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The Cactus Garden

At the WIGNAL MUSEUM - CHAFFEY COLLEGE

Exhibition Dates: January 29 - March 1, 2008

"Indefiniteness in form, size and number is the character of the plant, although a law lies at the basis of all this." Lorenz Oken, 1824.

IFF Hyperbolic Crochet Cactus Garden at the Wignall Gallery (2008). Photos by Jan Voltz.

In Jan-Feb 2008 the Wignall Museum at Chaffey College presents the exhibition Inlandia, a group show that explores the unique cultural landscape of the LA-area hinterland, the Inland Empire. The Institute For Figuring is proud to be part of this exhibition where our Crochet Cactus Garden will be on display. Works in the Inlandia show have been selected because of their relevance to the social, political and environmental conditions of the Inland Empire, Southern California's fastest growing region. The Crochet Cactus Garden is itself a group work, curated by IFF Directors Margaret and Christine Wertheim, incorporating pieces by 10 collaborators from around the world. The Garden was inspired by the desert landscapes of California. Inlandia is curated for the Wignall Museum by Rebecca Trawick.

IFF Hyperbolic Crochet Cactus Garden at the Wignall Gallery (2008). Detail of works by Marianne Midelburg (at back) and Anitra Menning (front.)

The impetus for this project was to evoke in wool the delicate wonder of living cactii. The forms on show here were inspired by real desert ecologies, and by the techniques of hyperbolic crochet developed by mathematician Dr Daina Taimina at Cornell University. Like living cactii, crochet cactii are found in a dazzling variety of "species." Although the processes that produce these pieces are algorithmic, every individual crafter who comes to the project brings to bear on the age-old forms of nature their own asthetic powers.

In Rialto, CA, Shari Porter has been constructing pebble-like forms. In Cedar Hill, Texas, Evelyn Hardin has discovered the delights of felting, using variegated soy yarns; in Bendigo, Australia, Marianne Midelburg has combed thrift stores, turning discarded wools into undulating piles; in Culver City, Sarah Simons, has concocted an entire taxonomy of cactus flowers by mixing together mercerized cottons in subtly complimentary hues. In Los Angeles, Anitra Menning reigns as the queen of vegetable architectonics, crafting swooping marvels at once fuzzy and firm, while David Orozco (proprietor of That Yarn Store in Echo Park) specializes in flanges of green and grey, a predisposition shared by Spring Pace in the wilderness of Topanga Canyon. In Bonnie Doon in rural Australia, Helen Bernasconi spins and dyes her own wool before designing mathematically precise clusters. It all comes together in Highland Park, where Margaret and Christine Wertheim curate, assemble and crochet to round out the whole.

IFF Hyperbolic Crochet Cactus Garden at the Wignall Gallery (2008). Detail of works by Marianne Midelburg, Anitra Menning, Helen Bernasconi and Evelyn Hardin.

List of IFF Crochet Cactus Garden Crafters

Christine Wertheim (Los Angeles, CA)

Margaret Wertheim (Los Angeles, CA)

Sarah Simons (Culver City, CA)

Evelyn Hardin (Cedar Hill, TX)

Marianne Midelburg (Bengido, Australia)

Helen Bernasconi (Bonnie Doon, Australia)

Anitra Menning (Los Angeles, CA)

Spring Pace (Topanga Canyon, CA)

David Orozco (Echo Park, CA)

Shari Porter (Rialto, CA)

The Crochet Cactus Project has been assisted by a grant from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

IFF Hyperbolic Crochet Cactus Garden at the Wignall Gallery (2008). Detail of felted works by Evelyn Hardin.

IFF Hyperbolic Crochet Cactus Garden at the Wignall Gallery (2008). Detail of felted works by Evelyn Hardin.

At the THE DAVID WEINBERG COLLECTION

Exhibition Dates: October 26 - December 29, 2007
See Here for complete photos of the exhibition

This exhibition is presented in association with the Chicago Humanities Festival.

"Indefinite in number, size and form is the character of the plant, although a law lies at the basis of all this." Lorenz Oken, 1824.

Photos by Aaron and Cassandra Ott.

As a sideline to the Institute's Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef project, we have also been crocheting a cactus garden, a wooly invocation of the desert that has been quietly growing more or less of its own free will. In Fall 2007, in association with the Chicago Humanities Festival, the Cactus Garden is showing at the David Weinberg Collection, as part of the exhibition "Visions of Concern." We are honored to be in the company here of other delicate, environmentally inspired works by Tara Donovan, Maya Lin and David Opdyke. "Visions of Concern" has itself been inspired by the theme of this year's Humanities Festival, which is climate change. Like coral reefs, deserts are fragile environments whose denizens, though often spiny or poisonous, may nonetheless be highly sensitive to environmental disruption. The Crochet Cactus Garden is curated by IFF Directors Margaret and Christine Wertheim; "Visions of Concern" is curated by Aaron Ott.

Like their living brethren, crochet cactii are found in a dazzling variety of species, with each individual crafter bringing to bear on the age-old patterns of nature unique asthetic powers. All the forms exhibited here have been inspired by the insights of "hyperbolic crochet" discovered by Cornell mathematician Dr Daina Taimina, yet each contributor has found ways to express within these algorithmic strictures their own expressive designs. In Cedar Hill, Texas, Evelyn Hardin discovered the delights of felting, using variegated soy yarns to produce undulating forms of transcendent loveliness; in Bendigo, Australia, Marianne Midelburg combed thrift stores, turning discarded wools into pebbly piles; in Culver City, Sarah Simons, a master of the floret form, concocted an entire taxonomy of cactus flowers by mixing together mercerized cottons in subtly complimentary hues. In Los Angeles Anitra Menning reigns as the queen of vegetable architectonics, crafting swooping marvels at once fuzzy and firm, while David Orozco (proprietor of That Yarn Store in Echo Park) specializes in soft flanges of green and grey, a predisposition shared by Spring Pace in the wilderness of Topanga Canyon. In Bonnie Doon in rural Australia, Helen Bernasconi, proprietress of a sheep farm, spins and dyes her own wool before painstakingly designing (with spreadsheets no less) mathematically precise clusters evoking the geometry of pincushion cactii. Although none of these forms were created to be together, to us at the IFF, they seemed destined for one another - when we came to curate this exhibition the Garden literally grew itself.

 

List of IFF Crochet Cactus Garden Crafters

Christine Wertheim (Los Angeles, CA)

Margaret Wertheim (Los Angeles, CA)

Sarah Simons (Culver City, CA)

Evelyn Hardin (Cedar Hill, TX)

Marianne Midelburg (Bengido, Australia)

Helen Bernasconi (Bonnie Doon, Australia)

Anitra Menning (Los Angeles, CA)

Spring Pace (Topanga Canyon, CA)

David Orozco (Echo Park, CA).

The Crochet Cactus Project has been assisted by a grant from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

With sincerest thanks to: Lawrence Weschler and Amanda Burr at the Chicago Humanities Festival.