Work in Progress: Lisa Batacchi
Lisa Batacchi, our April Work in Progress (WIP) resident, creates work that traverses boundaries. Coming from a fashion background, she has incorporated knitwear into her recent body of work, “Soulmates (within time),” now on display in our Manhattan storefront. Not only does Lisa bisect the boundaries of fashion and fine art, but her work work also creates opportunities for viewers to tread through interpersonal boundaries. Her work frequently contains aspects of performance and often invites viewers to join in, facilitating connection. Her projects frequently also engage with traditional ways of making that are being lost in our industrialized world, focusing particularly on the textile tradition in Florence, Italy, her home. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Lisa in the studio, to discuss her work and creative process.
On her fashion background: “I studied at Polimoda in Florence which is affiliated to FIT, and then I worked for many knitwear companies, which had the production made in Tuscany at that time. It was before Chinese production took over, which took away a lot of jobs and also know-how in Florence. I then worked for Prada and Vivienne Westwood and later did my own collection. In 2007 just for curiosity I signed up for a visual art school to have more knowledge about art and culture in general. Since then I have been experimenting with different media like performance and site-specific installation and two years ago I felt the necessity to go back to knitwear because I was missing the sense of softness. I didn’t know how to integrate it with my art path yet but people around me had always said that the strongest thing they saw in my works was my background in textiles, and my sensibility in color that I brought back in a conceptual way in the arts.”
On returning to knitwear: “I had this dream one night of two people walking next to each other, soul-mates who had similar colored clothes and similar ways of dressing and walking. There was this aura. And then I woke up. A few months later I met a guy who was wearing a sweater with similar stripes, melange and colors to mine. That was at our first meeting, and then we had a second meeting after some time and we were still wearing the same sweaters! So I asked someone to take a picture. I just used the cropped square area showing only an abstract pattern, where from one sweater to another there were these casual connections, which inspired my sweater pieces shown here.”
On knitwear production: “I’m working in Florence with a couple of knitwear ladies. This is also connected to my past because when I did my own collection in 2006 I didn’t want to make it in China, I wanted this Florentine-made production, and it was made with brother knitting machines by hand. For my new knitwear work, instead of by machine made I really wanted it hand-knitted, because I wanted this process to be even slower and get even farther away from the fashion world.”
“I received Tuscan regional grants so I was able to pay these women well to help me produce the work. You can see the difference between the two knitted pieces, one is knit tighter and one is looser. I like these differences and interpretations, and I also like the fact that the woman who help me put their personalities into it. They hope I’ll sell the pieces so they can start producing more, because it’s really hard. In Tuscany, and especially near Florence, the textile industry used to be very strong. I’m trying to fight in a small way against these controversies of power and capitalism and the fact that these women lost their jobs. Now they’re working in their houses by themselves because they don’t have money to start their own companies. In my small way I believe that I can help.”
On the role of relationships in her work:
“I began to think about exploring other connections with people with who I felt deeply close to in different ways, spiritually, intellectually, friendship or any other strong feeling. I met two years ago an artist, Lapo Binazzi, who is now 73 years old and lives in Florence like me. We worked together for two years and really had an intergenerational encounter. He became a guru for me, but he also said I was a guru for him, so there was not a hierarchy between older and younger, established or emerging artist. He was one of the founders of UFO group, a radical architecture movement that started in Florence. Around those years in 1968 the radicals would do happenings in the streets of the city. This kind of a friendship brought me after a year and a half to have so much material on our meetings, dialogues. I was really intrigued by his reflections on colors since he used all of them with no exclusion, including black, and I hate black. I found a drawing of his that didn’t have black and also a picture in his archive where he was wearing a poncho. I decided I would use this kind of garment dedicated to our encounter, since being a rectangle it could be hung up on the wall as an art piece or rather be a garment to use for performance or just to buy and to wear every day. The idea for this poncho as also of the other couple of garments that I made was to start from my intimate sphere to then connect with the public one. So if you embrace with another person by wearing these garments you can see this pattern that becomes a landscape and creates different kinds of also new meanings.”
To see more of Lisa’s work, check out her website. She will be hosting a special presentation of her work in our Manhattan studio on April 27th. Learn more and RSVP here. If you are a textile artist interested in our Work in Progress residency, you’re in luck! We are now accepting applications.