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...

Saturday, March 14, 2020

The Modern Thread

Have you heard about Marie Cuttoli? I have not until my recent visit to Barnes Foundation where I was fortunate to see exhibit The Modern Thread from Miro to Man Ray. I was fortunate a) because it is great exhibit; b) Barnes Foundation is temporarily closed due to Covid-19 pandemic.

In 1930s Paris Marie Cuttoli (1879-1973) convinced the most celebrated artists of her time - including Picasso, Miro, Leger, and Man Ray - to create designs for the historic tapestry workshops of Aubusson, France. Cuttoli's venture gave new life to an artisan tradition and brought modernism to new audiences. In Barnes Foundation exhibition it is possible to see designs for textiles, which they call cartoons (some of them later were sold as paintings), and tapestries made from those designs. Why the name cartoon? Because those designs were made as large as the tapestry will be woven and put underneath, so weaver could follow the pattern.
The first object is this fabulous  evening dress, embroidery for which was designed by Natalia Goncharova, Russian avant-garde painter whose costumes for The Ballets Russe Cuttoli admired. In 1922 Marie Cuttoli opened her fashion house and boutique Myrbor in Paris, in the same neighborhood as Chanel and Lanvin. In 1926 Cuttoli renovated her boutique and rebranded it as Galerie Myrbor, presenting modern art alonside fashion and rugs.
The red silk jacket's embroidery design is also attributed to Natalia Goncharova.

Still Still Life with Guitar by Georges Braque and a tapestry 
Braque incorporated sand in his oil painting. In the tapestry that effect is done by light absorbing wool and light reflecting silk.

Cuttoli's venture related closely to mural decoration, a topic that fascinated artists in 1930s. Tapestries had many of the same qualities as murals with the added benefit of portability. Designing for Cuttoli pushed artists to take their work in new directions, experimenting with scale and process alike. Man Ray used a rayograph in his design, bringing an innovative photomechanical process into an artisan tradition. The architect Le Corbusier, who was flattered to join a group that included Picasso, Braque, and Leger, worked up sketches for a cartoon titled Marie Cuttoli, an experience that informed his later conception of tapestry as mural for the modern era.
The back side of the tapestry shows that the weaver got colors very well but over the years the tapestry has faded.