Gene for an Eye
Marine Sponges of Brazil: Tetilla radiata, Xestospongia muta, 2013
Hand felted, hand-dyed wool, dyestuffs
Notes and Links
Mordanting and dyeing forty-five pounds of wool in Richmond to achieve a four-color palette, which would describe as many species of Brazilian sponges. With Jessica Dodd returning to teach us natural dyeing and Colleen Billing, Gavin Foster and I working together to make yellow-green, purple, pink and brown with weld, indigo, cochineal, and cutch. Here are images of the process.
Traveling to Porto Alegre with the wool to spend two weeks "on the ground" in August, making several large, yellow-green, Oncosclera jewelli sponges for the installation, "On Resisting the Separation of the Continents". Working cooperatively with VCUarts undergraduates and "Sponge HQ Monitors" Gavin Foster and Lindsay Clements, Producer Luciane Bucksdricker, Assistant Producer Francesco Settineri and Biennial Mediators, Arthur Lang, Juliana Scheid and Sarah Szekir-Papasavva in the donated studio of Marcia Braga. Under the watchful, expert eye of Dr. Cecilia Volkmer Ribeiro who named this genus of freshwater sponge in the 1960's and informally called it, "felt of the sea."
Returning to Porto Alegre in September with three Xestospongia muta (marine barrel sponges) produced in the Sponge HQ. Another full day at the studio to finish the Tetilla radiata species. Working in the "freshwater tank," making the river sponge, Drulia browni. Finalizing the installation, seeing the exhibition, visiting and joining in the opening festivities.
And then...An expedition with marine biologists Dr. Cecilia Volkmer-Ribeiro, Dr. Rodrigo Cambara Printes, Dr. Daniel Slomp and biology students Julio Stelmach, Liriane Petry and Aline Scheid to Lajeado das Margaridas and Passo do S at the Parque Estadual do Tainhas to see the Oncosclera jewelli sponges in their spectacular river habitat. Hiking through the river, driving into the river at dusk, surrounded by Araucaria trees, gazing at the glowing green sponges and celebrating it all with a shared Italian dinner and homemade wine in Sao Francisco de Paula.
Hope Ginsburg’s sculptures, rendered in handmade, hand-dyed wool felt continue her long-term investigation of sponges. This ongoing research addresses both sponge biology and the metaphoric potential of the animal. In her project for the 9th Mercosul Biennial, Ginsburg focuses on four Brazilian sponge species. Two are freshwater varieties, inhabiting the rivers of Rio Grande do Sul--the Oncosclera jewelli, which was discovered in the state, and the Drulia browni. The other two are marine species found in coastal waters farther to the north. The installation transforms a pair of reservoir or tank-like spaces, seen from above in the Usina do Gasometro. Each “tank” represents either freshwater or marine examples and contains species whose color, texture, and structural form are crucial to the artist.
As in other projects produced with Ginsburg’s Sponge HQ (sited in Richmond, VA at Virginia Commonwealth University where she teaches) the sponges in the Usina are cooperatively made through a series of workshops conducted by the artist. The Oncosclera jewelli sponges were produced in Porto Alegre with mediators of the Bienal along with two undergraduate students from VCU who traveled with Ginsburg. The Tetilla radiata sponges were made in the same studio in Porto Alegre with local artists and designers. The project began with the natural dyeing of wool, using plant matter and insects.
This presentation in the Usina is the result of many partnerships--between sponge expert Dr. Cecilia Volkmer Ribeiro, and the artist, as well as between the Sponge HQ and local artists. For Ginsburg, the “sociable tendencies” of the sponge are an analogy to the kind of collaboration that her projects aim to catalyze.
Cooperative producers of the work are as follows:
Colleen Billing: Natural Dye Assistant
Jessica Dodd: Natural Dye Instructor, Consultant
Dan Fawley: Wool Vendor
Gavin Foster: Wool Vendor
Clare van Loenen: Writer
Marcia Braga: Donator of Studio Space, Felter
Luciane Bucksdricker: Producer, Felter
Ney Caminha: Felter
Lindsay Clements: Assistant, VCUarts Student, Felter
Arthur Fischer Lange: Biennial Mediator, Felter
Gavin Foster: Assistant, VCUarts Student, Felter
Cecilia Volkmer Ribeiro: Marine Biologist, Freshwater Sponge Expert, Consultant
Juliana Scheid: Biennial Mediator, Felter
Francesco Settineri: Assistant Producer, Felter
Sarah Szekir-Papasavva: Biennial Mediator, Felter
With thanks to the Zoological Foundation of Rio Grande do Sul for sharing its singular collection of freshwater sponges.
Thanks also to the VCUarts Office of the Dean for providing travel support to two undergraduate students from the Department of Painting & Printmaking.