Agustina Woodgate looks anxiously over her shoulder before passing her needle through another pair of brown trousers. The tag she sews into the waistband reads, "Life is a huge dream/ Why work so hard?" Hiding among the racks in a thrift store in Hialeah's Flamingo Plaza, she sews as many poetry tags as she can into secondhand clothes before she gets kicked out.
News of Woodgate's furtive tagging, originally intended to expose Miamians to more verse, has rippled across the blogosphere. And after coverage from international publications such as the Guardian, people as far away as Shanghai have been mailing clothes to Woodgate for their very own poetry tags. She is happy to oblige.
Despite the Li Po verse in her hand, no one could ever say the 30-year-old, Buenos Aires-born artist is not industrious. Poetry Bombing, which she initiated this past April for the O, Miami poetry festival, is just one of her many labor-intensive, ambitious projects. Shortly after moving to Miami in 2004, she collected her own hair for a year before spinning it into a wig more than ten yards long and molding it into impressive castles measuring four feet high.
Prevalent in Woodgate's art is the idea of displacement. When she positions something like poetry in an unexpected place such as inside clothing, people can't help but confront the often-overlooked genre.
This recontextualizing was also the inspiration behind her rugs assembled from deconstructed teddy bears. The colorful and furry pelts, which Woodgate hopes people use on the floor and not hang on a wall, play with our intense affection for childhood toys. This fondness often trumps any empathy for animals usually skinned for rugs. "People would say, 'Oh, that is so sad.' What's the sad part? The sadness is to see a real zebra in your living room," the staunch vegetarian explains.
Only four months after showing her first teddy-bear rug at the 2010 Scope art fair, Woodgate was inundated by requests to create more. "But I am too curious to stay inside my studio for 12 hours sewing," she laments in a voice as low and husky as the sultry Marlene Dietrich. Instead, she's teaching the women at the Lotus House Shelter how to sew and assemble the rugs.
Not that Woodgate has any intention of quitting. Just like her Poetry Bombing — for which the artist continues to sneak into thrift stores in Berlin, Buenos Aires, and Miami — the rug-making is part of her. "It's a project for my life," she says. "Why would I stop?"