For the 9th Mercosul Biennial, four Brazilian species of freshwater and marine sponges rendered in wool, hand-dyed with plants and insects. Cooperatively produced with students from VCUarts (who traveled to participate) and artists in Porto Alegre. Installed in two recessed brick "tanks" seen only from above in the Usina do Gasometro, a former thermoelectric plant on the Guaiba lake. In this tank, "Gene for an Eye," two marine species: Xestospongia muta and Tetilla radiata. The freshwater tank, "On Resisting the Separation of the Continents," is here.

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Gene for an Eye
Marine Sponges of Brazil: Tetilla radiata, Xestospongia muta, 2013 

Hand felted, hand-dyed wool, dyestuffs

Notes and Links

For the 9th Mercosul Biennial, Weather Permitting. The work appeared in the exhibition, Portals, Forecasts and Monotypes, and was included in the pedagogical program, Cloud Formations.
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.

Exhibition Text

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:

Sponge HQ:

Colleen Billing: Natural Dye Assistant
Jessica Dodd: Natural Dye Instructor, Consultant
Dan Fawley: Wool Vendor
Gavin Foster: Wool Vendor
Clare van Loenen: Writer

Porto Alegre:
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.

Marine sponge species rendered in wool: Xestospongia muta (barrel sponges) and Tetilla radiata (small pink sponges).
Foreground: wool Tetilla radata sponges.
"Gene for an Eye" installation view. Photo courtesy of the Mercosul Biennial Foundation.
Photo courtesy of the Mercosul Biennial Foundation.
"Gene for an Eye" installation view. Photo courtesy of the Mercosul Biennial Foundation.
Students visiting the biennial looking down on installation. Photo courtesy of the Mercosul Biennial Foundation.
"Gene for an Eye" tank, middle ground on second floor. Photo courtesy of Cristiano Sant Anna/indicefoto.
With Luciane Bucksdricker, putting finishing touches on the sponges.
Dry felting demonstration at the Porto Alegre studio in September.
Phase II, wet-felting the sponges. With Arthur Lang, Francesco Settineri, Marcia Braga, Luciane Bucksdricker and Ney Caminha.
Winding the "roving." With Arthur Lang.
Forming the Tetilla radiata sponge.
Making the purple barrel sponges at the Sponge HQ in Richmond, VA.
Felting the barrel sponges.
Dyed, carded roving at the Sponge HQ, Richmond, VA.
Just back from the carder, dyed roving ready to felt.
Cochineal pink, dipped in indigo to make purple. Drying at the VCUarts dye lab in Richmond, VA.
Indigo tests.
Getting the right pink with cochineal dye.
Cochineal dyebaths. With Gavin Foster.
Making pink wool. With Colleen Billing.
Pink wool made with cochineal dye.
Making cochineal dyebaths.
Mordanted white wool soaking.
Wool mordanted with Potassium alum, drying.
Jessica Dodd, natural dye consultant and instructor, getting us started.