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.Read More
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.