Art and conversation flow from hands and heart of artist Mandy Greer
Fiber artist Mandy Greer's river of yarn, cloth and beads snakes through the trees at West Seattle's Camp Long.
Special to the Seattle Times
"Mater Matrix Mother and Medium"
Through July 31, Camp Long, 5200 35th Ave. S.W., Seattle; free. Artist Mandy Greer is in residence 11 a.m.-2 p.m. next Tuesday and Thursday (for info about Camp Long, 206-684-7434 or www.seattle.gov/parks/Environment/camplong.htm; for Mandy Greer, mandygreer.blogspot.com).
Looking for an oasis from the heat? This summer, you'll find one not among the trees but in their branches.
Look up near Polliwog Pond in West Seattle's Camp Long as Mandy Greer's "Mater Matrix Mother and Medium," a 200-foot-long fiber river, takes shape above your head. It's tied into the trees, and Greer will crochet around the ties a little more each day.
Greer is known for her voluminous, emotionally charged fiber creations. Bumbershoot artgoers from 2006 still talk about the crocheted entrails of her dying stag, titled "Small but Mighty Wandering Pearl." A mustard-yellow "Slug Princess" gown from her recent "Silvering Path" collaboration made the cover of Fiberarts magazine.
Her latest work is part of the series "Water Calling," commissioned with Seattle Public Utilities' 1% for Art funds. The individual whirlpools of Greer's river were crocheted with participants at libraries, parks, museums and neighborhood festivals this spring and early summer, making "Mater Matrix's" homespun opulence a meta-public art.
Greer estimates that about three sets of hands contributed to each whirlpool, which she later edited for detail, harmonizing colors and textures. They all retain a ragtag beauty. "If all the textures were the same, it wouldn't be as dynamic," she says.
One afternoon, Greer taught me a basic chain stitch in five minutes. Soon, I had crocheted a line of bright royal blue and begun attaching it to the scalloped edge of a pool of sky blue, periwinkle and navy. In another, cloud-soft white yarn entwines with sea-foam green. Strips of surgical fabric meld with sparkly threads, and blue beads hang off edges.
Another participant that day, Stacy Schulze, had seen a flier for the project at the University District yarn store where she works. She and Greer talked about old sailor knitting traditions and Victorian hair lace, which led into a "tatting" demonstration from Schulze, who had a ball of yarn in her pocket. The flow of conversation that surrounds the flow of work is a crucial element of "Mater Matrix's" inspiration and success.
Artist Sharon Arnold had a similar experience when helping Greer at a "Delridge Day" event. "For so many people, the practice of art-making is a solitary act done in whatever time one has left, and here [Greer] is sort of blowing the studio door wide open," says Arnold.
In the past, Greer's work has represented blood and milk — "fluids that come out of the body and represent emotional output," she writes in her artist statement. She began the water study "Mater Matrix Mother and Medium" thinking about everything from Celtic "Clootie" wells, where people invoked healing through knots tied into forest sites, to Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of water, art, music and conversation. Her name literally means "the one who flows."
"The contemporary way to treat water is usually as a commodity or a tool, so I wanted to look back," says Greer.
"I believe that it is the individual conversation between two people that is really the start of 'community,' and I like the idea that something flows back and forth between two people."
On July 16, choreographer and dancer Zoe Scofield will perform in a wearable portion of "Mater Matrix" at Polliwog Pond, in another example of the piece's many layers of collaboration. Its physical layers remain a dazzling embellishment to the natural setting.
While searching for her project sites, "I was just blown away by how many bits of ancient forest we have within our urban environment," says Greer. "I saw a giant owl the other day at Camp Long. It was thrilling ... in the middle of Seattle."
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
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