Today's discussion began with Zora Neale Hurston. One of the participants brought the book Speak So You Can Speak Again - the Life of Zora Neale Hurston, a collection of vignettes and printings of original writings by Zora Neale Hurston, including her short play, Spunk. Folks around town are interested in planning an event honoring the life of Zora Neale Hurston, and so we talked about how we were introduced to her work, individually and collectively, and what the impact of her work has been. Another participant commented that Zora's work, in particular, the recordings in the holdings at the Library of Congress, are particularly beautiful. Zora, at one point relegated to obscurity, has become a compass point for artists interested in questions of social interaction, overlaps in the myths of history (who's writing/telling/speaking the story?), and representation. Doubtful she would speak of herself this way, but here we are in 2007, opening a sunny Saturday afternoon discussion with a collective homage to her.
We then went on to discuss the works of featured artist, Wura-Natasha Ogunji. Wura presented individual pieces from her series, Monuments. In these works, we witnessed the extraordinary marriage of thread and paper - two fibers brought together to create a three dimensional image that is both a representation and an embodiment of intention. The majority of the pieces within the series are constituted by combinations and hybridizations of birds, women, abstract topograph-like `orgasm maps', and architectural elements (columns). In speaking about her work, Wura mentioned that the questions she is currently considering are questions of what is monumental? how does one create a piece of work that is both opened and closed, simultaneously? what are the overlaps of the sacred and profane (and she goes so far as to explicate that there is no division between these)? and finally, how does the work, and the actual thread used to create the work, demonstrate intention? Wura cited her artistic ancestors as: Ana Mendieta, Louise Bourgeois, Antonio Tapies, and Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons (as a contemporary, she serves more as a cousin). I asked her to consider questions of time/timelessness in her work, and how process and materials interact with each other. Her responses to these questions included comments on how the thread represents hours of labor on one level, however, they the composition of the piece is beyond frameworks of time. A very interesting tension in the work.
Participants also discussed connections between the body and thread - how veins and sinew are threadlike, and Wura suggested that because her work is based on Yoruba cosmology, it is simultaneously referencing the body, the earth, and the monument of the piece itself - that the stitched work is as significant as what it represents. Another participant focused on the question of intention and how intention translates beyond the aesthetics of the work into how the work interacts with the viewer. Because one of the artist's materials is thread, we touched upon the use of thread in practical matters, such as the sewing of clothes for wages. At the question of impressions, Frank mentioned the haiku "The upward flight of a great slow moving bird." (citation to follow). With Wura's work, we asked questions such as: When is a piece finished?
What is it about thread that is so intriguing? Is it that thread is both a practice and an art?
We had an intimate gathering, and wonderful discussions, as well as the opportunity to share resources and information about upcoming events.
Looking forward to meeting again!