Thursday, October 02, 2014
Nails in a Coffin, installation in progress
I'm one of ten visual artists and twenty literary artists (writers and poets) invited to participate in an upcoming, February event called Art from the Ashes. This project is being conducted by Muddy Ford Press in conjunction with One Columbia and Historic Columbia’s commemoration of the sesquicentennial of William T. Sherman's burning of our city ... February 1865 ... near the end of the Civil War. There were four provided lectures by expert historians. Each was excellent. I've been totally amazed by the inspiration found in the historical events of 1865. I'm also thrilled to have another opportunity to collaborate.
Although I'm a total pacifist, listening to the lectures proved fascinating. Imagining so many city blocks burned to the ground was alarming. The photos and original source material from 1865 were eye opening to the destruction of war. Downtown Columbia lay in ruins, a series of chimneys and rubble. What remained in the ashes? Well, nails of course. Nails are among my favorite found objects due to their strong yet bittersweet symbolic qualities. (Think about Christ's crucifixion ... both salvation and physical pain. Think about construction ... to join pristine material means piercing both. Bittersweet ... and nails are like humans, really like adults ... a strong, worn spine with a "head".)
I knew right away that I wanted to use nails and create a piece called Nails in the Coffin. This isn't a unique title for me. In 2007 I made an altered book with this title. It included scraps of Civil War engravings and gun advertisements from Harper's Weekly ... all from the 1860s. It also included vintage material onto which I'd rusted old nails. (Click HERE for a video of the book.) So, I got all my wrapped nails and leftover scraps of rusted material out and came up with a plan. Of course, everything I made back in 2007 wasn't quite "right". For this installation, I had my heart set on a more monochromatic palette, something that looked appropriate with the scraps of rusted material. In the process of figuring out my idea, I also came across eight, white wall-mounted cubes and the wall-mounted ledges I recently made.
(Above: Sketch for the installation.)
Slowly, I developed an idea to hang the stitching on the wall above each cube and place the wrapped nails into a fiber vessel on top of each cube. My plan also includes three of the five wall-mounted ledges, over which will hang three framed poems. I actually sketched out the arrangement and discussed this with Al Black, one of the poets involved in the project. Everything seemed to fall into place ... except ...
... in order to make the presentation a reality, I needed to make eight, shallow, monochromatic vessels and three large ones. I started making cord ... zigzag stitching over dozens of white and off white and other assorted yarns in my stash. All these yarns came from Bill Mishoe's auction, yard sales, and from other people's stashes. I don't knit or crochet ... but I'm a whiz at making cord and turning the cord into fiber vessels! I love doing this and even wrote a free on-line tutorial HERE.
So far, I have all eight, shallow vessels and more than enough large ones. I've been spending nearly every evenings wrapping nails in off-white yarns. Yet, most of the old, rusted nails I own have either already been wrapped in more colorful threads or look too much alike. So, I found a cool website selling old-fashioned cut nails. It is called Tremont Nails. They've been making nails since 1819! I splurged and ordered one pound each of three different, decorative cut nails. Thus, my growing collection looks nice, varied, and interesting.
In the three, large vessels I plan to use all my previously wrapped, old nails. I know I have enough of these! I'll continue to post photos for this installation as it evolves.
This photo came from my recent reception for Threads: Gathering My Thoughts. Michael's pencil graffiti surrounded my installation. Al's poetry will be in the framed pieces for the next installation ... one poem from the perspective of a dead Confederate soldier, one from a dead Union soldier, and the third from a local undertaker ... Nails in a Coffin ... and an appropriate way to commemorate the burning of Columbia.
I am linking this post to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays", a site for sharing fiber artworks.
Posted by Susan Lenz at 1:19 PM