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Aviva Alter

THE CHICAGO CAMBRIAN REEF

Aviva Alter's Cambrian Reef forms at The Hayward gallery in London, 2008.

In early 2007 fiber artist Aviva Alter came to one of the IFF workshops in Chicago. That afternoon we taught her to crochet and before the end of the workshop she had set off on her own evolutionary path, which quickly developed into a whole new genera of crochet reef organisms. These chimeric, hybrid, morphing constructions call to mind the seminal period in the history of life on earth known as the Cambrian Explosion, around 500 million years ago. It was during this era that all the major animal body plans seen on our planet toady came into being. So also Aviva's forms seem to suggest the potential of all living things.

So extraordinary were Aviva's models that we asked her to spearhead the development of a new Chicago Cambrian Reef. This reef is being constructed by a small group of Chicago women, to whom Aviva is teaching her techniques at workshops she holds on Sunday afternoons in her westside studio. The members of this group are: Jessica Stapp, Kat Ramsland, Barbara Wakefield, Jennifer Baker, Amber Reyes, Catherine Chandler and Lauren Levato.

Here is Aviva's statement about her artistic practice:

"As far back as I can remember I have made things. I have always used my hands and the artistic, visual side of my brain to create. At the same time I struggled to understand the fundamentals of science; I fantasized about being a scientist and to study the brain. I wanted to understand and use the analytical, mathematical side of my brain to explore the nature of artistic creation. Coming into the Reef Project has helped me get a glimpse of that. While listening to a lecture by Christine, I entered the world of hyperbolic forms. I started to create examples of these forms the day of the lecture and I have not stopped since.

A lot of my artwork is made from readymade fabric and thread. In that work I start by posing questions and statements that define human nature and experience, questions that have no certain answer. In crochet I have found a place I can create forms. Making an endless structure comes to me as an organic process using yarn and plastic. This is a place I focus my attention on improvisational form along with thoughts concerning the planet, environmentalism and my own place in this world. I feel there are answers to questions concerning how we treat our damaged world and how we find ways to fix it, using art to highlight this process."

Aviva Alter, Chicago (Jan 2008)