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Essay by Perry Price: HOTTEA, La Maroma

HOTTEA, La Maroma

It is remarkable how much personal and familial history informs the art of Eric Rieger, also known as HOTTEA. The assumed name of this public installation artist originates in the memories of his mother’s habitual dessert, hot tea and cornbread.

His medium of choice is skeins of yarn, which he uses to transform the not-quite-visible barriers of the ubiquitous chain link fence into the skeleton structure of his urban installations. The form of the fence, the grid on interlocking links, defined and developed HOTTEA’s style, aided and abetted by his study of graphic design. Taught to knit by his grandmother at a young age, he works with yarn in another nod to the family history that increasingly runs through his practice (and yarn’s inexpensive and available in a spectrum of colors).

Recent HOTTEA installations have moved beyond the chain link fence and into new areas, both physically and personally. Two years ago HOTTEA suspended approximately eighty-four miles of yarn in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts; the warm-colored yarns hung from a grid not unlike the Cloud series by the late fiber artist Lenore Tawney. Now, for Northern Spark, La Maroma brings HOTTEA’s characteristic yarn creations to the greatest underrecognized barrier in the Twin Cities, the Mississippi River.

Suspended under the Third Avenue Bridge at West River Parkway, La Maroma is a site-specific installation of multicolored yarn supporting a slatted bridge on which figures appear to advance from one end to the other. The piece is inspired by his mother, who often recounted stories (typically uneventful but sometimes harrowing) about crossings of the Ayutla River in Mexico.

We mark our relationship to the river by our means of traversing it. Before a bridge that spans a river is built, we either travel with its flow or challenge it in our fording. In La Maroma, HOTTEA envisions a rainbow bridge across the river, one that recalls light seen through the spray thrown up in rapids. But the bridge is also the scene of uncertain drama, as people help one another and protect each other from the risks of the treacherous crossing. The colorful yarn brings to mind that rainbow bridge of Norse mythology, Bifröst, uniting heaven and earth. Conceived in the personal mythology of familial history and youthful memories of his mother’s descriptions of the perilous journeys across another river, the vision HOTTEA expresses in La Maroma reminds us of the dangers, and the promise, taken for granted in the crossing of every bridge.

 – Perry Price, Director of Education, American Craft Council