Catching Stars

Sebastian Di Mauro
Catching Stars, 2020
Jacquard woven blanket derived from watercolour on paper, 152cm x 127cm


Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the Western world, I have been living in the US, a country where there have been 9.96 million cases and 238,000 deaths from it and with a leader who has largely tried to ignore the ravages of the pandemic. No strong leadership has offered much hope in trying to contain the virus. As I reflect on the past ten months, I wonder if life would have been different if I had returned to Australia.


As a permanent resident, I use US money almost every day. It is the binding agent that enables me to survive in the US. Greenbacks can buy almost anything. The currency illustrates historical elements that have helped solidify this globally influential nation. The US dollar is the most used in international transactions and is the world’s primary reserve currency. On the reverse of the $1 note is the symbol of the unfinished pyramid. Borrowed from Egyptian civilisation, the pyramid connotes strength and the ability to weather the ages. The eye hovering above the pyramid is the eye of providence.


In this work, the text at the bottom of the pyramid MDCCLXXVI (1776)—which is the date of the Declaration of Independence—has been replaced with MMXXI (2021). Novus Ordo Seclorum translates as “new order of the ages”. The message embedded onto the back of the dollar note is as relevant today as it was in 1776.


Blankets have been part of my artistic lexicon since 1996, when I used electric blankets splayed on the wall of the gallery. In 2002 I wove blankets from Mountain Ash bark in Victoria while on a residency in Warrandyte with Parks Victoria. Metaphorically, blankets reference nurturing, protection, comfort and security. I have also used US Government military blankets as the ground for quilts I created in the series titled Greenback.


Blue has many connotations and seems appropriate for this artwork. Yves Klein adopted this hue as a means of evoking the immateriality and boundlessness of his own particular utopian vision of the world. I have used ultramarine blue in my practice for over twenty-four years, often referencing Klein. The word blue also alludes to sadness or depression.


The recent election of J.R. Biden as the 46th President of the US has augured a different direction in government policy. A positive international response to his and Vice President Kamala Harris’s electoral victory has reverberated around the world.