Sep 19, 2008


Animal architecture is fascinating. As autumn begins, the cocoons of moths impress, and prolific spiders build complicated funnel webs. All the spinning and weaving makes me think of another wonderful fiber artist, Magdalena Abakanowicz.

A Russian-Pole who lived under first Nazi rule then the Soviet Occupation, Abakanowicz bristled in art school when forced to reiterate Stalin's socialist-realist aesthetic values. Later, without the academy to please, she gathered abandoned ship ropes from the shores of the Vistula River, split them into sisal string, and wove huge, abstract cloaks, that double as safe cocoons or blankets and death shrouds or stripped animal hides. She needed to make flexible work to fit in her tiny apartment. These enormous bodies came forth from her cramped life in Warsaw.

Abakanowicz always works in multiples, mobs, swarms. She refers to unique qualities appearing within herds, even when the "brainless entity" takes over. Because of the drone and press of crowds, she says she prefers solitude, at the same time being acutely aware of needing to belong to a tribe.

When I was an impatient 18 year old in a weaving class, I was completely taken with Abakanowicz's work, slowed, made thoughtful. I still am made silent by it. I can see wanting to be enveloped in it, then feeling smothered by it. Both comforted and aware of some kind of violence, trapped.

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