‘Mater Matrix Mother and Medium’ 2011 Redux!

shot by Ian Lucero for MMMM film

shot by Ian Lucero for MMMM film

My installation ‘Mater Matrix Mother and Medium’ has been dormant for about a year, but is about to return in yet another form, this time winding its way 65 feet above the ground through the massive and dramatic stone canyon of columns of the Gothic Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in NYC, as part of their exhibition and symposium “The Value of Water: Sustaining a Green Planet”, from September 2011 – March 2012.

This might seem a bit of a departure from an installation primarily about engaging in an intimate way with small parcels of the natural landscape.  I usually spend about 100 hours with my husband, artist Paul Margolis, painstakingly and patiently discovering the negative space in and among trees, our faces pressed to bark and knuckles scraping as we reshape, mend and add to the every-changing fiber river, now sometimes reaching 300 feet long.

Installing at Herbert Bayer Earthworks, 2010

Installing at Herbert Bayer Earthworks, 2010

I’ve taken it to Atlanta and to several Northwest locations with 4Culture SITE SPECIFIC program, each time feeling like it’s a new installation and that we have really gotten to know a few trees very well.  This time the installation will be hung by a team of riggers using bucket lifts (that go who knows how high…the Cathedral is 200 feet high!), and will meander among carved stone columns, some as big as 40 feet in diameter. The painstaking process this time took place in my studio, pouring over little pieces of paper that are meant to somehow translate and make me understand two football fields of space.  I unwrapped the crochet panels inside invisible columns taped out on my floor, crocheting about 350 feet of seams together, widening the entire installation so it can have a presence in the massive space.  Have I said massive enough? It is massive, the largest cathedral in the United States.

Yet, it doesn’t feel incongruous with the notion of engaging with something grown rather than built.  Incongruity has been a natural state of this installation from the beginning anyhow, with putting fiber outside in the environment, while fiber is most often seen as something fragile to be treated with white gloves out of the sunlight.  Especially with my newest project ‘Solstenen’ and my fixation on the body turning to living stone — becoming part of the larger cycle of geologic time — having this work supported by massive bits of the earth, carved by skilled hands, is quite nice.  Cathedrals and stone churches have always seemed to me to blend architecture and landscape anyhow because of the very qualities of water the stone retains,  the visceral sense of coming out of the earth, the cool brisk sense of wicking water from the air and ground.

I love what The Reverend Canon Tom Miller has to say about the Cathedral in his essay for Water Matters: Why We Need to Act Now to Save our Most Critical Resource. 

The simple answer is that there’s water, water everywhere, as the imagination might fashion it, since none of the stone, wood or glass would exist without the presence and power of water over geological time. As biblical tradition has it, human beings bear the image of their Creator. Perhaps in like manner, all the materials in the Cathedral bear the mark of water, that first element of Creation from which all things were made.

He also make reference to the many wells, springs and underground streams that dot the land the Cathedral is built upon, even pointing out the use of one spring for years as the source of water for the Baptismal Font.  This speaks so directly to why I began this installation in the beginning.   Ancient holy wells have always been centers of community, and then became centers of reverence.  The way that water works, part of one large cycle, there really isn’t a division between something sacred and something not.  Inspired by over and over and over references of the mythology of the sacred quality of water in nearly every culture, I question where it has gone in ours, with water treated as a commodity, valued for its ability to make money, and yet our careless and privileged sense to waste it and spoil it.  MMMM was inspired mostly by the Clooty Well tradition of Celtic regions – bits of cloth are tied to trees around sacred wells after dipping them in the water, to bind intention into action, to heal.   Can we heal our disjointed relationship to the water we are born from?  When I engage with making this work, and asking people to join me, I feel it is a commitment to try.

Clootie well

The intimacy with site that has usually been so important to me as a maker of this site-responsive installation was replaced  by an intimacy with the history of the piece as I slowly went over every section of it, with remembering individual people who helped make this installation by once more working on their bits that began as far back as March 2009.

I have a very good memory for the crocheting, who made what, what fabrics things are made of.   Coming across the  shredded bits of a Brookes Brothers shirt someone gave me who has now become a dear friend was really special.  Without the trees there as I made the piece this time, I seemed to go back over all the time I spent engaging with the people who worked on this and the transformative quality that period of time has had for me.  The beginning process of making MMMM really put me in the flux of my city, going to places and events and sites that where outside of my daily patterns.

I had the opportunity to talk to a huge range of people, many not really interested in art at all just going about their daily lives.  Sometimes awkward, sometimes so wonderfully surprising, being pulled out of my studio private space and talking about ideas with anyone has had a lasting effect on my practice as an artist.  I feel buoyed by all those who stepped towards the ideas I was trying to share, many trying something new, sitting and talking awhile with perfect strangers about whatever seemed to come up.

I’m excited to once more share all of these thousands of thousands of moments recorded in knotted fiber, and add to them.  I don’t know where yet….but a Community Crochet event will pop up in NY while I’m there, the 13th – 26th….stay tuned, or stay connected on my mailing list or twitter or Facebook. 

Meanwhile, in Seattle on Sept. 10th from 2-6pm, I’ll be participating in the giant community art event NEPO 5K, once more asking Seattlites to support this project by literally asking them to help me make the giant support ropes that will hold MMMM up in the Cathedral.  With 40 foot diameter columns I’ll need a heck more rope than I have ever had to make before.  I’ll be in the Korean Pagoda along the route once it gets to Beacon Hill on the I-90 bike trail….just follow everyone else.  Stop in the pagoda, relax a bit and crochet before continuing on your way.  I’ll have some water for you.

Please consider supporting the traveling of this installation through a small donation on Kickstarter: “MMMM community crochet installation heads to NYC”

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Revisiting influences…

 

Clootie well

Clootie well

 I’m listening to “Pagan Poetry” as I work, and it brought my mind back to one of the early influences on this project….cloth tied in the woods, healing, rotting, pilgrimage…

The Clootie Well is a rather weird remnant of an ancient tradition once commonly found in Scotland and Ireland, of holy wells to which pilgrims would come and make offerings, usually in the hope of having an illness cured. The tradition dates far back into pre-Christian times, to the practice of leaving votive offerings to the local spirits or gods in wells and springs…..

Pilgrims would come, perform a ceremony that involved circling the well sunwise three times before splashing some of its water on the ground and making a prayer. They would then tie a piece of cloth or “cloot” that had been in contact with the ill person to a nearby tree.

As the cloot rotted away, the illness would depart the sick person. An alternative tradition suggests that sick children would be left here overnight to be healed. Presumably any with the strength or spirit to survive what would have been an exceedingly creepy ordeal were pretty likely to recover anyway.

From Undiscovered Scotland   (land of my People)

 

Inspiration for MMMM at Columbia City Gallery: Another performer collaboration and another crochet event

This Saturday May 30th from 5-8pm at the Columbia City Gallery , I have work in a group show called “5280; Ten Artists Living Within a Mile of the Gallery”.  I’ll be showing a little bit of inspiration for MMMM — another product of a collaboration with an incredible performer. Last summer and fall, I collaborated with the luminous performance artist, Haruko Nishimura.

the Slug Princess

the Slug Princess

 

dusk at Smoke Farm

dusk at Smoke Farm

 Together we created a hybridized mythological creature, the Slug Princess — an arion slug goddess —  with my work as the lumbering undulating skin and Haruko’s work with Butoh as the mercurial spirit of this creature of appetite.  We then worked with filmmaker Ian Lucero to create a short film called “The Silvering Path”, shot at Smoke Farm in Arlington Washington.

 

filming

filming

 

 It was an intensely inspiring experience for me, watching my work, shredded fibers and yarns crocheted and beaded, pulsing and lumbering through tall grasses, twisting around rocks, picking up dirt, moisture and life.  

 

little creature on my creature

little creature on my creature

I believe the three of us together created something really beautiful and unsettling, and I wanted more.  More collaboration, and more of seeing fiber breath to life, not just because it was wrapped around a body, but because it rubbed and caressed the natural environment.  I knew I wanted to do work that didn’t just use the natural environment as a site for action, but would become entwined, enmeshed with all the processes, however minute, of the environment.  I wanted to push my work with a performer further away from “costume” & literally interweave the body into the landscape using stones, trees and flowing water interacting with changing fabric. I wanted to explore using the environment as material not simply backdrop, to create an installation that is in & changed by the elements.  

an early sketch

an early sketch

Then this SPU project came up, and of course those desires and ideas from the Silvering Path directly inspired what I am trying to accomplish now with MMMM and the interaction with the landscape at Camp Long.  So, at the Columbia City Gallery I’ll be showing the slug wearable element as well as these giant magic crocheted cabbages from the film.  It’s a group show celebrating 10 years of the Gallery, as well as celebrating this little hub of artists down here in the south end.  More about “The Silvering Path”…

And the Gallery has also generously offered to host a crochet event on Thursday June 11 from 6-8 pm, so you can come crochet,see the show,  catch dinner at Tutta Bella and head to a movie at Columbia Cinema.  Columbia City has it all!!  The Columbia City Gallery is at 4864 Rainier Ave S | Seattle WA 98118 | 206.760.9843

“5,280” runs from May 27 – July 5th, 2009

A HUGE thank you to Karin Skacel Haack at Skacel Yarn! Crochet hooks for kids!

This piece is bringing me in contact with so many generous people, freely giving their support (a hem, Sharon Arnold at dimensions variable), encouragement, their time, old clothes, old yarn, etc. etc.  But I have to just also give a gigantic thank you to Karin Skacel Haack , the president of Skacel Collection, Inc. , a Seattle-based family business importing yarns and beautiful German crochet hooks.  Karin contacted me during the making of my last project, The Silvering Path, and wanted to donate some yarn. crochet-party I believe she had seen Small but Mighty Wandering Pearl, and also one of her newest designers had helped me with some beading on that project.  She generously gave us a mountain of yellow yarn and other supplies.  She also came for a day and crocheted.  Karin and I recently got in touch again, and she again wanted to donate more yarn and asked me what else I might need for this new massive project.  I told her how I have been giving away my crochet hooks to kids who come to the events, and yarn where I could, to the point it was outside of my budget.  She said she’d find me some hooks too.

Well, her awesome web designer Candice, came to the Southwest Library crochet event with a giant bag of the most beautiful blue yarns, and a box of an unbelievable amount of glittery crochet hooks (yes, they have gold glitter in them, they are truly the glam rockstars of crochet hooks).  Not only has she insured that I can take this piece to the scale that I would like it to be without busting my budget, but also I can make sure to pass on a crochet hook to every kid I come across.  

Skacel yarn and hooks!

Skacel yarn and hooks!

Crochet hooks are like special wands of transformation, simple and elemental, archetypal tools that can create infinite variety through the single gesture of knotting loops inside of loops.  I don’t even know how old they are…..It feels good and full-circle to hopefully keep a kid working with their hands.  Handwork and reading were really the saving grace of my childhood.  Someone somewhere taught me the simple gestures that have shaped my life and set my hands and mind into the motions that will probably be with me for as long as I know.  Thank you Karin for such generosity.

 

 

crocheting at Delridge Library

crocheting at Delridge Library

 

four hands together

four hands together

Meet me at Discovery Park this Sunday 4/26 from 10:30am – 2pm

Come meet me for coffee, doughnuts and crocheting at Discovery Park this Sunday from 10:30 am – 2pm.  Bring a picnic blanket, if you like (I can only pack one!)  My family and I will be hanging out, I’ll be working while they run around!  I’ll be in the meadow at the pink dot (in the map snip).  It is actually a very quick walk from the south parking lot.

I will be at the pink dot

I will be at the pink dot

 

 

You can see the full map, and get directions at the Discovery park link above.

It’s an incredible place to spend the morning!  If it’s raining I won’t be there, of course.  But if it’s blustery, chances are we’ll still go.  I’m Scottish, apparently, and really get into the bluster.

THIS is our urban scene

THIS is our urban scene

Zoe Scofield, Jennifer Zwick and the amazing postcard collaboration

I’ll continue to add more of the stunning images that artist/designer Jennifer Zwick shot for my postcard and blog and general publicity.  And of course, our subject Zoe Scofield, is a natural at conjuring up an elemental mystery.  Please check out the sites of these two endlessly talented Seattle-based artists.  

 

 

Zoe Scofield

Zoe Scofield