Phil Larson 720


Unlike historical stretches of fabric, this bigger-than-a-
billboard work has no propaganda punch—no hero,
no propaganda, no radio station worship. The Big Print
features a great chorus of individual voices,
including performances by Artist Kari Alberg, and Executive
Director of ArtOrg David Machacek.

Ambitious projects like The Big Print, once finished and
laid out, are at their best when they bear witness to
the benign human impulse to work together to make
something that is in itself a gift to everyone who sees it
in action. In the visual arts, as in bio-science labs and
architecture studios, this is called collaboration.

The Big Print mixes several kinds of collaborative
activities. The first involves children and adults working
side by side to produce some 1500 squarish prints on paper.
Carved blocks were ganged together in grid formation,
and printed en mass outside with a power road roller!
Starting at ArtOrg’s Northfield base in 2008, this happened
at more than a dozen workshops throughout Minnesota.

The second collaboration is ArtOrg reusing the original
wooden blocks to print imagery on fabric.

The third is the finished work, half printed fabric images
by amateur artists, half collage-like unfigured fabric
areas designed by Kari Alberg. The figurative spread shows
three dancing figures on a rise before with a leaping horse
and rider. The horse is decked out with a two-horned headdress,
sculpted upright mane and geometricized tail.

Assembling The Big Print involves strategic placement
and joining the blue, red, an yellow squares around the
center celebration. Bluish squares now exude a scattering
of nature images that from a distance work equally as
stars, clouds, or snow.

Point of departure for this grand collaboration is Annichen
Sibbern Bohn’s 1929 Norwegian Knitting Designs. Reprinted
in several editions available even during Nazi occupation
of Norway, the horse and rider is a color offset collage on
the cover. Within the book black ink designs on a grid
alternate with photographs of collected mittens, jackets,
caps and geometric borders. Driven by a desire to
document a piece of Norwegian living history, the author
presents knitting by hand as a credible contribution to
the European Arts and Crafts movement.

Annichen’s book illustrates several designs for dancing figures.
In The Big Print we see two females in profile with skirts
perforated by unknit squares. They overlap a gesturing male
we see frontally. Figures appear individually or in repeating
pairs. Annichen does not tell us if these are traditional folk art,
or designs invented and imitated during her early years of
formal education.

To contain and transport The Big Print, an over-sized immigrant
trunk is constructed out of wood by Noel Swanson, appointed with hardware
forged by Thomas Latané, and handsomely painted by noted
Midwest artist T. L. Solien.


About the Author,
Dr. Philip Larson