Efflorescence: Blossoming of Pattern

By Jake Moore

Printed in Fiberarts Magazine, Nov/Dec 2005 Volume 32 Number 3

“Like a Bacterium that indiscriminately grows wherever it finds a hospitable environment, so pattern moves easily across geographical borders, regardless of culture or geography. Pattern travels, adjusts, and mutates to fit its new environment and ensure its survival.” With these words, Andrea Vander Kooij illuminates the notion that pattern is living and ever mutable yet holds traces of its origins within its structure. In her recent project, Efflorescence: An Epidermic Communication, Vander Kooij sat for nine days embroidering cotton on linen in shop windows throughout Montreal. The pattern she was embroidering was culled from traditional blackwork, but the graphic floral lines she worked into the surface did not rest there. Her body was also covered completely with identical markings applied with Indian henna paste, or mehndi. These auburn traces matched the silk thread perfectly on her hands and feet, where the dermis is thickest, and then faded gently into the curves and softness of her body.

It is the hands and feet of the bride and groom that are traditionally decorated with mehndi for wedding celebrations in Bangladesh, Sudan, and parts of India. Blackwork embroidery, through already present on British shores, was popularized by Catherine of Aragon when she arrived form Spain for her marriage to Arthur Tudor in 1501. These two traditions of mark making, and their associations with unions and crossing cultures, are the basis of Vander Kooij’s work. That a woman’s body would bear the traces of this complex history seems appropriate. In Efflorescence, Vander Kooij animates the histories of pattern, display, body adornment, and garment making and skillfully integrates them into contemporary art practice.

Efflorescence: An Epidermic Communication took place in eight storefronts throughout Montreal, Quebec, April 16-26, 2005.