Textile Art is one of the oldest forms of art, originally developed by ancient civilizations for practical uses – namely as clothing, shelter and blankets to keep warm – but has grown over the centuries to also have been elevated into high art.
If you have been to the Yves Durif Salon this month, you will have noticed the vibrant red “dreadlocks” that are displayed in place of the usual floral arrangements. This installation is the work of Fiber Artist, Laura Vaccari, who has been working with wool, silk and other natural fibers for over a decade. Her work is also exhibited in an exhibition entitled RED by the Textile Study Group of New York, that opened on December 19 at the NOHO M55 Gallery. We recently spoke with Vaccari about her approach to her art, her techniques and what she hopes people will feel about her work.
How did you become a fiber artist, and what is it about working with wool and silk that is appealing to you?
The first encounter with felt took place in the woods of New Hampshire about ten years ago. Then in Bath, Maine a whole new world of textures and colors unveiled itself and that was IT. I love working with wool: the creative process engages the whole being and several senses, from the conceptual to the visual to the actual realization of a project. The latter mainly involves the sense of touch as the wool is massaged, moved, beaten up in order to felt. Felting is also a lot of fun as the final outcome is often surprising or totally unexpected. Mastering felting techniques requires patience, precision and concentration even when the result may look wild.
How did this collaboration with the Yves Durif Salon come about?
Oh – this happened by total chance. In October, my hair was desperate for a good cut and I went to see Yves – whom we had been following since last century. Talking about this and that, he liked some pictures of my work and suggested I do something for the Salon. The picture he liked is one of two works showing at the NOHO M55 Gallery for the Textile Study Group of New York (TSGNY) exhibit that opened on December 19.
Tell us a little bit about the “Red Comets” pieces that are exhibited at the Yves Durif Salon at The Carlyle right now.
I did not think about a ‘title’ for the installation until it was actually installed. Then different possibilities emerged. One of them was Red Comets as they do have tails like shooting stars. They could also be some sort of marine creatures with magical names like Alaria or Kelp or wild grasses moving in the wind. And of course locks – as Yves said – Rasta Locks. Human hair has the same keratin composition as sheep’s hair. Difficult to think about a more appropriate setting for a wool installation — we are all related indeed.
The wool for this project mostly comes from merino rovings naturally dyed by a small company in Western Australia resulting in especially vibrant colors. I imagined a cascade of color flowing in several directions – up, down and out the transparent vases on the wall – as opposed to the stem of a real flower shooting upwards.
Each glass vase contains about ten cords of different length and color – for a total of about 100 cords. About three hours are required to make 10 cords, a process involving felting with soap and water and then several subsequent rinsings – the last one with a vinegar-water combination to ensure the pH of the fibers are re-balanced for softness and durability.
The brilliant red ropelike strands that appear to look like “dreadlocks” hanging against the stark white of the walls of the Salon seem like they might become quite a conversation starter. What do you hope that clients who visit the Yves Durif Salon feel when they see your work?
Personally, I do not harbor expectations about people’s feelings, but as Banksy said ‘Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.’ If this work is capable of surprising and provoking curiosity about a very ancient art which only uses sustainable, natural and organic materials, it would already be an important step away from the unsustainable exploitation of the earth. If this creation is able to generate joy, awe and new sensations, its playful purpose will have been achieved.
After all, Red is the color of blood, of the tribe, of the first chakra, of love, of passion and of the most ancient stars and planets – and also of Mars, the energetic planet and god of war. It is also the color of warmth and celebration at this time of the year in the essential bareness of winter landscapes.
How does it feel to have your work exhibited at the Salon?
Well – this feels truly wonderful especially because Yves’ artistic appreciation of the work speaks tons about his sensitivity and sensibility. His understanding of the several layers of meaning of this type of creation is a rare quality in times of commercial uniformity.
I am deeply grateful to him for offering an incredible and exquisite setting for exposing my work, one among many that aims on the one hand at linking us to our roots and ancestors and, on the other, at offering necessary and powerful answers to the needs of the Third Millennium.
Last but not least, I am very grateful to Yves for not dismissing me as a client. Yet.
Laura Vaccari’s work will be on display at the Yves Durif Salon at the Carlyle through mid-January 2018, and at the TSGNY RED Exhibition at the NOHO M55 Gallery, open Tuesdays – Saturdays from 11am-6pm through January 6, 2018.