Friday, June 24, 2016

Update, June 2016

In 1993, a fellow named Mike Lash offered me the opportunity to work on a stained glass window exhibit at O’Hare Airport.  To assist with my research, he suggested I meet a Mr. Samuelson over in Landmarks.   Mr. Samuelson was very helpful.  He told me about the windows, the buildings they were from, the ways to conserve them, and how his friend Richard Nickel was arrested for saving a window from a Frank Lloyd Wright building.

Subsequent to that, we worked on Chicago’s first public art streetscape.  Tim gave historical background and I lead the process that commissioned 20 artists to create over 200 artworks in a 1.5 mile section of Martin Luther King Drive in historic Bronzeville.   We got it done in time for the 1996 Democratic Convention and I think Bill Clinton drove past.    Also with Tim’s help, I created the Chicago Tribute Markers of Distinction program, intended to commemorate the creations and innovations of Chicagoans - from Richard Wright to the Marx Brothers, Ida B. Wells and Enrico Fermi -  in the neighborhoods where they lived.  I wanted to inspire current residents and attract visitors to places they might not otherwise visit, like Archibald Motley’s little bungalow on W. 60th Street, Lorraine Hansberry’s girlhood home in Woodlawn, and the 2-flat greystone in Bronzeville that Lil Hardin bought for herself and her husband Louis Armstrong. 

When I moved to Cultural Planning, Tim and I curated the Tree Studios show (with Barton Faist) and in the process worked to save that historic building and tell the story of the artists it housed.  Behind the scenes, I conducted the Pilsen as an Art District Study, enlisting Artspace Projects and a local consulting firm to look at strategies for strengthening and uniting the nascent artist colonies in that fascinating and diverse neighborhood.   I assisted in various ways with Chicago’s first two city-assisted artist live/work developments – Switching Station Artists Lofts in East Garfield Park and ACME Artists Condominiums in Bucktown – and later provided counsel to the Bronzeville Artist Lofts, the Cornerstone Development Artists Housing in Washington Park, the Hairpin Artist Lofts in Avondale, Dorchester Artists Housing Cooperative and the Pullman Artist Housing – plus several projects that remained a gleam in a developer or an artist’s eye.

In addition to live/work space, I initiated the effort to designate the Cermak Creative Industry District, and tried to have it developed along the lines of Vancouver’s Granville Island – with artist live/work in the mix -  enlisting the support at varying times of the Urban Land Institute, Artspace Projects, the Campaign for Sensible Growth, and the National Endowment of the Arts.  Sadly, that project continues to languish.   I also worked with the Homan Square Foundation in envisioning the Powerhouse, Tower, and other buildings, engaging the Bruner Foundation and participating in an inspiring visit to Manchester Craftsman’s Guild.

In 2000, I married Tim (!), and conducted a study of the space and technical assistance needs of Chicago artists.  Two thousand people responded (via snail mail).  Using the findings from that initial research, I fundraised for and developed tools that would help artists help themselves -- the community-contributed, open-source Chicago Artists Resource website (2005 – present); the monthly Artists at Work Forums (Dancers at Work, Musicians at Work, etc.); the annual Creative Chicago Expo (2002 – 14); the monthly CAR Enewsletter; Square Feet Chicago, a 27-chapter artist’s guide to buying and leasing space adapted from Toronto Artscape, and other one-off programs that convened, connected and educated artists in all disciplines.   Notable among those one-offs are Ars Scientia (conversations between artists and scientists, including Temple Grandin and Apollo Robbins that took place during the Year of Science), and Studio Chicago, a year-long collaboration with the MCA, SAIC, Columbia College, and other groups around artists' space.

Through this I was able to work with amazing colleagues at the City -- in Cultural Affairs and other city departments and sister agencies.  They are too numerous to list, but all were special in many ways.  I was able to mentor “CAR artist-researchers” and interns, many of whom have gone on to remarkable achievements -- Jason Schupbach, Theaster Gates, Meida McNeal, Sara Schnadt, LaShawnda Storm Crowe, Tempestt Hazel, Laura Pearson, Mechelle Moe, Eiren Caffall, Britton Bertran, Tom Burtonwood, Baraka de Soleil, Leigh Fagin, Carmelita Tiu, Esther Kang and many more.   Not to mention my colleagues within City government.   I was part of two national cohorts of leaders in artist markets and support – the Tremaine Foundation and Leveraging Investments in Creativity – participating and hosting annual convenings, making presentations in New Orleans, Winnipeg, Toronto, Vancouver, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Houston, and elsewhere.  

In 2010-11, I fundraised for and conducted a second survey of artists’ needs, with 5,000 individuals responding, taking up to 45 minutes to complete a detailed survey.  Sadly, that work fell by the wayside during the change in administrations, but perhaps someone will find it of value sometime in the future.

In the past couple years, I’ve coordinated Chicago Artists Month, using it as a way to connect artists to each other and to local resources, funding, publicity and a platform for innovative projects in the neighborhoods.  CAM has featured a start-up ethnographic film series in Woodlawn, Art + Restaurant + Fashion Walks in Southeast Chicago, listening parties in the barbershop in Lawndale, crafting bees on Devon Avenue, and hundreds of other projects throughout the city.    And this year I was part of the DCASE team to produce the Lake FX Summit + Expo, which introduced our first A+R auditions, evening showcases, Teach-In, Festival of Chicago Film Festivals, Chick Crits and clinics to a robust array of workshops, panels and conversations with local and national arts leaders.

What a ride it has been.   It has been over 20 years that the City recognizes my service, and 23 years that I do.   I like to say I have worked for the City 19 1/2 years longer than I thought I would, and for much of that time I was amazed that I was actually being paid to do work that was so much fun and so rewarding, for a city I love and the artists and organizations who animate it in so many important and valuable ways.   I am always touched when some artist introduces themselves and tells me about how something or other really helped or impacted their life.  It is wonderful to have had the opportunity to make a difference.

Now it is time to retire.  I look forward to doing interesting things in the private sector and thank you all for the support you have given me during this wild, wild ride.   My last day, I believe, will be June 30, 2016.

All the best,

Barbara Koenen

Monday, April 8, 2013

Greetings from Ragdale

My first artist residency that I can think of, where I'm just here to make art.   I have a beautiful studio in a new building on the prairie here in Lake Forest, IL.   Five floor-to-ceiling glass doors open out onto grass and trees and a pile of sticks and old christmas trees daring me to ignite them.  These doors and a clerestory allow in the even cool northern light I've always heard about but never experienced.

So, here I am with 12 days left.  I brought bodies of work from the past 15 years, many of which have languished while I pursued other things.  My challenge is to assimilate them, if possible, into a coherent whole.   Buddha at the Hot dog Stand, a series of materials afixed to rice paper squares, meet the watercolour process paintings that I hope will look like water rippling over pebbles, meet the Afghan war rug prints I've been making since 2003, meet the paintings on linen intended to manifest an idea via material and process.   Listening to public radio, a rare treat for this 9-to-5 bureaucrat, I hear from the women from the Afghan Learning Institute, followed by a report on the death of the suburban Chicago diplomat who was blown up while delivering text books to Afghan schoolchildren.  I wonder at the necessity and the futility of making art that encompasses those events without touching them, that somehow makes poetry out of material and can withstand markets and media.

So, buddha right now has new editions with firecrackers, with mandala sand, with bottlecaps and legal stickers, with rice crackers, with stamens, with mussel shells.  Kalishnikovs of pepper, sesame and sugar dissolve on the walls.  Some crazy-ass mess on linen with feathers and felt and washers and glitter dares me to reign it in.   And the watercolours just keep seducing me with their forgiving process process process.  Paint, play, erase, rub, play again, stop, erase, enjoy.  









Impossible holy mess.

Did I mention they burned the prairie the day after I arrived?


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Enews 11/14/11 "War Rug Project Update 5"




Barbara Koenen ::
WAR RUG PROJECT UPDATE 5


The WAR RUG PROJECT began in 2002, when I started recreating Afghan War Rugs as temporary art installations made out of spices. I was inspired both by the inherent tragedy of the war rugs woven in and around Afghanistan, and the sustained optimism of the sand mandalas of Tibetan Buddhists.

Nine versions of the War Rug Project have been made since, with the most recent beginning this past September 2 at the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM), in conjunction with the Art Prize competition.
On Sunday, October 9, Tim and I completed the installation by pulling three monoprints of the spices...

Printing
Spreading acrylic medium on the canvas, October 9, 2011
Spreading acrylic medium on the canvas, October 9, 2011

Like the previous eight War Rug Project installations, this was a recreation of an Afghan war rug that I found listed for sale on Ebay. "Twin Towers- Tribute Rug Carpet-9/11 2001- USA History" was the first post-9/11 war rug in the series. All the earlier rug installations were based on carpets made in response to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

"Twin Towers..." was installed on a platform in the upper gallery of the museum over the course of six days. It was completed on September 11, 2011. The spice installation was on display for the next several weeks, including the 2 weeks of the Art Prize competition. The GRAM was a great venue for the project -- a beautiful museum with a guaranteed audience, thanks to Art Prize, of over 100,000 people!

Here is a quick show of how printing went that last Sunday, starting with the application of clear acrylic gel medium onto sheets of cotton canvas...

photos by Dianne Carroll Burdick unless noted.


Placing
Laying down the canvas for the first print
Laying down the canvas for the first print

"Twin Towers..." was made only of loose spices, seeds and colored sugar, carefully placed on a felt mat. It was on display for about 3 weeks. Initially, it was left unrestricted so people could get really close to it. But when the ArtPrize competition got in full swing, stanchions were placed around it so it didn't get destroyed by all the kids who were touching it.

Coincidentally, all their fingerprints do make for a more interesting print...

After we put the clear acrylic gel medium onto a piece of canvas, Tim and I carefully placed it face down on top of the spices...

Rubbing
Rolling and rubbing it down so the spices really stick!
Rolling and rubbing it down so the spices really stick!

The GRAM provided ample space for the new installation as well as for background material consisting of three spice prints from a previous war rug installation, and several examples of real war rugs. We produced a booklet about the project and a series of business cards that displayed many images from the series. All these together generated lots of questions about the origin of the patterns (carpets woven by Afghanis since the 1970s), the spices used (sesame, ginger, poppy, cumin, oregano, hot red pepper, flour and salt, nutmeg and colored sugar (the blue)), and what keeps it there (gravity!).

Once the gelled-up canvas was placed onto the spices, we began rubbing it thoroughly to make sure that the first layer adhered well.

Revealing
Lifting off the first print.
Lifting off the first print.
Carefully lifting it up, you could see the impression take hold. All that color is made from spices, not from paint or pigment. It is embedded into the clear acrylic medium. It is always a surprise to see what happens. And notice how the image is transferred in reverse -- like in a mirror -- which is a bit disconcerting, especially if you are used to the original orientation.



Voila!
Voila!
Voila!
Here you can see what it looks like. The blank spaces are where the spices had been disturbed. And the smears are especially evident near the top side that I'm holding. Everyone clapped, and we took a little bow.
Drying
All laid out to dry.
All laid out to dry.
We did this three times, making three unique prints, each adhering fewer spices than before. We laid them out to dry for the rest of the afternoon on plastic tarps.
Remains
The last one and what remained on the mat.
The last one and what remained on the mat.
Here is what remained of the entire installation -- the ginger powder of the sky, the white flour of the flag and the explosions, some of the poppyseeds and cinnamon. The third print is next to the mat, and you can see how the pattern has dissolved. These last prints are always my favorites -- the pattern becomes abstract and loose.
Three Prints
"Twin Towers- Tribute Rug Carpet-9/11 2001- USA History" edition 1, 2 and 3 of 3.
"Twin Towers- Tribute Rug Carpet-9/11 2001- USA History" edition 1, 2 and 3 of 3.

With apologies for my not-so-hot photography, here you can see the fruits of our labor. Three prints of "Twin Towers- Tribute Rug Carpet-9/11 2001- USA History."

Starting on the left with the first pull, and gradually disintegrating through the third. Once they are mounted and framed, the final stage will be up to nature and UV radiation. Some of the spices will fade and transform. The blue into clear sugar crystals... the red pepper into a sienna brown... the poppy from blue to a greyish cast. And perhaps some other changes I can't forsee!

And the winner was...
Crucifixion by Mia Tavonatti won first place at Art Prize by popular vote, and the prize of $250,000. Congratulations to her and all the top 10.

Special shout-out to 2nd place winners, Chicagoans Tracy Van Duinen, Todd Osborne, Andrea Bellomo and Phil Schuster for their ambitious mosaic mural, Metaphorest. It is nice for Grand Rapids to have several examples of their work throughout the city, as it is for us Chicagoans to have some too.


photo by David Guthrie, licensed Creative Commons on Flickr

Heartfelt Thanks!

Heartfelt thanks to everyone who has emailed, donated, visited, and shared this project with their friends. It has been a tremendous experience -- because of you!

Alpha Bruton :: Julie Banzhaf Stone :: Robert J. Tassone :: Chuck Thurow :: William Zbaren and Robert Sharoff :: Delphine Cannon :: Katharine Banzhaf :: Beverly Koenen (thanks Mom!) :: Duane Fimreite :: Janet Carl Smith :: Pat Casler :: Alicia Berg :: Michelle Boone :: Deborah and Glenn Doering :: Carrie Hanson :: Jackie Kazarian :: Pooja Vukosavich :: Chris Gent :: Shirley Patton :: Kristin Dean :: Kristin Patton :: Carolina Jayaram :: Laura Samson :: Esther Grimm :: Karen Paluzzi Steele :: Carol Reisinger :: Dr. David Hinkamp :: Marguerite Horberg :: Dianna Frid :: Annie Morse :: Doug VanderHoof :: Neiman Brothers :: Tim Samuelson :: Alison Neidt Toonen :: Lynn Basa :: Mary Wittig :: John Vinci :: Jane Bretl :: Iain Muirhead :: Adam Brooks :: Deborah Boardman :: Lisa Roberts :: Rob + Elizabeth, Samantha, Daniel and Max!! and several anonymous donors. You are all terrific!!

We have 7 days to raise $35 more dollars (!!) to get the whole $5,000 needed for this phase of the project. I am working on the gifts now and excited to be putting together some lovely overviews of the project for all its supporters. If you'd still like to help out, click here to learn more.

Here is a link to my website, where you can see photos of this project and others from the series, as well as paintings and more artwork.

Let me know if you'd like to do a studio visit to see the prints and rugs in person. It would be delightful to show them to you. koenen@gmail.com


You are receiving this newsletter from artist Barbara Koenen because I thought you might be interested in my artwork.
If that is incorrect, my apologies and please unsubscribe at the link below. Thank you!

Making the Olive Branch, September 8, 2011

Enews 10/14/11 "War Rug Project Update 4"



Barbara Koenen ::
WAR RUG PROJECT UPDATE 4

Making + Talking
Competing
Distress
Revelation
Thanks
Remembering

The WAR RUG PROJECT @ the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM) runs through October 9, 2011.

Join us Oct 9 :: War Rug Printmaking Sunday 2 pm @ the GRAM



Making + Talking
Making + Talking, Sept 10, 2011
Making + Talking, Sept 10, 2011


"Twin Towers- Tribute Rug Carpet-9/11 2001- USA History" was completed on the morning of Sunday, September 11, 2011 at the Grand Rapids Art Museum. The finishing touch was to place the firecracker fringe that Tim made underneath.

Made only of loose spices, seeds and colored sugar, the installation took about six days to construct. It replicates a 9/11 war rug I purchased on Ebay a few months ago, and its title comes from the real rug's Ebay listing. I find Afghan War Rugs fascinating and tragic, as they are artifacts that reflect the effect of war and strife on a centuries-old tradition, and they are woven by women with little voice in Afghan society.

I was fortunate to be able to build the rug while the museum was open, and had many conversations with people in the process. Lots of questions about the origin of the patterns (carpets woven by Afghanis since the 1970s), the spices used (sesame, ginger, poppy, cumin, oregano, hot red pepper, flour and salt, nutmeg and colored sugar (the blue)), and what keeps it there (gravity!). Did I weave the real carpets? (no, they are my muse). Were they made before September 11, 2001? (no).

The museum staff and security guards were wonderful, enthusiastic, inquisitive and supportive. Also understandably concerned that something would happen to the fragile artwork. They were correct! The first impact happened just minutes before my talk, when a little boy dropped his toy onto it. Oops! But, the imperfection let the rug reveal itself for what it really is... Spices.

We will pull prints of the installation on the last day of the show, Sunday October 9 at 2:00 pm. Join us!

photo by Dianne Carroll Burdick


Competing
Looking, Sept 24, 2011
Looking, Sept 24, 2011

I originally started this to participate in Art Prize, which I had visited last year. When GRAM selected me, it was a terrific honor. Their exhibit opened in early September, coinciding with eerie perfection to the anniversary of 9/11. Thus, the War Rug Project installation was on view for two weeks before the Art Prize even began on Wednesday, Sept 21.

Art Prize is an open art competition with the public as the judge. It takes place from Sept 21 - Oct 5 and really transforms the city. For two weeks, all of downtown Grand Rapids is crawling with people looking at and talking about art. Museums, corporate atriums, bank lobbies, resturants and pubs, hotels, empty storefronts, schools, churches, bridges, fountains and parking lots are taken over by 1500 artists. The range of work -- subject matter, sophistication, materials, techniques, is all over the map. And the range of people looking as well. From sophisticated afficianados to people who've never set foot in a museum before. Mostly the latter, I suspect. Lots of kids. A snapshot of democracy and an excellent audience for the War Rug Project.

When Tim and I drove in that Friday night, we thought a concert must have just let out because there were so many people on the street. Not so. It was Art Prize. On Saturday, 29,000 people went through the museum.

The GRAM is a beautiful "green" building (see pictures here), the first museum to be environmentally LEED-certified Gold. When it exceeds capacity -- if too many people are in the building (and breathing) -- the carbon dioxide that is exhaled sets off the building's CO2 monitor alarm. Then no one can enter until someone else leaves. That happened several times over the course of the day. Fortunately no one fainted ; )!


Distress
A little schumtz on the upper left corner.
A little schumtz on the upper left corner.

Once ArtPrize was in full swing, I joined many of the other artists who stood by their work and fielded questions. I lasted about a day. It was overwhelming! I decided to just leave the installation be, and trust people to figure it out. Tim had suggested I make some laminated books about the project, so they were available as were labels and a nice video that the museum produced.

I joined my family and toured the city, looking at some of the other artworks. Some of my favorites, Mary Brogger's Persian Rug, Lindsay Obermeyer's Prairie Flowers, Nancy Gildart's Birds, Mike Grucza's Lake St. Lovely, a unique map of America made from cast iron pans, and a Barrel of Monkeys that took over a bridge.

Meanwhile, my rug was left unattended for people to see and smell, to poke and pull. Many people were interested, a few very clearly didn't care for it. A man who was a 9/11 first responder introduced himself, as did a couple who had traveled in Afghanistan in the 1970s. It was fascinating to be able to talk with them.

Then I noticed something I didn't anticipate. I knew the rug would get damaged, and suspected that once the distress reached a certain point, people would recognize it was not a real rug, and was fragile, and wouldn't touch it. That proved to be the case... except for little kids. They had no idea and were often much quicker than their parents.

But what really surprised me was how many people blamed the museum for not taking care of the artwork. I probably should have known that would happen, but I assumed that people would understand ephemeral art. Maybe they'd seen a Buddhist sand mandala before. Certainly the GRAM staff really wanted to protect it, and only reluctantly indulged my desire that it remain unfettered. But people were upset, and several complained. What with that, and the kids, after a week, I decided to have the stanchions put back in place. I am sure everyone in Security breathed a big sign of relief. (Hopefully not setting off any CO2 alarms...!)

photo by Peter Koenen

Revelation
More schmutz on the lower left. (Nice fringe, eh?)
More schmutz on the lower left. (Nice fringe, eh?)


A friend once described the distresses that a war rug installation endures as letting the rug "reveal itself."

You can see the day-by-day progress here. And read about the 9/11 rugs here.

So, I didn't make the Top Ten at Art Prize. I won't be able to quit my job to be a full-time artist, or donate $125,000 to Afghan Women's causes. But it has been a wonderful experience in many, many ways, filled with family, friends, and perfect strangers who become friends. Artists and the rest of us, figuring out what it all means.

Join us on Sunday if you can as we pull three prints of the spice installation, destroying and preserving it at the same time. 2:00 pm. Or, wait for the next e-newsletter for the play-by-play. And hopefully a video from my niece Samantha, who has been interviewing visitors for her class project. And more photos by Dianne and Rob Burdick and John Corriveau.

photo by Peter Koenen

Thanks

Heartfelt thanks go to the friends of the War Rug Project. Your support makes a huge difference -- spiritually and financially. I could not do this without you!

Alpha Bruton :: Julie Banzhaf Stone :: Robert J. Tassone :: Chuck Thurow :: William Zbaren and Robert Sharoff :: Delphine Cannon :: Katharine Banzhaf :: Beverly Koenen (thanks Mom!) :: Duane Fimreite :: Janet Carl Smith :: Pat Casler :: Alicia Berg :: Michelle Boone :: Deborah and Glenn Doering :: Carrie Hanson :: Anonymous :: Jackie Kazarian :: Pooja Vukosavich :: Chris Gent :: Shirley Patton :: Kristin Dean :: Kristin Patton :: Carolina Jayaram :: Laura Samson :: Esther Grimm :: Karen Paluzzi Steele :: Carol Reisinger :: Dr. David Hinkamp :: Marguerite Horberg :: Dianna Frid :: :: Annie Morse :: Doug VanderHoof :: Neiman Brothers :: Tim Samuelson :: Alison Neidt Toonen :: Lynn Basa :: Mary Wittig :: John Vinci :: Jane Bretl :: Iain Muirhead :: Adam Brooks :: Deborah Boardman :: Lisa Roberts :: and several anonymous donors. You are all terrific!

Special thanks to Samantha, Max and Daniel Koenen, who have been wonderful hosts to their Aunt. And to Elizabeth, who is an amazing mom to them and sister in law to me. My little brother Rob, their dad and captain of the ship. And of course Tim, my love and sweetheart.

I think we've raised the whole $5,000 needed for this phase of the project, but am still reconciling the Indie Gogo website with other contributions. Will start on gifts soon. If you'd still like to help out, click here to learn more. Heartfelt thanks to everyone!!

Remembering
Bob Cassilly (red) and Tim (blue) walking through Cementland last Fall.
Bob Cassilly (red) and Tim (blue) walking through Cementland last Fall.

On a sadder note, our friend the visionary artist Bob Cassilly died last week. He was found in a bulldozer that had rolled on the grounds of his quixotic endeavor, Cementland. With Bob, though, what might seem quixotic to us would be completely realizable. Case in point, the City Museum, his masterwork in downtown St. Louis...

Picture an old shoe factory that bursts at the seams with tunnels, dragons, pipe organs, 7-story jungle gyms, 10-story slides, ferris wheels and a cantilevered school bus teetering over the edge of the roof. Add a Circus, a Thrift Store, an architecture museum. Two Aquariums. The world's largest No. 2 pencil. Great pizza and a bar in an old log cabin. What a wonderful place.

Bob's obituary in the New York Times, and our photos of Cementland from a visit last fall.

Thanks, Bob, for sharing your wonder.



You are receiving this newsletter from artist Barbara Koenen because I thought you might be interested in my artwork. If that is incorrect, my apologies and please unsubscribe at the link below. Thank you!

photo by John Corriveau

Enews 09/18/11 War Rug Project Update 3



Barbara Koenen ::
WAR RUG PROJECT UPDATE 3

Making
Finishing
Interest
Art Prize
Remembering
Thanks

The WAR RUG PROJECT @ the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM) runs through October 9, 2011 .

Art Prize runs from Sept. 21 - Oct 5. Vote for me # 41731 during the first week.

Exhibition ends with a print pull on Sunday October 9 at 2 pm.


Making

The War Rug Project installation at the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM) is comprised of 3 framed monoprints of the Silk Road War Rug monoprints from 2006 (right), three original war rugs (left), a book, cards and the newly made 9/11 War Rug on a platform. Two of the original rugs are 9/11 war rugs, and one dates from the Soviet occupation in the early 1980s. That carpet is the larger one on the right, and it was the inspiration for the Silk Road prints. Oh yes, and that's me in the middle, working away with the spices.

It was surprisingly moving to methodically render the twin towers, their windows, the jets and explosions in spices. It was a relief to make the flags and peace dove, with their big flat planes of color. And especially liberating to be able to make the aircraft carrier and the jets queuing up, all of which seemed quite free-form.

Of course I wondered what the weavers thought about the images they were slowly making. The explosions have become flattened and abstracted and the words, originally in English describing the events of 9/11, are long obliterated, as the pattern has been repeated for a decade by weavers who could never read them in the first place.

You can see the day-by-day progress here. And read about the 9/11 rugs here.

photo by Dianne Carroll Burdick.

Finishing
The completed spice installation, Sept 11, 2011
The completed spice installation, Sept 11, 2011

"Twin Towers- Tribute Rug Carpet-9/11 2001- USA History" was completed on the morning of Sunday, September 11, 2011 at the Grand Rapids Art Museum. It is named after the title of the original war rug's Ebay listing.

The spice installation took about 6 days to make, and It was great to be able to build it while the museum was open, and have many conversations with people while I was making it. Lots of questions about the origin of the patterns, the spices used (the blue is colored sugar), how the prints are made, and what keeps it there (gravity!). The finishing touch was to place the firecracker fringe border that Tim made underneath.

Wonderful enthusiasm from the security staff, who are now very concerned that something will happen to the artwork. They are correct! I was there for the first impact, when a little boy dropped his toy onto it. Oops! But, the imperfection lets the rug reveal itself for what it really is. Spices.

We will pull prints of the installation on the last day of the show, Sunday October 9 at 2:00 pm. Join us!

photo by John Corriveau


Interest
Demonstrating the popper firecrackers on the fringe for reporter Tori Pelz.
Demonstrating the popper firecrackers on the fringe for reporter Tori Pelz.

So many family and friends made their way to the GRAM on Sunday, September 11 for my artist talk -- it was wonderful to be surrounded by people we love on that day. My talk went well (from what I hear) as did that of my colleague, the painter David Gillanders. Thanks to curator Cindy Buckner, who combined us as artists who use war as a springboard for philosophical and aesthetic investigations.

Here are several articles and interviews about the project that you might enjoy:

Fragrant Re-imagining of Afghan War Rugs: An Interview with artist Barbara Koenen
by Tori Pelz, a reporter for the Rapidian who actually spent 6 months in Afghanistan in 2004. She interviewed me after my artist talk on 9/11, and I hope to return the favor soon.

On the local news -- WZZM

The GRAM video

photo by Jonathon Timothy Stoner

Art Prize

Art Prize is an open art competition and the public is the judge. It takes place from Sept 21 - Oct 5 throughout downtown Grand Rapids, and really transforms the city.

The first week has voting for all the artists (thumbs up or down), and the second week is just the top 10. Voting is free, but all voters must register in person (so you can see the art in person!). The Art Prize website has info about places to stay, artist, venues, voting and more. Here is a schedule of events, in case you are able to come up to Grand Rapids.

When I went last year I was amazed to see thousands of people walking all over downtown GR, and every one was looking at and talking about art. It is a phenomenal experience and fun for the whole family! If you come, let me know and we can try to connect (I'll be there on weekends.) And if you want to vote for me, I'm # 41731.

Sept 21 - 28 :: Art Prize Round One Voting
Sept 29 - Oct 5 :: Art Prize Top Ten Voting
Oct 6 :: Art Prize Winner Announced
Oct 9 :: War Rug Destruction / Printmaking 2 pm @ the GRAM
Oct 9 :: Last Day of GRAM exhibition

Remembering

September 11, 2011 came and went, and it was good to participate in such a wide spectrum of remembrance. A number of people made a point of coming to the museum to see the 9/11 rug. Veterans, families, even scouts! The War Rug Project helps create a space for contemplation and inclusiveness, ambiguity and complexity.

Bear in mind the conservative estimation that between 12,000 and 14,000 Afghan civilians have been killed since 2001. They are killed by crossfire, improvised explosive devices, assassination, bombing, and night raids into houses of suspected insurgents. Unexploded ordnance from previous wars and from U.S. cluster bombs continue to kill after the fighting stops.

As we remember 9/11, let's mourn for all the victims, and work together to make a real and lasting peace. And if you'd like to help, consider supporting one of these fine organizations.

photo by Dianne Carroll Burdick


Thanks

Heartfelt thanks go to the friends of the War Rug Project. Your support makes a huge difference -- spiritually and financially. I could not do this without you!

Julie Banzhaf Stone :: Robert J. Tassone :: Chuck Thurow :: William Zbaren and Robert Sharoff :: Delphine Cannon :: Katharine Banzhaf :: Beverly Koenen (thanks Mom!) :: Duane Fimreite :: Janet Carl Smith :: Pat Casler :: Alicia Berg :: Michelle Boone :: Deborah and Glenn Doering :: Carrie Hanson :: Anonymous :: Jackie Kazarian :: Pooja Vukosavich :: Chris Gent :: Shirley Patton :: Kristin Dean :: Kristin Patton :: Carolina Jayaram :: Laura Samson :: Esther Grimm :: Karen Paluzzi Steele :: Carol Reisinger :: Dr. David Hinkamp :: Marguerite Horberg :: Dianna Frid :: :: Annie Morse :: Doug VanderHoof :: Neiman Brothers :: Tim Samuelson :: Alison Neidt Toonen :: Lynn Basa :: Mary Wittig :: John Vinci :: Jane Bretl :: Iain Muirhead :: Adam Brooks :: several anonymous donors!!

Special thanks to Samantha, Max and Daniel Koenen, who have been wonderful hosts to their Aunt. And to Elizabeth, who is an amazing mom to them and sister in law to me. And my little brother Rob, the captain of the ship. And of course Tim, my love and sweetheart.

I think we've raised the whole $5,000 needed for this phase of the project, but am still reconciling the Indie Gogo website with other contributions. Will start on gifts soon. If you'd still like to help out, click here to learn more. Many thanks to everyone!!


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