Unraveling at the Sarasota Art Museum presents the latest installment of collaborative works with Tohono O’odham artist, educator, and activist Terrol Dew Johnson. Featuring our largest piece to date, Magellanic Cloud, a fourteen and a half foot tall suspended sculpture made of modular steel elements and hand made Palm and Yucca paper panels, Unraveling was an opportunity to showcase the strength and structurally resilient geometries that have generated our previous collaborations.
In the baskets of the Tohono O’odham tribe, ritualistic making is embodied by the coil. The act of coiling begins with a central point around which a material is wound, spiraling outward and upward in concentric circles to create a structural surface. Coiling generates form through pattern–an algorithm–building on a set of principles that can be manipulated to generate shape. Coiling is a structural strategy for producing functional objects, but it is also a ritual for connecting the weaver to his or her community, elders, and surrounding desert environment. Ritual material culture and everyday utilitarian culture are inseparable.
Through the making of everyday objects, people reiterate the foundational values of their society. The gathering, preparation, and manipulation of natural materials into a basket guides the weaver toward understanding the world around them and their place within it. As with the O’odham peoples, cosmology is expressed through the very language of basketry. Coiling coalesces the material, spiritual, aesthetic worlds.
This thousand-year-old weaving ritual became the artists’ shared language. Honoring the ancestral heritage of the Tohono O’odham Nation, the sculptures implement natural materials endemic to the Sonoran Desert, such as palm and yucca, contrasted by manufactured elements, including copper and wire. What emanates through these indigenous materials are ethereal abstract forms that unite nature and technology and tradition and transformation.