since debuting at the 2019 Venice Biennale, the exhibition has traveled to more than 20 spaces from London and Dublin to Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C., and will be on view at the Museum Frieder Burda until June 26. A complimentary satellite project is also up at the Tang Teaching Museum in Saratoga Springs, New York, through June 12.
Visit the Crochet Coral Reef site for more information on getting involved in the project and for chances to see the textile organisms in person. You also might enjoy Mulyana’s yarn ecosystems. (via artnet)
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Like many Korean families, artist Ema Shin’s relatives maintain a genealogy book called a jokbo, which illustrates their family tree. Shin’s ancestral record spans 32 generations, yet only male members of the family are represented. Born and raised in Japan, and currently based in Melbourne, Australia, the artist describes in a recent statement that “in the society that I was born and raised in, there was a prejudice between men and women, and their roles were predetermined. I always felt uncomfortable with this inequality.” In her series Hearts of Absent Women, she celebrates and recognizes women whose achievements remain obscured by history.
Heart-shaped forms made from fabric are elaborately embellished with colorful threads and beads in an homage to the organ’s connection with emotion and vitality. They are nearly life-size, and the range of woven and stitched textures are captivatingly tactile. Both anatomical and fanciful, the arteries, veins, and ventricles become distinctive expressions in needlework that reflect strength, resilience, and individuality. Since becoming a mother herself, Shin has been particularly interested in honoring women’s lives and bodies, recognizing the anonymous contributions of those in her family and around the world and acknowledging their stories for the future.
Some of Shin’s work can be seen at the Victoria Craft Awards 2021 exhibition through May 21. She has limited-edition prints from the series for sale on her website, and you can also follow her on Instagram.
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Immersed in dreamlike surroundings, figures interact with nature and participate in enigmatic rituals in embroideries by Michelle Kingdom (previously). The Los Angeles-based artist continues to explore what she describes as “psychological landscapes,” portraying a diverse range of figures in ambiguous activities and settings that are intricately composed from thread. Drawing on the rich traditions of needlework, she takes a more freeform approach to the medium in which stitching becomes a tool for sketching, honoring its history while subtly subverting convention.
Often gathered together, Kingdom’s subjects appear to be performing vital tasks or observing fascinating or momentous occurrences, yet their intentions are mysterious. Her compositions combine elements of nature, geometry, and allegory. In her statement she writes, “Memories, histories, and mythologies collide amid an undercurrent of political turbulence. Entwined, these influences explore power, relationships and self-perception.”
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The cheeky, uncanny works that comprise Yoon Ji Seon’s ongoing Rag Face series bring the knotted, twisting, and generally convoluted entanglements of a subject’s psyche to the forefront. Her photographic portraits are printed on roughly cut pieces of canvases and then overlaid with rows of tight stitches and loose strings that drip from an eye or loop across a face. Adding color and depth, the threads “can be seen or felt like internal conflicts, external stimuli, umbilical cord, blood vessels, sagging skin, hair, or time as a point of each viewer,” the artist says.
Zany and outlandish in expression, the portraits are a playful mix of confusion and jest that Yoon derives from traditional Korean comedies, called madangnori. Those performances consider “the suffering and reality of the people through humor and satire while arousing the excitement of onlookers,” she says, explaining further:
I think what I’m doing these days is to make (an) ‘image’ of these comedies. What I want to pursue through my work is ‘humor’ in the end, but this humor does not bloom in happiness. During intense, painful, and chaotic lives, humor can be like a comma, to relax and recharge.
Because the sewn works are unique on either side, they produce mirrored images that are a distorted version of their counterpart, bolstering the strange, surreal affect of each piece.
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A decade into her weaving practice, Australian artist Tammy Kanat (previously) continues to explore the possibilities of fiber, texture, and knots. Her giant wall hangings rely on patches of tufted wool, concentric circles in linen, and fringed, silk motifs suspended in lopsided brass rings to evoke organic forms and naturally occurring patterns.
Focusing on energy and movement, each abstract piece contrasts high piles and flatweaves comprised of thousands of knots that Kanat composes without a preconceived plan. “I often think of my weavings as a novel, as I work on a piece it is one chapter at a time until I finish it. Not knowing what the end will be keeps me driven and engaged. I have been creating more intricate woven shapes, inspired by my surroundings in nature,” the artist says. “I have become more engaged and curious about the slow detailed process of weaving, experimenting with one knot at a time.”
In her most recent body of work A Woven Metaphor, Kanat utilizes more angled frames with vibrant gradients radiating outward. The wall hangings are “about the shapes and colors gently pulling you into the piece. A dark center which evolves gradually to a lightness on the outside providing relief,” she shares. “The works are a juxtaposition of complexity and simplicity.”
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Suspended in public squares and parks, the knotted sculptures that comprise Janet Echelman’s Earthtime series respond to the destructive, overpowering, and uncontrollable forces that impact life on the planet. The artist (previously) braids nylon and polyurethane fibers into striped weavings that loom over passersby and glow with embedded lights after nightfall. With a single gust of air, the amorphous masses billow and contort into new forms. “Each time a single knot moves in the wind, the location of every other knot in the sculpture’s surface is changed in an ever-unfolding dance,” a statement about the series says.
The outdoor installations are modeled after geological events so catastrophic and powerful that they slightly impact the planet’s rotational speed. Each title refers to the number of seconds shaved off the earth’s day because of that occurrence, with “Earthtime 1.78” referring to Japan’s 2011 earthquake and tsunami and “Earthtime 1.26” speaking to a 2010 tremor in Chile.
Containing innumerable knots and weighing hundreds of pounds, the monumental nets are the product of countless hours and a team of architects, designers, and engineers who interpret scientific data to imagine the original form. Each mesh piece begins in the studio with techniques done by hand and on the loom, and the threads are custom-designed to be fifteen times stronger than steel once intertwined. This allows them to withstand and remain flexible as they’re exposed to the elements, a material component that serves as a metaphorical guide for human existence.
Echelman will exhibit an iteration of “Earthtime 1.26” in Jeddah from December 2021 to April 2022, with another slated to be on view in Amsterdam this winter. You can see more of the prolific artist’s works on her site and Instagram.
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