Page Goolrick’s dinner party goody bags garnered a lot of improvisations on the idea of “gifts for guests”, from great Comments to Lydia Wills’ innovative reversal of the traditional wedding (or any) gift.
Constance Old, who was one of the lucky few to have actually been at Page’s dinner party, turned her goody bag into art. Constance makes hooked rugs, a traditional American art form originally created out of need: to warm the floors of drafty homes with whatever was at hand. Scraps of fabric, from worn clothing or sheets, were cut into strips and, using a simple bent metal tool, “hooked” into a grid-like backing made from a strong, loosely-wovan fabric such as burlap. Gradually, a span of loops would result, to make a beautiful rug.
Rather than fabric scraps, Constance uses contemporary found materials like sales receipts, plastic bags, string, Styrofoam, thread whatever is at hand that has meaning for her. She used the packaging from the different elements in Page’s goody bag to make miniature rug-hooked “journal entries.” On the back of each of these 4-inch-x 6-inch studies are notes on the materials Constance used. Looped into her rugs are the wrapping from the Spanish olive-oil tortas and the bright orange rubber gloves, among other surprising elements…
Here’s how Constance describes her work:
“I use the traditional women’s craft of rug hooking to make pieces out of three dimensional ‘found color,’ using in particular obvious symbols of our consumer economy like sales receipts and assorted recycled plastic…I hook any consumer detritus that can be rendered into a fiber…. Living in a time of material excess, it intrigues me to work in a medium that originated from need and a scarcity of materials. I see my work as both timeless and an index of our time. It is inspired by, uses, and elevates the everyday.”
Many influences led her to her unique form of rugmaking:
…”Puritan roots…an interest in collecting and transforming…the evolution of the consumer economy in late capitalism…the ‘Anonymous Was a Woman’ exhibition catalogue my mother gave me when I was 13…Dada…the vernacular…work by artists such as Jenny Holzer, Dan Flavin, Jessica Stockholder, Tara Donovan, Ed Ruscha, El Anatsui, the Gees Bend quilters…piecing…being 10 years old on the first Earth Day…the crying Native, anti-littering ad on TV…a fascination with all the free color and materials available in the world today, and a desire to use these elements to make a traditional medium, contemporary….”
Constance makes rugs in many sizes. Each has a story, like Rome in Plastic (S. Prudenzia) (11.5″ x 20.5″ x 3″):
“The composition for this piece was inspired by the entrance to a church in Rome, Italy–a pattern of three circles made from beautiful grey and white stones. The outside circles in the piece are made with shopping bags I received while in Rome; the green centers are dry cleaning bags; the background uses the plastic wrappers that come around annual reports sent in the mail; and the outside border is made from sales receipts–one of my favorite materials, for the nice neutral color it provides and for its obvious reference to consumerism.”
“Reference to both Josef and Anni Albers. Josef was a color theorist who made square paintings to investigate the effect of colors on each other. Anni, his equally talented wife, was a fiber artist who wove rugs based on Josef’s color studies. This piece uses all different grey plastics that made their way into my house, ranging from the black vinyl of a popped float tube I used on a river in the Adirondacks, to a spool of styrofoam “thread” I found abandoned off Exit 42 on the Merritt Parkway.”
We hope Constance, with her eye for “creative reuse”, will do some guest curating for ‘the improvised life’.
Thanks again, Pamela!