September 2, 2011
Yarnbombing And Lichen It!
I took this picture at Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois just this week. I first noticed this tree from my perch on a 12-foot high platform built around a 60-foot tall Sycamore tree, a lookout point above the arboretum's one-acre Maze Garden. I was instantly irritated when I noticed this tree because I thought that it had been painted and I felt that an arboretum, whose mission it is to plant and conserve trees, had no right to defile one of their own trees. I decided to get down off the platform and go investigate. As I got closer, the "paint" on the trunk started looking lacier and I soon noticed that somebody had lovingly crocheted a tree cozy. That somebody is Ohio artist Carol Hummel, in a work of art that she calls "Lichen It!" In her artist statement, Hummel says that she is creating a "visual and fun reminder of the crucial long-term relationship between man and nature." Her work won me over.
A friend of mine, Sarah Rothberger Rothke, clued me in just last night that the phenomenon of using knitted or crocheted graffiti in outdoor public spaces is called "yarnbombing." I think that it's brilliant. While technically illegal and a tad bit on the naughty side, this type of graffiti doesn't inflict any permanent damage and can be easily removed. It is also every bit as creative as traditional graffiti and more intentional (or at least more time consuming). Unlike the usual urban graffiti, which can be intended to vandalize or demonstrate rebellion, yarnbombing has a warmer, fuzzier intent: to personalize cold, sterile public spaces. The phenomenon has become a little more formalized just this year, when International Yarnbombing Day was first observed on June 11, 2011. Unlike the planking and owling crazes, this is a meme that I can really get behind. I don't knit or crochet, although I've been tempted to join a stitch & bitch club just for the bitch portion of it, but I'm lichen the idea of constructive graffiti. Especially now that I don't have to give Morton Arboretum a piece of my mind.