Creating the Spiral installation in the Czech Republic

For almost three years, I was privileged to work with a team of marvelous artist in the Czech Republic. We created a spiral installation over the remains of a Neolithic settlement in southern Moravia with the intention of learning if that landscape held residues of stories of the ancient civilization that had lived on that spot. Our collaboration transcended cultural differences and eventually grew to include a surprisingly larger community. Here is the first entry from the diary I kept during that time. Stay tuned for more. . .

23 August 1998

Today, I met with the artists Dana had chosen to participate–fabulous women. We assembled in the “clean” room of the Herpsice atelier. The smelly basset hound, Dundee, was there, whining as usual. The women were all very tender with him, patient and loving. I knew I could happily work with such people. Of course, I couldn’t remember all the names and Dana had to write them down for me. I was overwhelmed. I had struggled to prepare a few words in Czech to present the idea and show my previous work. Unnecessary. Dana presented the idea beautifully as the women listened raptly. She explained that I hoped that they would join me to create an installation inspired by an archaeological site near Tesetice. We would come to the project with an open mind, allowing the spirit of the land and the finds from the ancient civilization to inform the imagery. We were to use materials that are impermanent–even able to return to the earth. I showed them the slim brochure that described the original dig and pictured many of the finds. They eagerly poured over the images and asked many excellent questions about the site, the plan and my work.

We also looked at the “footprints” I was making. They were till just plain, newly made paper, and not very elegant paper at that. I was using the plants I could harvest in the studio backyard or in the fields and gardens nearby adding some pulp from the “pancakes” of cotton pulp I brought from my studio in California. Furthermore, the blender, I bought at the local Baumax wasn’t strong enough to chop up cloth. Regardless of my uber-criticisms, the women liked the pieces. I was even persuaded to offer an impromptu demonstration of the technique.

Then, we got down to the serious business of the gathering–the party. Ema surprised me by offering up her arms in prayer to the setting sun and rising moon. Later, Ema was to surprise me even more! Potluck of cakes, potato chips, beer, rum, cookies, sausages and mustard. The open fire, everyone sitting on whatever we could find–broken part bench pieces, logs, chairs without backs–the usual odd assortment of junk in an artist’s studio. We would meet again on Saturday and go to the site.

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