Sunday, April 3, 2011

Monochromes Project on NBC

*click picture to watch video

Green Monochrome

The Green Monochrome for 3rd Federal Bank is a triptych of American flags. It represents a three-act story of our nation. The first act is Besty Ross with 15 stars. The second act is the wild-west/or the frontier, and has 28 stars for when Texas was added. The third act is our current flag, which was designed by high school student, Robert Haft, for a school project. He got a B- until Congress accepted his design. Then his teacher changed his grade to an A.

The piece was framed with an old green picket fence. The panels are connected by hinges so the green monochrome can fold up into a chest or “vault,” which can be carried around like a suitcase. Inside the frames are pieces of broken glass from various donations and sources, including the Wissahickon river and the “Glassphemy” installation at the Crane Arts Building. The pieces were tumbled with water and sand to re-create the effect of sea-glass, referring to the early settlers sailing over to America, and also to the sea and buried treasures. The glass pieces are like green coins. Some have also been cut to have five points for the five-pointed star Betsy Ross designed.

The Monochromes Project has rules. Everything of a designated color has to be found or second-hand. The exception to the rule is the adhesive (like glue or nails—anything to piece it together can be neutral in color). That said, we used copper wire, which can be oxidized to turn green. Making a patina formula, we turned some of the copper wire green, mostly in the third panel, similar to how the Statue of Liberty started out copper in color and then over time became its present oxidized color. The first and second panels have thirteen wires for the thirteen stripes of the flag and the original colonies. The second panel’s horizontal stripes—tied together with barbed-wire knots—signify a fence and also function as an abacus with glass pieces that slide across for counting and calculating.

SSEWARD’s approach to art making in general is about incorporating a social contribution and making work that functions and serves a purpose. With that goal in mind, we reached out to The Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush and figured out a way to incorporate The Monochromes Project into their curriculum. Scott Bickmore, founder of SSEWARD and The Monochromes Project, mentored a class of 15 students for a month on how to make their own monochromes. While he organized his “mamachrome,” the main piece for the bank, each student organized his or her “babychrome” to accompany Bickmore’s piece. As a result, these students learned how to run their own collaborative art-making project—from developing concepts, to collecting materials, to inviting collaborators. They finished the project by starting their own online art magazine “Chartreuse” (, named by the magazine’s Editor-in-Chief, Felicity Hicks.

Green Monochrome Unveiling at 3rd Federal

*click picture to watch video