Sunday, November 20, 2011

Enews 07/16/11 "Summer Muse... Arts Enews"

Enews from Barbara Koenen

Summer Muse

Dear Friend,

"They are heavy in my hand. Round, lumpy, fecund. If I threw them against a wall they would explode, fragments of pulp and red stain..."

This is the beginning of my essay, Muse, which appears in the Summer issue of Gastronomica, the Journal of Food and Culture.
It is an anecdotal reminiscence about pomegranates and hand grenades and their odd, unfortunate centuries-old relationship, accompanied by the beautiful photograph (above) taken by my friend, photographer William Zbaren.

The essay stems from a 2007 installation I did at Finestra Art Space in the Fine Arts Building. You can see some photos if you missed it, and reviews on my website, Gastronomica is available at Whole Foods or online here. Also wonderful articles on John Cage and Mycology, foraging in Oregon, and the politics of sustainability. The whole issue is a real treat.

Coming Soon-- The War Rug Project

It is hard to believe that its been almost 10 years since terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center, and we went to war in Afghanistan. I've been creating installations based on Afghan war rugs ever since, in some attempt to digest, resolve, and commemorate the sacrifices that have resulted from these tragic events.

This September, I will be making a new war rug installation -- this time based on a 9/11 war rug. I will be making it at the Grand Rapids Art Museum, which has selected me to exhibit during the 2011 Art Prize competition. The exhibition will run from September 6 - October 21, and I encourage you to consider making the trip to attend.

War Rugs?
When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in the late 1970s, Afghan women, the traditional weavers, began to incorporate pictures of weapons into their traditional floral, animal and geometric patterns. Subtle at first, soon rifles, grenades, tanks, AK-47s, helicopters, landmines and bullets dominated these strange textiles, erasing centuries of previous motifs.

I adopted the practice of the Tibetan Buddhist monks who make elaborate sand mandalas that they then destroy, and began to reconstruct Afghan War Rugs like mandalas, using spices instead of sand. A meditation, my spice war rugs take up to a week to complete, with fringe and popper firecrackers attached. Like the mandalas, they exist only temporarily, and are often touched, inhaled, even walked on. At first, I swept up the spices into jars at the end of each exhibition. Now I record the pieces as “monoprints,” which retain the pattern of the installation, its scent and color. I've made 8 war rugs so far, and you can see them here.

The War Rug Project
There will be several stages to the project.
Sept 6-11 Creation
Sept 11 Artists Talk, Ten Years After
Sept 21 - 28 Art Prize Voting
Sept 29 - Oct 9 Art Prize Round 2
Oct 21 Closing Ceremony / Monoprint Pull

At the conclusion of the exhibit, I will make a book that documents the 10 year project as an art work and an intellectual journey.

Why Art Prize?
My brother's family invited me to Grand Rapids last year to see Art Prize, an open, city-wide art exhibition and competition, and I went out of curiosity. I was amazed to see over 100,000 people walking all around town, and everyone was talking about art. Families, couples, kids. For three weeks straight! I decided Art Prize was an excellent opportunity to start a lot of conversations about war rugs, Buddhist mandalas, and the lost voices of Afghan women.

So, stay tuned for more details and think about a trip to Grand Rapids sometime this fall. It's guaranteed to be an interesting experience!

What else?

Wishing you a happy summer, and stay tuned for more about the War Rug Project. If you have thoughts or observations related to the project, the war, the rugs or the status of women that you'd like to share, please email me at And of course tell your friends, if they are interested in this sort of thing.

All the best,

Barbara Koenen

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