Emilie Springer brings us a story about the current installation at the Bunnell Street Arts Center.
Berith Stennabb is a visual artist from Skovde, Sweden nearing the end of a residency at Bunnell that began February 5th and goes through the end of March. The gallery space at Bunnell is transforming throughout this period with hanging yarn and crochet installations, donated yarn piles that visitors can play with or use and words and drawings marking one wall.
I attended the first Friday event on March 4th to watch the studio performance of artists using the yarn for improvisation. Once I started composing for this story, I wanted to include definitions of “yarn” to consider some of the difficulties, maybe snags, of how language might fail stories if the right words are not accessible. The implications, in language, create challenges: if I “fabricate” there is a sense that what I project is not true. But, other dimensions of “fabricate” are product or produce, formulate, assemble.
Merriam-Webster: Definition of yarn
1: a continuous often plied strand composed of either natural or man-made fibers or filaments and used in weaving and knitting to form cloth.
2: a similar strand of another material (such as metal, glass, or plastic).
3: from the idiom spin a yarn "to tell a tale"]: a narrative of adventures especially : “a tall tale.”
“Unraveling” is a creation in fabric. When I talk with her, first she tells me about the visual details of the studio.
“There is a process, I guess. I’m just collecting all these stories from all these people who are coming here and sort of having a conversation and from that all of these other things in the room sort of evolves. Things like, people have lost their people in different ways. Alaska is such a hard nature and country. And, that’s so common all over the world right now. Parallel to all the things that I hear, I also have my own story,” Berith said.
She tells me about one of the newest installations and how it was inspired by one of the stories told to her by someone in the community,
“I’m trying to make something of that steel wire there. I heard this wonderful story about a woman who lived in this house many years ago. She was making movements on the roof. She saw the storm coming or the weather was changing and she was moving towards the weather station up on the hill. Did you know this? I was wondering, what kind of movements? What did she look like? These movements must have been so big, so large to be seen by such a distance. So, I’m trying to figure out how those movements would look,” Berith said.
One other feature of the gallery space is a colorful pile of yarn resting on the floor.
“The pile of yarn is given to me by wonderful people in Homer. I think the first day I arrived they just came to me with a bunch of yarn! I’m so honored to use this kind of material because in Sweden I use this kind of material. These are yarns you could use these to make sweaters or socks. They are warming and they are, you know, the ones that we use at home. So, I think it’s beautiful to use them in the space,” Berith said.
To close, she explains the roll of the silent film playing on the wall behind us. On her artist statement, Berith has invited “everyone to bring a textile with history, a garment or textile that means something to that person—it’s a great way to interact and share a story.
“They’re all different fabrics or garments, guitars and boots, fishing gear, whatever you like to bring. And, we start talking about them and I film our hands together. The hands show so much without words. I think it’s so beautiful to see all these hands,” Berith said.
The audio is recorded also and some will be posted by website but at the discretion of the storyteller.
Berith’s artist talk can be found on the Bunnell Arts Center website at bunnellarts.org.
This is Emilie Springer.