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Friday, October 09, 2009

An unusual form of textile art

While visiting the Melbourne Museum last week to see the Pompeii exhibition (VERY interesting and worthwhile, by the way) I happened across this little curiosity in the museum section devoted to the workings of the mind, which includes some stuff about the treatment of the mentally ill over the last couple of centuries. A quick Internet search reveals nothing more about this item other than the fact that the mental hospital referred to closed down in 1995 and is now leased by Latrobe University.

I was fascinated by the idea that this woman created textile art out of a desire to order her mind and sooth her anxieties. And she 'gleaned' the materials in order to do so. (Should I be surprised that a mentally ill patient was allowed a needle and, presumably, scissors? Maybe she was surpervised, or was not considered a threat to herself or others). I would love to know what happened to her, what was wrong with her, whether an effective treatment was ever found, where she went after the hospital closed down (if she was still alive - I have no idea how old she was in the 1970s) and if she made more of these objects. And if they really did bring some sort of peace to her.

Why do we create art, of any sort? Most people who do, feel 'driven' to do it. Not necessarily in a high-faluting, 'genius' sort of way, but as a compulsion. And that goes for the person who is slightly obsessed with knitting socks as much for the person who creates internationally famous works of art. I cannot spend a day without doing something with textiles or I start to feel anxious and restless. And yes, knitting socks counts!!!

I love this worn out little jumper with its delicate stitching, and all that it stands for. It makes me want to include the ideas in a body of work and it makes me sit still and think about why I do what I do.