Thursday, February 21, 2008

Art and Artistry: Joanne Russo

I love baskets. I collect them, decorate with them, and use them to organize at home and at work. When I could, I bought high-quality, handmade baskets at craft shows--but those days are part of my financial past. More recently, I bought useful, attractive baskets at retail stores like Target and Pamida--but sadly those days are also part of my financial past. Today, my baskets come from Goodwill and St. Vincent DePaul. On occasion I'll find one that meets my (fairly high) standards for $2.00 or less. Such a deal!

But the baskets I long for are art baskets. These are the ones where a basketry artist has taken the craft and pushed it in a totally new direction, stretching the definition of "basket" to a whole new limit. These are the baskets of artists such as Joanne Russo.

On her website, Russo talks about her work:
With a basket career spanning three decades, I’m looking back at what I've accomplished and forward to what I’ll achieve.

My previous baskets were exciting, fun and creative within a disciplined tradition. It’s time to let go of that safe and comfortable work and delve into larger, less controlled shapes and incorporate more of the textile skills I’ve learned throughout my life. It’s an exciting time and my new creations are as bold and spirited as ever.

As an avid observer of nature and incessant collector of diverse material - from acorns to zippers - I continually gather interesting items to use on my baskets. In this new series, each one-of-a-kind piece is woven tightly and precisely, with added elements thoughtfully chosen to display order and harmony. For one, I may use rows of hooks and eyes to imply that the basket’s construction is carefully held together, while on another, a zipper adds an illusion of function. For the finishing touch, spiraled, thread-wrapped rows define the basket’s top. On some baskets I’ve left the last few rows twisting out into space, reaching, as a tendril, for a safehold.

My new sculptural work suggests a narrative; a view of human nature expressed through a plaited form. The story is the same - we have a tentative hold on life, wanting to appear all together but always aware there’s a thread ready to unravel.

Some day my financial situation may change. The economy may improve. One of my "multiple income streams" may become more than a trickle. Who knows, I might even get a job! (Not.) In any case, these are the baskets I aspire to. Meanwhile, the knowledge that they simply exist--well, it makes my heart sing.



Di Overton said...

Wow they must take an age to make.

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