Art inspired by moss, mold is a sight to behold at Society for Contemporary Craft

Felted wool sculpture on exhibit at Strip gallery


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The sleek and modern lobby of the Society for Contemporary Craft building in the Strip District has been overtaken by a sculpture of moss and mold that has been growing all summer like a creeping plant.

Made of dyed wool, "Overgrowth" is the creation of Jennifer Moss, the SCC's artist-in-residence this season, who was inspired by the moss, mold and fungus that have devoured many of the grand old homes and buildings in Savannah, Ga., where she lived before being invited here.

"It has given me a lot of thought about cycles of decay and how these things are kind of taking over and tearing down old buildings," Ms. Moss said. "But the positive aspect is how it is allowing for a lot of renewal in these old cities.

"So when I was asked to come to Pittsburgh for the summer, I was thinking these same things have occurred in Pittsburgh, which has also gone through a revival with the industries turning over to a more arts and creative culture."

"Overgrowth" is meant to represent the different natural plants and processes that take over man-made environments that have fallen into neglect and ruin.

Wrapping up the sculpture this week, Ms. Moss will be working in the SCC's lobby from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, Thursday and Friday; she will be available to talk to visitors about the process. She has been charting the work's progress on her personal blog, jenniferemoss.blogspot.com.

About half the colors she used in the sculpture comes from locally foraged plants -- she gathered them from the river trail that runs from the Society's building at 2100 Smallman St. to the Point. The plants include goldenrod, Queen Anne's lace, ivy, pansy and turmeric, which is not locally grown, but she was able to purchase some at a market in the Strip District.

To get the full range of colors she wanted, Ms. Moss had to submit to the artificial world and use some synthetic green dye.

She boiled the plants to extract their colors, then dipped the wool in the hot water to transfer the colors onto the wool.

The process is very time-consuming. Ms. Moss has been working on the piece since the first week of June. By the end of the first week, it was only 1 foot by 1 foot. But she has added to the exhibit every day and it has now grown to cover an entire corner of the lobby.

"The installation is made of felted wool, which is a very tactile material," she said. "When people come in they want to touch it. They want to experience it visually and touch it. The material itself is soft, fuzzy and brightly colored.

"I like the fact that people want to touch the sculpture even though it represents mold, and mold is something you avoid. But the material it is made out of is very inviting."

"Overgrowth" will remain in the SCC's lobby through October.

neigh_city - artarchitecture

Tim Grant: tgrant@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1591.


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