When I caught word that a crew recently bombed Spalding House, I envisioned monolithic blockbusters plastered on the tennis court walls. I pictured tattooed writers wielding Montana and Ironlak cans and buckets of buff, spray paint fumes spiraling in the sky before raining down to blanket the grass with infinitesimal specks of color.
I never thought bombing could be anything other than the traditional tools of the trade. After all, graffiti is graffiti, right? Wrong.
The crew in question is TheFuzz, whose members all rock monikers in the same manner of graffiti tradition. Its members – Granny2, Hanasaurusrex and ArchiPURLago – use yarn, not paint, to create their public works. I meet the crew at Spalding House to discuss the group’s origin and its project on the museum grounds.
“We all have art backgrounds, but from different angles,” ArchiPURLago tells me as we tour the lawn and discuss the various pieces on display. ArchiPURLago’s background was rooted in scientific illustration; Granny2 worked as an archeologist; Hanasaurusrex joins the mix as a graphic designer. Although their backgrounds seem diverse, they share a passion for knitting and crocheting. They all met, it turns out, at a group called Aloha Knitters.
We walk the periphery of the museum, and they point out their individual projects. Hanasaurusrex’s piece, a sprawling sunset created by sliding sweaters on tree trunks, began as a way of bringing focus to a part of the garden that, by and large, goes unseen or unappreciated.
“I was talking to Aaron Padilla [curator of education at Spalding House] about doing something on these trees,” she says, “and he said it would be cool if there were a horizontal line going across.”
The idea of a sunset spanning across the garden stuck with her, and, after much work and the help of her husband (a math major), she figured out a way to showcase a radiant sunset across the most underappreciated part of the museum.
Granny2’s main piece, an intensely crocheted piece on a thick branch of a tree, bristles with details. “The concept and the basic patterns were mine,” she informs me, “but I did get a lot of volunteers to actually crochet the pieces that would go on.”
ArchiPURLago’s piece, too, involved encasing a large monkeypod tree branch. “We had scaffolding under the monkeypod branch with volunteers from Aloha Knitters assisting,” she says.
When the scaffolding failed to reach the uppermost part of the tree, one volunteer mitigated the situation by throwing on climbing gear to knit the final part. “I don’t think we can thank the volunteers enough. We wouldn’t have been able to do the installation without them,” says Granny2.
Needless to say, this exhibition acted as a catalyst for the trio to take their art to the next level. “We were talking about wanting to give yarnbombing more of a presence in Hawai‘i, and this museum project really pushed us into picking a group name and making it official,” says Hanasaurusrex.
Still, the group acknowledges the barrier that exists between the crafts and contemporary art, and whether or not this type of work is fitting for a museum. But sometimes, Granny2 says with a smile, “Stirring up controversy can be a good thing.”
One piece that captures my attention is an altered Satoru Abe sculpture, which, to be honest, I had never noticed in the past. Sitting quietly in the corner of the garden, “The Tree,” made by the Hawai‘i modern master in 1978, is adorned with little sleeves on the sculpture’s leaves in various pop colors, courtesy of TheFuzz.
The piece bridges the gap between one generation of artists and the next, subtly connecting the dots in the history of Hawai‘i art in a way that’s playful and witty and conceptually interesting. ArchiPURLago explains, “This piece was keeping in our theme of time, and changes over time, and, with the museum having gone through its own change with the merge, we were trying to reflect upon what’s old and now looking forward to what’s new.”