Sunday, November 20, 2011

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

Barbara Koenen ::

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...

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.

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...

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.

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.

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.
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.
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.

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Making the Olive Branch, September 8, 2011

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