The works of Marisa Merz (born 1925, Turin) display many of the fundamental themes and preoccupations associated with Arte Povera. These include an interest in flowing, organic forms, a concentration on subjectivity and the visionary, the embracing of ‘low’ types of art such as craft, and the relationship between art and life. ‘There has never been any division between my life and my work’, she has said. She often adapts traditional practices associated with female domesticity, such as knitting, and the idea of home as a private, intimate and feminine realm is central to her work. In 1966, for example, she created the spectacular work Untitled (Living Sculpture), both for her own house and as a gallery installation. It was made from thin strips of shiny aluminium, clipped together and suspended from the ceiling to form great coiled and spiralling forms, creating a magical environment.
In 1968, she began knitting nylon or copper threads into simple geometric shapes to fit her body. Little Shoes, 1970, for instance, is a nylon-thread sculpture made for her feet. Bea, 1968, is another knitted work, spelling out her daughter’s name. These delicate, web-like works have been installed both along gallery walls and in external locations such as beaches. Outdoors, they appear to grow like plants or grip on like living creatures. This inter-weaving of threads into a complicated network implies both an obsessive energy and ideas of communication and interconnection. Merz herself has spoken of an intense excitement running through these threads.