The work of Hannah Streefkerk

Dutch artist Hannah Streefkerk's Restorations-project constitutes a dialogue between art and nature. She treats nature itself as a work of art in this project situated somewhere between artistic action and ephemeral sculpture. As a contemporary Florence Nightingale, based in nature, the artist goes into the forest to mend wounded trees and leaves. Using yarn, she stitches together the torn bark of various trees and repairs the holes in fallen leaves on the forest floor. Sometimes the stitches are reminiscent to the doctor's suture after an operation, and sometimes the grids of yarn are rather more like big plasters placed carefully on the trees. At times the large natural coloured patches blend into the tree itself, making it appear as an ingrained part of the bark and not as an addition made by human hands.

She works with crocheting as well, creating large patterns which resemble old-fashioned crocheted shawls. The kind of shawl you would gently and with great care place around the shoulders of an elderly family member. Handicrafts like sewing, knitting and crocheting have traditionally been women's work in many cultures, both ancient and modern. Therefore this type of needlework is associated with a female universe, and it seems to contrast to wild nature with its neat and homely twines.

The forest as a work place is traditionally a frame around masculine activities, pictured for example in the archetypical lumberjack or the fabled woodsman. By bringing typical traditional female virtues, the handicraft and the Florence Nightingalesque touch of a nurse tending to those in need, into this somewhat masculine realm, she seems to emphasize that caring for our environment is everybody's business - she underlines the same point by bringing the ancient traditions of handicraft into our modern times reinstated as land art, as well as working with the project in various countries. The necessity of caring for our environment transgresses boundaries of all kinds.

Through her interventions with nature, she invites us to reflect upon the damage inflicted on nature by human activity. The wounds which she is mending on trees and leaves are not inflicted by humans, they come from natural processes in the forest. Nevertheless, as she plays the part of a caretaker of nature which in turn becomes the patient or the worn down greenhouse in need of repair, our role in the harm done to our environment is highlighted.

Today the trend in our everyday lives is to 'use and discard', instead of taking time to repair or restore our belongings. We would rather buy a new pair of socks than try to stitch up the holes, and we would rather buy a new chair than try to fix the broken leg back on.
Hannah Streefkerk challenges this attitude, as she takes it upon herself to manually repair her natural surroundings with needle and thread. Through the humorous, reduced one-to-one scaled repair work, she creates a visual metaphor for our responsibility for taking better care of our environment.

 Restorations (2009) I-park, CT, USA   Photo courtesy of Hannah Streefkerk