New York-based artist Elena Berriolo has created many
sculptures and installations and, since 2009, she has worked
exclusively in the book format, performing while producing books on the sewing machine. The
other night at Susan Eley Fine Art, Berriolo recited the thoughtful statement below
while sewing on a heavy-duty sewing machine. After Berriolo spoke, poet Mónica De La Torre read a witty essay about line, and by the end of the performance, a new book had been created.
“When we talk about drawing, the first instrument that comes to mind is the pencil,” Berriolo began after a short introduction about the sewing machine. “The graphite of the pencil does not penetrate the paper, it sits on its surface and we can erase it when we make a mistake. If you are a little bolder, you can attempt to draw with a pen. Because
the ink of the pen is absorbed deeply in the paper, it is harder to
erase it; this is a much deeper line than the one made with the pencil.
“But if the artist is really brave and believes in the truth of his or her gesture, then he or she can go much deeper than that, as deep as to the other side of the surface, using a knife, the way Lucio Fontana did. I am grateful to Fontana for opening to us the other side of the canvas. However, by attacking the canvas, by wounding it, he made it hard for the painting to hold the line, so the painting had to be prepared to sustain such attack. I want to believe he may have asked himself the question: ‘is it possible to produce a line as deep as the one produced by a knife, that would not undermine the stability of the piece?’
“The answer to that question was probably right there, next to him. It was the sewing machine. The sewing machine, in fact, can produce a true three-dimensional line very similar to the one Fontana made with his knife without hurting the surface as much as he did with his knife, but most of all, while the deep gesture with a knife is an act of violence on the skin of the artwork, the sewing machine produces a peaceful line. It is a line as undeniable and as deep as the one made with a knife, but is a line of peace. It is also a line that in a book can be moved though space. The line produced by the sewing machine is so peaceful that now it is ready to include and embrace someone else’s line within its folds.”
Several of Berriolo’s lyrical books, which combine watercolor, sewing and text, are on view through June 22 in “Paper Goods,” a group exhibition curated by Kara L. Rooney at Susan Eley Fine Art. Other artists in the showinclude Andrea Belag, Tom McGlynn, Joan Waltemath, Chuck Webster and Saya Woolfalk.
Image above: Elena Berriolo, pages from La Notte, a 16-page book, inspired by Antonio Vivaldi’s flute concerto La Notte, on display in the show.
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