Working on the installation Sen by artist Lisa Solomon was an all-hands-on-deck affair at the Ulrich Underground. I was one of many on the team and its completion was nothing short of a Herculean effort.
The title, Sen, is the Japanese word for ‘one thousand’. Most literally, this title describes the 1,000 hand-made doilies pinned to the wall. These doilies were made by participants from around the world.
Solomon used the doilies to create a chromatic grid of 100 colors, with each column a single color. Together, the lacy medallions create a dazzling spectrum of floating color. She then ties a thread ball to the bottom doily of each color, creating a physical connection so that the doilies will always know where they came from.
Solomon’s motivation for Sen came after a visit to Kyoto where she explored her Japanese heritage. In a Buddhist temple, she encountered 1,000 identical Buddha statues. Each had a radiating halo behind its head that inspired the shape of the doilies.
Solomon’s community-centered process comes from the intense work used to make Senninbari belts, or Thousand Stitch Belts. During World War II, one thousand women would gather to contribute one stitch to each belt for soldiers preparing to enter the war. This labor resulted in more than just a belt. It was a talisman.
Sen carries the same energy. The installation is pretty– really pretty– and rich with metaphor. As the Ulrich’s first artist-in-residence, Solomon’s work is a good omen.