(1919 – 2013), Italy

Maria Lai Artworks

Throughout the 1960s, Maria Lai created linear forms with thread and experimented with the craft traditions of Sardinia like weaving. 'Telai' (Looms) (1965–2010) is a series of colourful works made up of twine, fabric, and wood. Each artwork demonstrates Lai's playful weaving process and her ability to transform a traditional practice into something abstract.

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Lai's geometric abstractions represent a shift in weaving from a traditionally female gesture that allowed women to express themselves in a patriarchal society to something innovative and immersive. 'Telai' depicts the loom as both a conceptual art object and a platform for narrative, particularly for female narratives in art.

Legarsi Alla Montagna (To tie oneself to the mountain) (1981) is a seminal performance where Lai reinterpreted an ancient legend of Ulassai about a girl who escaped a landslide by leaving her shelter from a storm to chase a blue ribbon in the wind. Lai used the local folktale to bring together all the inhabitants of her hometown by connecting the doors of each house together using around 27 kilometres of blue ribbon over a period of three days.

Many neighbours didn't want to participate due to feelings of hostility between one another. Lai worked with the villagers and proposed a code: where there were feelings of animosity between neighbours, the ribbon would be straight; where feelings were content, the ribbon would be knotted. Some ribbons were hung with bread to represent love and some tied with a bow to represent friendship.

Photographer Piero Berengo Gardin documented the performance. His black-and-white photographs were later coloured by Lai, who painted the ribbons a vivid blue. Legarsi Alla Montagna is an example of performative land art and social sculpture that united a town of people through collaboration and artistic astonishment.

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Senza titolo by Maria Lai contemporary artwork sculpture
Maria Lai Senza titolo, 2006 Mixed technique on fabric
225 x 40 cm
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Dall'ultimo diario di Teresa Mundula by Maria Lai contemporary artwork sculpture
Maria Lai Dall'ultimo diario di Teresa Mundula, 1980 Embroidery paper book
19 x 31 cm
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Dedalo by Maria Lai contemporary artwork sculpture
Maria Lai Dedalo, 1991 Embroidery and gouache on layers of fabric
270 x 120 cm
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Senza titolo by Maria Lai contemporary artwork sculpture
Maria Lai Senza titolo, 2006 Embroidery on fabric
21 x 31 cm
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Senza titolo by Maria Lai contemporary artwork sculpture
Maria Lai Senza titolo, 1992 Embroidery on cardboard
25 x 20.5 cm
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Chiaro di luna by Maria Lai contemporary artwork sculpture
Maria Lai Chiaro di luna, 1998 Embroidered fabric book
25 x 34.5 cm
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Dialogo del mare II by Maria Lai contemporary artwork sculpture
Maria Lai Dialogo del mare II, 1997 Embroidery and gouache on fabric
196.5 x 25.5 cm
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Lo scialle della luna by Maria Lai contemporary artwork sculpture
Maria Lai Lo scialle della luna, 1996 glazed ceramic, jute wire, nails, wood
231 x 90 cm
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Re magi by Maria Lai contemporary artwork sculpture
Maria Lai Re magi, 1991 Embroidery on layers of paper
35 x 25 cm
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Presepe by Maria Lai contemporary artwork sculpture
Maria Lai Presepe, 2000 Glazed ceramic, embroidery on velvet mounted on wood
155 x 49 cm
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Telaio di Maria Pietra 18 by Maria Lai contemporary artwork sculpture
Maria Lai Telaio di Maria Pietra 18, 1994 Glazed ceramic
21 x 15 x 19 cm
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Telaio di Maria Pietra 16 by Maria Lai contemporary artwork sculpture
Maria Lai Telaio di Maria Pietra 16, 1994 Glazed ceramic
25.5 x 16 x 7 cm
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Senza titolo by Maria Lai contemporary artwork works on paper, mixed media, textile
Maria Lai Senza titolo, 1979 Mixed technique, thread and paper.
28 x 22 cm
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Duemila natali di guerra by Maria Lai contemporary artwork textile
Maria Lai Duemila natali di guerra, 2008 Mixed technique, fabric, thread and ink.
41 x 22 cm
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Volpe by Maria Lai contemporary artwork painting
Maria Lai Volpe, 1981 Mixed technique on paper and thread applied on cardboard.
36 x 25 cm
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Senza titolo by Maria Lai contemporary artwork painting, works on paper
Maria Lai Senza titolo, 2008 Paper, thread, ink and tempera applied on cardboard
49.5 x 36 cm
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Pagina nera by Maria Lai contemporary artwork works on paper
Maria Lai Pagina nera Mixed technique
14.4 x 15.3 cm
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Senza titolo by Maria Lai contemporary artwork works on paper, textile
Maria Lai Senza titolo, 1978 Mixed technique
40.3 x 29.5 cm
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Progetto telaio senza titolo by Maria Lai contemporary artwork print
Maria Lai Progetto telaio senza titolo, 1969 Monotype
100 x 71 cm
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Senza titolo by Maria Lai contemporary artwork textile
Maria Lai Senza titolo, 2003 Thread on fabric
16 x 29 cm
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Senza titolo by Maria Lai contemporary artwork works on paper, textile
Maria Lai Senza titolo, 1969 Fabric on cardboard
24.5 x 19.5 cm
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Senza titolo by Maria Lai contemporary artwork painting, textile
Maria Lai Senza titolo, 1984 Assembly of fabric and xerographies embroidered with thread
15 x 20 cm
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Re Magi by Maria Lai contemporary artwork painting, textile
Maria Lai Re Magi, 1991 Mixed media on paper and fabric
26.5 x 21 cm
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La Leggenda del Naufrago by Maria Lai contemporary artwork painting, textile
Maria Lai La Leggenda del Naufrago, 1998 Mixed technique, thread and paint on cardboard
35 x 25 cm
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