Reaching out to others is very important. And it is a skill I don’t often use. So, this holiday season, I decided to do what is difficult for me to do and to reach out to others. Everyone in my family and close circle of friends received a sweater to help me complete my journey in raising awareness for the National Coalition for the Homeless. I chose to complete this project in part due to my own experiences. While I was never without shelter, the shelter I sometimes had as a child was not one I would imagine my own children experiencing. These shelters sometimes included cars, campers, old trailers, barns and dilapidated structures. Some did not have working plumbing, electricity, or other amenities such as a refrigerator or stove. While commonplace items for most homes, these were complete luxuries I lived without. And while it may sound as if I am having a pity party for one, the reality is that many people in my community also experienced similar living situations. And while I would never have considered myself or my mother as homeless as a child, according to the outlines provided by NCH, many of these conditions would have classified us as such. These same experiences also made me the person I am today: a person who sometimes struggles with the wants of society but is grateful for the luxuries I have including a well paying job that I love and worked very hard to obtain; one who has a loving family who supports me and my quirks, and has friends who put up with the creative reclusive impulses I put them through. This year was also one where I was able to reach out to supportive family in order to provide a home for my mother who had been living in less than ideal circumstances. Through this experience, I have also had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know a great family who is assisting with my mother’s needs as she continues her struggling journey down the path of life.
Having worked with several different populations of homeless adults and youth in previous community art projects, completing Found Objects is one in which I felt that I could directly impact people’s awareness of such social issues; question artistic standards of representation outside the main frame system of capitalist structures; and utilize a common collaborative oriented craft as an artistic medium for expression and activism. While I will not be knitting any additional sweaters for this project, anyone interested in participating through knitting and placing a sweater are encouraged to contact me for directions. Thanks to those who also participated by knitting and placing sweaters including Terri Minkin, Jill Mcilroy, Pam Murray, Kathy Schultz, Theresa Krivosheev, Louise Greenfield, Nita Mehnert, Leann Nassar, Patti Shield, Suzanne Arney and Patt Sheldon. I enjoyed getting to know all of you through this project. May 2012 be a great year for everyone!
To commemorate the project for posterity, I sent one sweater off to the National Coalition for the Homeless. Megan Hustings, the Director of Development, and I have been in correspondence over the past year and a half regarding the project and any proceeds that could be directly attributed to the finding of the sweaters. The letter outlines the completion of the project on my part and thanks the organization for letting ARTivention sponsor them for this collective endeavor. And while Megan has been keeping up with the blog, now she will have a sweater in person to look at and be reminded of all of us who have knitted and placed a sweater around the country in support for the organization and its mission.
The Chapman Cultural Center was a buzz with energy last Sunday with a holiday performance, and so my daughter and I placed two sweaters on site for those in the holiday spirit to find. Known as the Hub City due to the convergence of the railroad, Spartanburg is now home to some amazing amenities that was not in existence that long ago. The new cultural center seems to be quite a place for exhibitions and performances that celebrate the local and provide an opportunity to share the talents of the area. In hopes that the finders of the sweaters were able to share their generosity, we placed one in a very conspicuous location while the other one is tucked away a bit next to a information stand on cultural events sponsored by the center.
Posted on the announcement board outside 10,000 Villages in Greenville, SC, this sweater makes a great addition to a local small business district that seemed vibrant with holiday shoppers wanting to do more with their money than just purchase the cheapest thing around. Thoughtful shoppers were perusing the streets and wandering in the store on a beautifully sunny day in the upstate and it seemed a perfect place to place a sweater. As usual, I am not sure how long it will remain there until claimed, but hopefully, someone who is visually aware will spot the little guy and give it a home as well as helping those who may not be so fortunate.
The times are a changing, as the Bob Dylan song goes, and along with it a revolution of the middle class. Occupy Wall Street is now a national movement and it is great to see how collective action can best be represented through visual monuments such as this. Just down the street from the park where protesters have made themselves at home, was this amazing moving van. On so many levels, this just seemed the apropos location for a sweater. The moving van in itself is a great metaphor for the current state of our housing crisis that still is stalled by banks unwilling to mortgage down liens that could be paid by hardworking individuals. The amazing art work adorning the van just proves that art has a place in the public sphere and can also serve to motivate people to action. And, finally, the location of the sweater on the gas tank is definitely intentional as it comments not only on the environmental impact we have on this earth, but also the cost of such commodities and how they influence our spending habits, if in fact you happen to be one of the lucky blokes working for the standard middle class wages that pale in comparison to executive pay of the top CEO’s in our country. Kudos to the artist who painted this work of art!
We took a trek into Manhattan via the ferry that goes from IKEA to the lower east side. While waiting for the ferry to arrive, I was immediately attracted to these large sculptural forms of knotted sailing rope. It reminded me of the large balls of yarn from which I knit the tiny sweaters, and I couldn’t resist placing a sweater within the larger ball of rope. An artist who I admire greatly, Orly Genger, has done several installations referencing knitted constructions and this seafaring material. While this form pales in comparison, it seemed like the perfect overwhelming form for such a tiny object. And, ironically, it happened to be adjacent to the the home furniture provider to the mobile urban dweller living in tight spaces.
I guess I can now boast that I had work in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, but believe me the intention of placing the sweater where I did reflects more upon challenging the art world economy than to become a part of the hierarchical nature of exhibition, recognition and monetary cycle of art production. Earlier in the day, a presenter at the conference I attended compared visits to specialized museums including the National Museum of Women and the Arts, National Museum of American Indian, National Museum of African Art, American Visionary Art Museum and the National Museum of Art. He posed a question to one of the docents at the National Museum of Art asking if there were any works of art completed by women in the museum. The docent, who was an older white gentleman, answered that he didn’t know and told the presenter to just check the label stating the name of the artist. Then, the gentleman reflected and answered that he thought that there might be some paintings by Alfred Stieglitz’s wife in one of the galleries, but he wasn’t sure. As an artist who is a woman, and one who looks back on those who have made my path easier as a practicing artist, I was shocked and appalled. In my bubble, we are all equal. And as I was walking towards the entrance of MoMa, with the crowds going around the city block to view an iconic male artist from the 50’s and 60’s, I physically revolted, becoming nauseous as I approached. I had a free entrance into the museum and a great opportunity to view some of the artists whom I have come to admire, both men and women, but on that night, I couldn’t stomach the Wal-Mart effect of mob adoration of one who has been deemed worthy by the art world. So, in homage to Mierle Laderman Ukeles who mopped the floor on her hands and knees of various art institutions, I placed a sweater on the floor. And, it is no coincidence that the text from the museum table soliciting membership is in the background. To me, it reads that only some people belong, and obviously we know who those are and it isn’t us.
Okay, so some sweaters have already been placed upon the numerous public sculptures of Robert Indiana entitled LOVE, one in Philadelphia and one in Scottsdale, AZ. But I couldn’t resist working on adding to the collection. So, when I came across this sculpture on my way to Museum of Modern Art in New York, I jumped at the chance to place the sweater. The corner was busy and one of the bagel cart guys was busy selling his warm toasty products on a chilly afternoon as I placed the sweater on the “back” side of the sculpture. While I was photographing one side, tourists were photographing the other side, posing in front of the sculpture. Maybe I have been working on this project too long, but I couldn’t help but think how a city’s problems are always hidden away from the tourist industry, but still very much a part of a place. I also struck up a conversation with the street vendor about the project and he seemed genuinely impressed with the concept. Not sure he would have said the same thing about some of the work in MoMA down the street.
The Big Apple as it is called, turns out to be filled with public pay phones. Honestly, I was a bit shocked. In the vicinity of Park Ave and 44th St., I placed this sweater for the unsuspecting pedestrian to hopefully find and be prompted to donate. As this location is quite close to some large banking firms, I am sure there are many wandering the local streets consumed with the daily business of our country’s economic dilema. Unfortunately, these might not be the same folks who need the public pay phone, but maybe it will at least provide the opportunity for someone to feel engaged in a larger communal effort beyond their habitual routine.
On a much happier occasion of questioning home and place, sweater #246 was placed at the home and dye/art studio of Jane Hoffman in Blue River in the northeast section of AZ. Nestled in a very remote section of land in the national forest, her home is also the site of a wonderful retreat location for environmental enthusiasts and artists alike. I was fortunate enough to have stayed in one of the AirStream trailers and couldn’t resist placing a sweater. As Jane and her husband Don often hosts guests from around the world, it’s anybody’s guess as to who will find this guy. Nestled among the collection of items here, I immediately thought of the beautiful Dutch still lifes, or vanitas as they are commonly referred to in the art world. Often these paintings depict symbols of our vanity and brevity of life, and while I don’t think a cup of pencils and a blue glass vase is equivalent, I do think that the placement of this sweater in a trailer that was popular in the ’60’s and now is on a remote landscape is enough to make one pause about the unique qualities of historical objects. A fellow colleague who was also staying with us this weekend commented upon the vivid memories of her grand parents trailer and sleeping between 2 adults on a full size bed in the back room. Where we sleep, find respite and repose is very much a part of our life, despite its brevity and as such demands a sweater to symbolize this pondering.