Looking at Pictures

I pondered this huge bale of hay at MoMA for quite a while, wondering how exactly a cattle herd’s dinner had found its way to midtown Manhattan. The hay smelled good and tapped into childhood memories of my family’s neighbors in Ireland making hay in the summertime.

Here’s what went through my head: A bale of hay in MoMA! Sweet! I prefer loose hay though. Once hay goes through the baler, I can no longer toss the cut, dried grass up in the air with my feet as I run in the field. Still, square bales are better than round bales. Round bales are usually covered with plastic and tend to smell like rotting grass after a while.

Why is this bale so large, I wondered? Why is it at MoMA? And why are all these people walking by instead of stopping to look at it?

After sketching the hay, I found a plaque on the wall with the artist’s name and statement – Brazilian artist Cielo Miereles created the piece, Thread (1990-95). Rather than a single bale of hay, this sculpture is actually comprised of “forty-eight bales of hay, one 18-carat gold needle, and fifty-eight meters of gold thread.”

Thus, I was looking at a needle (albeit a gold one) in a haystack.

According to the statement on the wall, Thread evokes the “geometric rationality of Minimalist art” in a medium normally associated with agriculture, and the gold needle is connected to the wire. The piece “suggests the precariousness of economic relationships…and the place of the individual within a larger social system.”

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