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A knot is a simple or elaborate twist and interlacing of fibers. The knot's structure makes the fibers into something new: a tool, a weapon, an ornament, a calculation, a message. Snare a rabbit. Net a fish. Lash a sail. Cinch a saddle. Gird your loins. Plait your hair. These ordinary bindings are nodes of civilization. Or a knot can be personal. Touch your navel. It remembers the knot that first defined you as an individual.
Consider the two rows of knots that adorne the Mona Lisa's bodice. Are these intricate chains of stitches the reverie of a virtuoso hand at play? Are they a 'brand' for da 'vinci', a rush especially suitable for weaving? Are they a mathematical code? Do they allude to the Islamic motifs that Leonardo encountered in his exchanges with Isantbul? Are they an irrepressible preoccupation of a mind obsessed with structure? Perhaps those tiny knots express all those meanings.
Knots are ubiquitous in Leonardo's notebooks. Some express the engineer's passion for practical simplicity. some express the artist's embrace of ineffable mystery.
The Challenge began 19 years ago quoting Leonardo's advice to costume designers: Skip the labor of embroidery knots; improvise with millet, glue and paint. The 20th Challenge returns to knots as the object of our improvisations. The Challenge is less What knots can you make? than What can you make of knots? Explore the meaning of knots – the knot as a secure solution, the knot as an intractable obstacle. Explore the materials – filaments, fibers, laces, cords and ribbons, living branches, or smoke rings. Explore the culture of knots – as maps, as records, as a paradigm for teaching and learning.
Leonardo da Vinci painted with unrivaled vision, explored science with modern logic and invented with pure imagination. The Leonardo Challenge celebrates one of his inventions: improvisational creativity. One hundred artists, designer and playful spirits will transform a common object – this year, the knot – with wit, whimsy and artistry.
The April 24th benefit will revel in those artist's creativity. Through their generosity and yours, the evening will support workshops and outreach for a new generation learning the ropes of applied imagination.