Inscribed Lace Patterns Defy Expectations in Cal Lane's Plasma-Cut Steel Tools and Industrial Objects
Using car hoods, shovels, and oil drums as her base, Canadian artist Cal Lane cuts generic lace motifs found on the shelves of mass-market retailers. Her quotidian designs adorn tools and commodities typically associated with masculinity, warping both assumptions about gender and the limits of construction and craft. “I am more interested in the dialog between the object and the image, not so much the lace pattern specifically. I didn’t want the work to necessarily be decorative but to be about decoration and the relationship we have with it,” she shares.
A former welder, Lane is broadly interested in the possibilities of materials, and it’s “the industrial, man-made structure, masculine, modernist quality of steel that I am attracted to. I see steel as a metaphor for confrontation, a thing that represents the walls put up by the society I was born into,” she shares. Her body of work, which includes a series of Industrial Doilies, is steeped in contradiction and an ability to defy expectations, which manifest as delicate filigree inscribed in sturdy hunks of metal. “Steel feels like the perfect material to carve into to create the contrasts and conflicts that I myself struggle with,” the artist says.
Many of the plasma-cut sculptures shown here are part of In Her Space, which is on view through March 3 at C24 Gallery in New York. The exhibition includes some of Lane’s more recent pieces, including the collection of shovels and “Astute Class.” A miniature marine vessel, the submarine features a pattern Lane designed that’s comprised of thale cress flowers, a species that “had been bioengineered by Canada and The Netherlands as a bomb-sniffing flower…the flowers grow, but if there is a landmine beneath, the color of the flower changes,” she says. “I thought it was so beautiful, brilliant, and poetic.”
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Every inch of Nespoon’s elaborately designed murals is rooted in local history. Prior to sketching one of her large-scale lace patterns on a residential building or commercial facade, the Warsaw-based artist (previously) visits museums and meets with residents to learn more about the region’s culture and its ties to fiber arts. “I respect and commemorate the emotional bound between individual patterns and particular cities or even particular groups of lacemakers. If there is no tradition of lace making in the area where I work, I ask for laces in the homes of elderly people living nearby,” she tells Colossal. “I always find something.”
The resulting murals envelop concrete and brick structures in intricate webbing embellished with oversized florals or fringed edges. Often splaying across multiple levels and wrapping around corners, the massive works showcase the intricacies of the craft and bring the adornment traditionally associated with domestic life out into a public space.
Because women produced almost all of the decorative textiles for centuries, their stories remain at the forefront of Nespoon’s body of work, which ranges from stenciled graffiti pieces to smaller ceramic installations imprinted with patterns. Still today, lace museums and makers tend to be women, the artist says, veiling each of her site-specific projects within a broader, global context of feminine art, craft, and tradition.
While many of her projects are celebratory and honor the local customs that manifest in the lace pieces, others, like humble motif painted in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, necessarily confront a community’s struggles. “For the first time in my life, my wall had such clear traces of war, dozens of bullet holes all over the facade,” Nespoon writes, explaining further:
While working, I thought about the fate of women who are victims of wars all over the world. Here, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, however, it had an extraordinary dimension. Institutionalized sexual violence and mass rape were a cruel instrument of terror used in this conflict, in front of the whole world. I wanted to not think about it, but I did. The bullet holes became part of my mural.
Next week, Nespoon will be installing a lace web at the Triennale di Maroggia in Switzerland. She’s also preparing for a solo exhibition next May in Brescia, Italy, and working on a book compiling her works from the last 12 years, many of which you can find on Behance and Instagram.
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For Myriam Dion, a newspaper’s narrative qualities go beyond the text on the page. The Montreal-based artist accentuates the daily briefs and profiles in publications like The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, and Le Monde by overlaying broadsheets with painstakingly cut newsprint. Brilliantly hued flowers veil an issue focused on the wildfires raging across California, while masked subjects appear in the foreground of a piece about the post-COVID economy. Each tableau centers on one narrative, supporting the journalism with intricate motifs and trimmed photographs spread across the unfolded issue.
Masking the text-based print with color and woven sections has been a recent addition to Dion’s practice. “This operation often doubles or triples the working time, but it helps solidify the works (which are already quite fragile) and gives more depth and possibilities to the patterns that I choose and invent,” she writes, noting that weaving thin strips through whole editions visually aligns her works more closely with fiber arts.
More often utilizing vintage copies of North American newspapers than she had previously, the artist has identified a through-line in many of the editions. “For a long time, and even today, the print media has been a forum articulated by and for the male sex, where women have occupied a limited place, and interestingly enough, the newspaper articles I have accumulated document the perception of women in the mass media over the last century,” she says.
Dion will be an artist in residence at the NARS Foundation in Brooklyn in 2021, where she plans to create 8-10 new pieces that merge these historic narratives with traditionally feminine art forms, like lacework and embroidery. The idea is subversive and pays “homage to the female public figures represented in these old newspapers, but more particularly to ordinary women to whom the recognition of any artistic contribution, both from a technical and conceptual point of view, has long been denied by the politics of art.”
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Working within a scale of just a few inches, Hungarian artist Ágnes Herczeg (previously) threads together fragments of wood, seeds, and wire with delicate lace work to form pastoral scenes inspired in part by her surroundings in a small town near the river Danube. This year, Herczeg utilized more tree bark and golf leaf and developed her abilities with silk thread to create pieces even smaller than before. In a note to Colossal, she shares this challenge to work increasingly smaller is “a very good mind game.” You can see lots of her new work on her website, and several pieces are for sale in her online shop.
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On France’s northern shores lies the port city of Calais, a municipality that once was a destination for lace manufacturers. To escape economic and social difficulties, English textile artists and engineers immigrated in the late 19th Century, often establishing clandestine operations that defied patent laws by bringing specialty machines and practices to the region. Soon after, Calais became an industrial hub for lace manufacturing, employing around 40,000 residents.
A new mural by Warsaw-based artist Nespoon (previously) celebrates that rich history through an oversized textile that envelops the facade of a factory. The public artwork features delicate mesh and floral elements that cover the side of the Cité de la Dentelle et de la Mode, the city’s fashion and lace museum. Nespoon chose this particular motif, which dates back to 1894, from the institution’s archive before spray painting its intricate details onto the building.
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United Kingdom-based designer Alexandra Sipa creates spellbinding accessories and garments from waste electrical wires. The Central Saint Martins’ graduate initially was inspired to experiment with wires as textiles when her headphones broke, leading her to extract the colorful coils and cables to create wire lace.
The designer learned to craft vibrant lace from YouTube videos, books, and her own mishaps, and one of her enchanting dresses took 1,000 hours to complete. Many cultural and historical references are woven into her pieces, including her interest in extreme austerity and heightened femininity in Romania. “The aesthetic of Bucharest is a mix of French architecture, grey brutalist apartment complexes, and mega communist structures (like the Palace of Parliament), while the women are usually very careful about the way they look, getting all dressed up for a supermarket trip and loving the ultra-glamorous, ultra-feminine look.”
Objects of nostalgia, the ruffled garments evoke her Romanian grandmother’s damaged, garden fence. They mirror the endless colors that were revealed throughout the cracks. More broadly, Sipa’s work is dedicated to how her grandmother cares for her household objects, reinventing them with time. “Every time I visit her, there’s something changed around the house, something moved, something repainted,” the designer says. “She will make any object look like a treasure, no matter where it came from. That stuck with me.”
Sipa’s garments echo her views on sustainability, and she believes that otherwise unwanted products should be seen as an opportunity to create new inventions and discover unusual techniques. “As my practice is rooted in creating luxury products out of local waste sources, my collection tackles one of the fastest-growing sources of waste in electronic waste, reaching 50 million tons in 2020,” she explains.
The designer’s goal is the complete circularity of her garments. “The industry is becoming aware of the urgency for change due to the climate emergency and the increasing demand from consumers for more sustainable options,” she explains. “However, companies need to recognize the business opportunity in the circular fashion industry.” The designer also stresses the importance of recognizing the economic, environmental, and social impacts. “ Fashion needs to become more sustainable from the inside out, not only in the materials used but also ethically in the treatment and compensation of workers in the production chain and workers designing the clothes.”
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