Saturday, October 16, 2021

Line and shape in Native American Art

This week a road took me to Cooperstown where I visited Fenimore Art Museum. One of  current exhibits there is Elegant Line/Powerful Shape: Elements of Native American Art. As always - looking for geometry in all its various beautiful forms - I found these objects as true expressions of meanings through geometric elements. Native American artists communicate with their audiences visually - using variety of materials to create lines, shapes, colors to convey the beauty of the world.

On this Dance Kilt (ca 1900-1915, New Mexico)  the zigzag line forms a body of a supernatural being Avanyu, or Plummed Serpent, representing a lightening bolt, V lines inside represents a rainbow. Along the bottom of this kilt is a line of tin cones, that sounds like falling rain while dancing.

This birchbark Wigwam Model (ca 1847-1852, Anishinaabe, Ontario) is decorated with stylized floral and geometric motif made by series of lines.

Against a red and green wool white glass beads create two types of lines in this finger woven Sash (ca 1780-1830, Iroquois, Great Lake region). This type of sash was often worn around the waist to secure a coat or worn across the chest to signify high status.

To make this Belt (ca 1800, probably Manitoba Ojibwa) quills were flattened and then folded between threads on a bow-loom to create a line design.

Olla baskets were the most important type of container for the Yavapai as they are sturdy and lightweight. On this Olla Basket (ca 1915-1920, Yavapai, Arizona) the shapes of deer and humans are made from devil's claw utilizing negative spaces on triangles.

This olla basket - jar (ca 1900-1910, Apache, Arizona) is woven using three-rod coils, willow, devil's claw, red yucca root.
Basket (ca 1920) by Elizabeth Hickox (1875-1947). Her classic designs were achieved by overlaying the foundation with yellow-dyed porcupine quills and black maidenhair fern stems.
This type of jar was perhaps used to carry water from a river. It was made by Mimbres people, SW New Mexico, ca. 1000-1150. These farmers produced pottery which are considered the most aesthetically sophisticated of the ancient art in North America.

Velvet bandolier bag's (ca 1890, Ojibwa, Great Lakes) elaborate design is created using thousands of colorful glass beads imported by Europeans.

This was one of the oldest object I saw in this collection (ca 1200), unfortunately I lossed its description and could not find it also in online exhibit.

The ceremonial masked dances of Alaska's central Yup'ik region honor and express gratitude to animals' spirits or souls and petition animals to be plentiful in coming season.

Just a little glimpse in this large collection. All 876 objects of which can be explored online here.

I loved this 1750 Mohawk bark house recreated at the lakeside. 


Saturday, November 14, 2020

This strange 2020


For the first time in many years I didn't travel to Latvia. I missed seeing in person the largest installation of crocheted hyperbolic planes. I missed putting together my dreams and memories with hundreds of others. (Thank you again all who participated! I did felt your support which I needed very much.) It was prepared for a display by a team in Riga. 2nd Riga International Contemporary Art Biennial  was supposed to open in May, instead it had only 3 weeks August 20-September 13, 2020. It was amazing that it happened at all. My friends went to see it instead of me and sent their pictures, people were posting on Facebook, I was following on ZOOM Rebecca Lamarche-Vadel guided tour, reading media reviews. The dream of participating in Art Biennial is now memories of these pictures. I was first taken aback that the display is so different from the one I originally envisioned but then I could see how it all made sense - dreams and memories all mixed up and fallen on ground...

and here are some media reviews and interviews

What I was doing this summer? I published a book as open source - that is what David wanted. This was my way of working through grief which still comes over me. In this 4th edition of Experiencing Geometry there is an Appendix where it is described how to make all my models. Have a look! 

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Dreams and Memories during pandemic

This “stay at home” time has dramatically slowed down our fast pacing rhythm of everyday life and besides following scary news how the pandemic is taking over more and more not yet red colored spots on world’s map, forces to think how this could happen. I found thought provoking a view of British environmental journalist Gaia Vince ( )who argues that this COVID-19 pandemic is a human creation. This pandemic spread precisely because of species we are in our biosphere, and because the planet we created.

We dominate and alter the local and global ecosystem cumulatively to suit our lifestyles and improve our survival, including habitat loss for other species, introduction of invasive species, climate change, industrial-scale hunting, burning, planting, infrastructure replacement, and countless other modifications. Humans currently threaten 1 million of the world’s 8 million species. while other species do not naturally cause extinctions (with rare exceptions). Wild animal and plant products are being extracted from intact ecosystems at an unprecedented rate. As we plunder these wild-lands for the resources we value, we disrupt established ecological niches, including those of pathogen and host. Viruses and bacteria that evolved life cycles in a wild animal get opportunistic exposure to humans. 75% of the new diseases affecting us in the past 30 years have animal origins. Communities adjacent to exploited rain-forests, with their wild animal markets, are the first affected by novel diseases, such as Ebola, HIV, MERS, SARS, and, most recently, COVID-19.

Humans now operate as a globalized network of over 7.5 billion hyper-connected individuals: We have effectively become a super-organism in our interactions with the natural world. However, we are still a part of the biosphere and as we blunder into ecosystems, we must be mindful of the greater systems that we are all a part of. A tweak to one part of the network can have far reaching consequences (good or bad) for us all. COVID-19 has exposed every type of oppressive/exploitative condition/relation. Every inequity explodes and festers by the spread of virus. Nothing remains contained as this catastrophe blasts forward.

Everybody must find a way how to resist, how to overcome anxiety, fear, hopelessness at times like these. History tells us that needle arts appeared as responses to collective trauma. In Ireland, during the famine of the 1840s, philanthropists across the country established crochet schools; they trained impoverished farming families to make lace for export in a relief scheme that grew into an art form. During WWII in London, people sheltering from the blitz were encouraged to pass the time by knitting.

Numbers of COVID-19 cases grow exponentially. When crocheting hyperbolic plane, the number of stitches grow exponentially. Everybody who is participating now in the project to create installation Dreams and Memories has experienced this exponential growth in very tactile way. Original idea of creating a meditative piece about our dreams and memories, about past and future unexpectedly has acquired another dimension – dimension of our social connectivity and impact on each other lives. Be strong, be healthy! And if you have an opportunity -- put the memory of a resilience during this pandemic into some creative piece.
PS - these are pieces put together from what I have now here in Ithaca - thank you all who have submitted! Riga Biennale is currently postponed until further notice giving us more time to reflect, dream, remember, crochet...