I have researched the work of Christo ( born ‘Histro’ in Bulgaria in 1935) and his partner Jeanne-Claude, born in Morocco on the same date (1935 –2009). Together as artists, they wrapped and covered landscapes, buildings and smaller objects. It was interesting to see familiar objects or landmasses cocooned in unfamiliar layers, some parts highlighted or obscured as a result of their work. Or “..revelation through concealment..” as art critic David Bourdon*1 once said. Christo insisted their work was, “…to create works of art for joy and beauty and to create new ways of seeing familiar landscapes…”. My interest, as far as this project is concerned is looking at their smaller wrapped objects, like bottles and cans. There was no doubt what the objects were, they did little to disguise the shapes.
Wrapped objects of Christo and Jean Claude
I also looked at the work of French Algerian artist Alice Anderson who wraps in copper wire; she works in big installation pieces or has wrapped small objects in her studio. In an interview with Aesthetica Magazine about her installations and performance for Frieze, in 2012, she said “When I am winding around objects I guess that I am transforming a libidinal energy into something else. It is like an act of reparation, protection, and preservation. During the past two years, I’ve focused on binding various objects and buildings with copper thread and red fiber…” It is interesting finding out the artists response to her work, it gives a resonance and depth to her work that is difficult to find when looking around an exhibition or watching a performance.
Alice Anderson’s copper wire wrappings
Mar Gorman’s installations about the institutionalized Lucy/Joseph, a female sectioned due to her male behavior and who died in the Oregon State Hospital in 1922. Mar wanted to create a memorial for the forgotten when the hospital closed. Most of the objects on display are not wrapped, but I did take an interest in the ordinary found objects that were among the exhibits and which Mar decided to wrap as part of the display. As a textile artist I find it an intriguing question to ask when considering exhibiting, what should be wrapped and why? The objects below have taken on a secondary meaning with the wrappings, as the new shapes have hidden or distorted their original function
Eva Hesse, the post war German/ American artist, now deceased, was influenced by Abstract Expressionism, Feminism and Minimalism; She said of her art “I think art is a total thing. A total person giving a contribution. It is an essence, a soul.. In my inner soul art and life are inseparable.”
Shannon Weber, Who has been working in fiber sculpture for over 30 years, uses mainly reclaimed or natural materials found outdoors. I was particularly struck by her varying techniques. She says “I love stitching, weaving, and laying things together like beach plastics, fish bones, reclaimed metal and wire, which can be 3-7 layers in a piece. If I can’t weave it I will find a way to stitch it in. There is no use of glue in any of my work.” I got permission from her to use some of her images.
My wrapped experiments took some time to mature. Not that I was hesitant about wrapping objects. I saw potential wrappings everywhere, but I felt the work needed to have a deeper meaning for me personally. My first experiments drew me in to wrap something ‘sacred’, the topic running through my Theme Book. I chose an Indian mantra that I had once used to place inside my ‘sacred pod’ a piece I made for my final project in A Creative Approach to Textiles. It is a mantra I use daily in my yoga practice. At that time I wrote it on deliberately aged paper, wrapped in into a scroll shape and secured it inside a pod of vine and honeysuckle, an ode to the Goddess of Creativity, Saraswathi.
For this next sample, I inserted a mantra into plastic coin saver, available in Spain, instead of plastic money bags more familiar in the UK. These can hold one euros worth of one cent pieces. I immediately saw their potential for holding a small scroll and in addition, they had interesting fastenings that folded around satisfactorily. With their almost indestructible nature, I assumed they could act as a tiny time capsule.
I wrapped the first coin saver in black plastic mesh, the kind used in the garden. I wrapped the mesh in red threads of varying weights (2.WM.1a). In History, Myths and Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees by James Mooney, printed in 1900 s, The Red Man, living in the East, is the spirit of power, triumph, and success. Red is a warm color. It conjures up conflicting emotions, from passionate love to stop signs, to female blood (since Neolithic times*2), violence, anger and war. Red could be a St Valentine Cupid or a Devil. Some studies show that red can have a physical effect, increasing the rate of respiration and raising blood pressure. It’s use as a colour should be used with caution or in small splashes.
I intended the next wrap on this object to be white thread. White is for purity, blank pages, virgin snow and brides dresses, it is not an accent color, rather a colour that other colours are set off against. My other wrappings had been colours that were easily available and at hand, the colours for these sample were deliberate. Black, red and white. My husband thought they looked like tampons! I feel he has a point.
I created two more mantra holders, with different mantras, using the same colorways in different orders. Black, red or white fabric wrapped in either black white or red threads. Maybe I need to consider how to join them together? I do not want to undo the wrapping and redo these pieces. I may provoke this concept further and make a lot more and create a hanging of sacred mantras. I have about 20 empty coin holders and feasibly I could get hold of a lot more from the bank.
The next wrapping came out of the story of an archaeological dig in northern Israel. It was said that, the find, which appeared to be a bundle of plant fibers wrapped around a broken clay pot, contained earrings believed to be 3,300 years old. Experts believe the earrings were used for trade purposes before the use of currency. “The jug and its contents appear to be Late Bronze Age or Early Iron Age, in the 13th century BC, the time of the Exodus and wilderness wanderings described in the Hebrew Scriptures...” archaeologist Robert Mullins, an associate professor of biblical studies at Azusa Pacific University said “….This is one of only 20 silver hoards ever found in Israel.”
I have a box of old jewellery that I have been hoarding for such a project. The image of the find reminds me a little of one Shannon Webber’s more beautiful natural pieces (see below). It looks rather organic, not unlike a bird’s nest. The blue/grey tint of the Israel find reminds me very much of handmade felt. I have some banana plant fibers and wrapped wire and I want to experiment. Now where will I find a broken pot? Yes, I could buy something cheap and break it, but first I will search my stash of household objects and my garden as well as my husband’s workshop for other materials.
After a half day of research, I realised that I cannot mimic the Israel hoard without a lot of effort and time. Making the right type of felt will take a day, even if I had the supplies (which I don´t). I live on an island where getting hold of art supplies means that I have to order everything in advance. Shannon Weber can take months for her works to mature and I think this idea may be on that time scale. I have to be realistic, the work I do for this project is all about sampling and then maybe later considering how to evolve the idea. I have to use what is to hand, in my home and around the island. I have therefore gone with the banana leaf idea, wrapping some objects that look like the Israel earring finds. Oddly enough they did not arise out of my jewelry stash, but my husband’s electronics supplies.
The fresh green banana leaf idea did not work for the wrapping experiment, even though it is a leaf that I use to wrap fresh caught salmon and bake in the oven. Delicious! But I am rambling away from artistic endeavor.
The green banana leaf wrapping broke up and did not yield to being wrapped around my small objects. I abandoned the idea and looked at the dried leaf alternative and cut them off the plant. I have plenty to choose from, there are 6 banana plants in various stages of growth and decay in my garden. I wrapped the objects and then tied them with cotton string. I left the strings long and uncut. I found a tiny wooden chest and placed them inside, like treasure. A very different outcome than I had first thought, but I was pleased with the process and the result given the time frame.
*1 David Bourdon, “Christo”, Harry N. Abrams Publishers, Inc., New York City, 1970
Alice Anderson: The Independent. Monday 27 July 2015 ·Memory Movement Memory Objects’ Everyday objects wrapped in copper wire