Olek Crochets Massive Pro-Hillary Billboard Near the Holland Tunnel Entrance

Posted on: November 8th, 2016 at 5:05 am by

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Photo: Olek

You remember Olek, right?

The world renowned, Polish-born yarn artist was the talk of the town several years ago for her crocheted creations around downtown. At first, it was shopping carts, bikes, and sleds. The subject matter became more ambitious: the Astor Place Alamo Cube (which just returned after a two-year break) and Wall Street Bull also received colorful sweaters.

Then Olek seemingly dropped off the local radar, despite having a studio on the Lower East Side. Every now and again another piece would pop up, but it’s definitely been quite some time.

Now she’s back with a pro-Hillary Clinton billboard. Just in time for election day. The sixteen-by-forty-six-foot endorsement is located just before Jersey entrance to Holland Tunnel tube, and was installed last Thursday. It’s pretty straight-forward – the “I’m with Her” slogan with hashtag alongside Hillary’s head.

The New Yorker has the scoop on the new piece.

What followed was a mad-dash marathon of crocheting: 794,880 stitches in less than four weeks. It culminated in an all-nighter at her Lower East Side studio the night before the piece was installed. When I visited that evening, the studio looked like the scene of a frantic blanket-liquidation sale—colorful crocheted items were scattered everywhere, and yarn spools unravelled here and there on the floor. Olek, wearing pink-and-black camo cargo pants, a T-shirt with flowers on it, and oversized red glasses, sat in the center of it all drinking maté and directing a group of six volunteers. (There was a seventh, I would later learn, who was napping in the folds of a finished portion of the piece.) A few of the volunteers had worked with Olek on past projects. Others had responded to Olek’s posts on Facebook and Instagram asking for help. All of them, along with a number of other crochet volunteers, had been cycling in and out of Olek’s studio for weeks. Now, with about ten hours left before the installation, the small group looped their hooks rapidly over and over again, according to stitching charts Olek had provided, while half-listening to NPR podcasts playing on Olek’s phone.

Shortly before noon the next day, the completed work arrived at an abandoned building in New Jersey, the roof of which looks over Route 139, several hundred yards before the entrance to the Holland Tunnel. (About forty-three thousand vehicles pass eastbound through the tunnel each day.) The building is owned by Mana Contemporary, a New Jersey-based arts center which devotes several of the billboards to rotating public-art exhibitions. Stanley Sudol, the director of Mana Urban Arts Project, had been told about Olek’s project by a mutual acquaintance in the art world and had offered the space.

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