Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Hannah Verlin on creating Bloom

Bloom: the process behind the installation

Completed installation

From August 21-22 the installation Bloom transformed the grounds surrounding Union Square’s Prospect Hill Monument in Somerville, MA. The piece featured 4,500 paper flowers with “he loves me, he loves me not” and “she loves, loves me not” written on the petals, a field of hope and possibilities. Just as the flowers suddenly appeared on Saturday morning, it disappeared on Sunday evening.

But before the installation…

I approached the Somerville Arts Council in April 2010 about Bloom, since then I have been busily making each of the paper flowers that went into the installation. The repetition of this process reflects the approach that I take to many of my projects.

I begin by breaking the process down into distinct steps. Rather than trying to tackle the full 4,500 at once, I work in manageable units (100 in this case).

Part 1:
Step 1: Preparing the material-- Starting out with 48” wide roll of tracing paper, I would cut off 4” wide strips. These strips I layered together in sets of four that I cut into 4” squares.

Step 2: Folding-- Now that I had 100 4” square pieces of paper in nice sets of 4, I folded each triangularly 3 times, and cut a petal shape into the little folded triangle, much like you would make a paper snow flake. Viola--Four paper flowers made!

Part 2:
Step 1: Writing-- After I had made about 2,000 flower I moved on to the second stage (to take a break from all the folding and cutting). This part of the process, however, was by far the most tedious and labor intensive. Working with sets of 100, I alternately wrote on the petals: “he loves me he loves me not, he loves me, he loves me not” and then “she loves me, she loves me, she loves me, she loves me not”.

When doing something repetitive for long periods of time, one discovers all sorts of unexpected aches and pain. These I had a plenty—cramps in the hand, aches in the neck, and a shooting pain in a rarely used muscle of my right arm---but I never thought of the emotional impact that this particular process would have on me. As I wrote, I found myself repeating over and over in my head these messages of love and loss. The message would sink in and I would find myself emotionally strained as well as physically.

Step 2: Stalking-- Stalking the flowers was my favorite part, roll a little glue onto the dull end of the skewer then pierce the sharp end through the paper with a satisfying pop.

Step 3: Bundling-- With the flowers all stalked and drying, I would inscribe another set of petals. Before I stalking that set I bundled the dried flowers into sets of ten tying them up in cotton string left over from a previous project. In the end the 4,500 flowers fit into only two boxes—not too shabby!

Installation is a whole other story…

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