When my children were small, February was time for skates and snowmen. Along with Libby, Lisa, Rachel, and Sam, they trudged outside then back inside, shedding boots, coats, hats, scarves, and mittens in the front hall, only to don them again after a cookie or two and some hot chocolate. Looking back to that time, I can honestly say, “Those were the days!” They were good times. The children played outside in the snow, and sometimes, we adults would join them.
Today, our little Midwestern town has been “yarn-bombed.” What, you ask? Yes. Around our downtown area, trees, trash cans, railings, statues, and signs have been “wrapped” in yarn. From where did this idea originate? This now worldwide art movement, or street art, was started by a woman in Texas by the name of Maggda Sayeg. Robert Hoffman, born in Indiana but who now lives in Baltimore, introduced yarn bombing to our town. He has (yarn) bombed areas in New York City, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and places in NC, Ohio, and Virginia. He was part of a team in Baltimore that yarn bombed the huge Frank Zappa bronze statue.
The idea is to use fabrics almost exclusively to reclaim and personalize sterile or cold public places. By going on the internet and searching for “yarn bombing," you will see some amazing photos of this graffiti crocheting or yarn-wrapping. In some places, bridges, streetcars, bicycles, and landmarks have been decorated with cozy, colorful fabric. The “bombings” are designed to surprise, rather than being known beforehand, according to Sarah Rayle, who knows Robert Hoffman. Locally, artists used colorful yarn to wrap more than two dozen trees, lamp posts, branches, and benches.
The concept reminds me of the artist Christo and his wife Jeanne-Claude, who wrapped the entire German Parliament building in silvery fabric so that it looked like an enormous wedding cake. Not everything they did involved wrapping however. They conceived Umbrellas, an artistic expression of 3,100 umbrellas planted across thirty miles of countryside in California and Japan. Their Running Fence was a 241⁄2-mile, eighteen-foot-high fence of rippling white fabric that snaked across Sonoma and Marin counties in California, then disappeared into the ocean. I was in France when they wrapped the Pont Neuf Bridge in Paris and was smitten by their creativity. The delight of it all is that once it is taken down, it is gone forever. It exists only in photographs and memories. Christo is quoted as saying, "I don't have any artworks that exist? They all go away when they're finished. ---I think it takes much greater courage to create things to be gone than to create things that will remain.”
Here, the “yarn-bombing” concept is much smaller, but it is delightful. Like Christo and Jeanne-Claude, the purpose of this art is to create “works of joy and beauty and to create new ways of seeing familiar landscapes.” Here it is a colorful reminder that in February, people need reason to don boots, coats, hats, scarves, and mittens and go outside and play. Sometimes I remember to take the snow shovel; sometimes I deliberately forget.
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