BELLOWS FALLS >> Bellows Falls artist, Sarah Machtey, was asked to create an image reflecting the 35-year landmark of the AIDS pandemic Vermont for the one-night-only performance of "Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens." The benefit for the AIDS Project of Southern Vermont will be held at the Latchis Theatre in Brattleboro on Saturday, at 7:30 p.m.
Machtey works in polymer clay and found objects, those which we customarily would discard or recycle. The challenge to create a commissioned piece of art was presented by Executive Producer, Susan MacNeil, who served as the Executive Director of AIDS Services for the Monadnock Region from 2000-2014. Having seen Machtey's work from recycled aluminum cans at the Steampunk Festival in Springfield, VT, the relationship between repurposing found objects and the 35-year pandemic landmark struck a nerve. "So many people with HIV/AIDS feel as though they have been discarded, and it was always my work at my agency to make them feel whole again - reimagined, if you will. How would you create a work of art that characterizes this experience?"
Machtey instinctively knew how to proceed. "I felt very honored to be asked to create a piece of art for Elegies. Since the items that inspired the request were upcycled from aluminum cans, that is what I quilted together to form the ribbon. There are a total of 35 pieces of aluminum, stitched together with red ribbon, in a double-layered semi-woven structure."
Her deliberate process resulted in the elegant merging two iconic symbols, the ribbon and the Quilt. The piece itself, simply titled "Ribbon," is 11" wide x 23" high and mounted on a white canvas 15" x 30". "I made the sections by cutting up drink cans, embossing them with a woven pattern, and filling the low areas with Rub 'n Buff while exposing the high areas. Sometimes it mostly looks metallic, other times the colors and patterns of the cans are dominant — depending on the angles of lights and eyes. The Rub 'n Buff is half gold and half silver, in an alternating/checkerboard pattern. I used two rows of rectangles because that's how the sections of the quilt are."