Claudia Losi

Imagine a gallery filled with a throng of animals making love. Claudia Losi has. Her Atti d’amore (Acts of love), 2002–2003, consists of sculptures of manta rays, snakes, dogs, dragonflies, and more, all made of gray felt and hung from elastic strings that give them the appearance of flying and also emphasize their erotic movement, their purely biological sexuality, in contrast to the human species, whose sexual relations are regulated by cultural and social norms.

All Losi’s work involves sewing and embroidery. She is not the only contemporary artist to use this traditional women’s craft, of course. Throughout the world, women and men alike are using embroidery and sewing to create art. It is something more than a formal choice, and in art this manual activity is transformed. Symbolically tied to the feminine, it has become a medium of dialogue between men and women, who can now recognize each other through the exchange of a body of knowledge that had been synonymous with their separation—a new encounter between the sexes.

In For Ryökan Project, 1999–, Losi has embroidered the phases of continental drift on seven wooden balls. It seems to be a way of translating a sense of cosmic awareness into a domestic dimension, of embodying a personal imagination of the grand events that lie behind the birth of the human species. At the same time she is making a connection to the legends that represent the origins of the earth. This piece is an homage to Ryökan, an eighteenth- century Japanese poet and monk who left behind as a relic the ball of thread embroidered with peonies and butterflies that he always carried with him and used to play ball with children. In Japanese, the word for ball is “mari,” and so the artist has created a linguistic play with the Italian, which leads us to the mari, or seas, that delimit the continents. The globe immediately becomes the world of relationships; playing with it, we recognize and relate stories. The balls of thread allude to the terrestrial sphere yet, resting atop a small mattress placed on the floor, are a sign of protection and domesticity. Other balls, titled Slittamenti (Slippages), 2003, bear the embroidered outlines of the continents superimposed one upon another; here they were displayed on small shelves, like decorations or keepsakes. In another room was Naviganti (Voyagers), 2003, which consists of a sort of foam-rubber relief map covered with canvas that’s been dyed sea green. Hung on elastic cords from the ceiling, it swayed slightly, offering hints of the movement of water upon which the blue embroidered outlines of large whales surfaced. This was a return to the story of the earth’s inundation; the landscape, in fact, recalled the Po Valley, which once was submerged beneath waters inhabited, it is said, by whales.

Francesca Pasini

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.