Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Red, a biomorphic abstraction

(Above:  Red, a biomorphic abstraction placed in a circular arrangement.  Flexible dimensions. As shown:  48" x 48".  Click on any image to enlarge.)

I started out to make a boa for The Red Carpet Dress. I've made a boa before (2013).  It was for the Pantyhose Dress, another garment made from recycled materials.  The earlier boa was made from recycled packaging felt.  The red carpet remnant from the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show is similar to felt.  I thought it would work pretty much the same way.  It didn't.

(Above:  Red.  Approximately 78" x 16" x 16". Recycled red floor covering from the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show.)

This spun polyester material is much stiffer.  On one hand, it made is super simple to cut. I just had to rip a pair of scissors up 18" wide lengths ... hundreds of times. On the other hand, it made it harder to stitch because the mass wasn't particularly flexible like softer, thinner material would have been.  Once started, however, I couldn't stop.

(Above:  Me holding up Red beside The Red Carpet Dress, a work in progress, and the remaining roll of red carpet flooring.)

Each 1 - 1 1/2" strip was folded in half.  The fold was tapered to about 1/2".  Each piece was then stitched to a red rope ... three straight stitches for connection and one slip stitch around the grouping.  This process took time but allowed for every folded strip to move in any direction.  After stitching all the folded strips to the rope, I carefully cut the lengths into narrow sections ... each one about 1/2" wide.  Still, the material remained stiff.

 (Above:  Red, detail.)

If the model selected to wear the Red Carpet Dress is willing, it can still be an accessory.  Yet, it is heavy and not particularly "boa-like" ... fantastical, over-the-top, bigger-than-expectations, a show-stopper ... but not really a drapery piece clinging to the shoulders!  In my mind, I can see the impression this over-sized boa would make walking down a runway and being pulled back behind the model on her return.  Yet, this might not work!

 (Above:  Red, a biomorphic abstraction.)

I knew of this problem very quickly but I also saw potential for this work to be a stand-alone creation.  Within an hour of the start, I could sense that the piece was taking on a life form, not a particular creature but assuredly the suggestion of an abstract being.

 (Above:  Red, detail.)

It wasn't long before I was researching the word "biomorphic".  I've heard it often and thought I understood what it meant ... and I did!  Borrowing from the Tate Museums website: Biomorphic forms or images are ones that while abstract nevertheless refer to, or evoke, living forms such as plants and the human body.

 (Red, elongated.)

The word "biomorphism" come from the Greek word "bio" (meaning "life") and "morphe" (meaning form).  Yet, the art term doesn't actually mean "life form", as in a REAL life form. It means that the object exhibits the appearance or other qualities of a living thing.  The term was coined by Alfred H. Barr, an art historian the the first direction of NYC's Museum of Modern Art, in 1936 in an exhibition catalogue.  Barr defined biomorphism as, “Curvilinear rather than rectilinear, decorative rather than structural and romantic rather than classical in its exaltation of mystical, the spontaneous and the irrational.”  Well ... that's Red.

(Above:  Red, detail.)

Red took four full days to stitch but I think it was worth it.  I'm toying with the idea of submitting it to juried opportunities, not as a boa but as a biomorphic abstract work in and of itself.  (Although it is not lost on me that elegant, feather boas take their name from a snake, a definite life form!)

1 comment:

Shannon said...

It has so much personality! Biomorphic is right! I feel like out tendency to want to anthropomorphize everything contributes, but jeez- anything this abstract that manages to alternately convey sleepiness, inquisitiveness, attentiveness, and exhaustion so well is definitely my definition of successful.

Super cool!