Liberian Flag Project, 2016
Discarded plastic and a loom made from canvas stretchers and nails
May 3, 2016 – May 31, 2016
Weave the Liberian Flag with Nancy on May 7 and May 28, 1pm to 3pm
Bring clean used plastic bags and tablecloths
The artist will bring her 44” x 60” loom to the park and engage the community in weaving the Liberian flag with her out of discarded plastic on the day of the opening, and install it on the fence for the duration. Community members are invited to bring clean plastic bags or tablecloths as we will use them in the weaving.
The project focuses on the historical roots of Marcus Garvey Park, since Marcus Garvey led the Back-to- Africa Movement centered on Liberia and Sierra Leone. In 1847, seven African American women combined their efforts to design and create the Liberian flag: Susannah Lewis, who chaired the flag committee, Sarah Draper from Philadelphia, Mary L. Hunter from South Carolina, Rachel Johnson, Matilda Newport, Mrs. J. B. Russwurm from Baltimore, MD, and Collinette Teage Ellis from Virginia. The involvement of these American women in Liberia indicates the strong ties between the two countries.
The artist’s choice of materials, discarded plastic, reflects the indigenous nature of the project, since plastic bags and tablecloths can be found everywhere as detritus and refuse. Ironically, using ‘found’ materials such as discarded plastic confers on it value and worth that it wouldn’t have otherwise. An examination of the arts of Liberia and Sierra Leone, indicate that their artists also used found materials and objects to create art, whether it was plaited palm fiber or woven and coiled cane and raffia, or grass.
The intended impact of this piece will be a layered process, interweaving history and environmental concerns. First, the artist will engage the public to help her weave the discarded plastic on the loom. The process of weaving the plastic bags or tablecloths will assist the individual to scrutinize what we throw out as ‘garbage’ and help them reassess it as a material worthy of art making. Second, the individuals who help weave the plastic will understand the historical nature of the project. They will be valorizing the Back-to-Africa Movement of the early twentieth century in the creation of a flag that they are making from woven plastic. A third outcome will be understanding that just as the artists of Liberia and Sierra had used materials such as plaited grass or palm fiber, so too they are imitating them by using their own indigenous materials in the creation of the flag.
Nancy Rakoczy has shown her work at the Queens Museum, Framing Aids; A.I.R. Gallery At Her Age in Brooklyn, LICA Artists’ Bridging the Gap show, Local Project’s Dancing Weavings in Queens and a variety of other venues. Past grants include the Individual Artist’s grant from the Queens Council in the Arts.