Douglas Fuchs (1947-1986) was an American fibre artist and teacher who came to Australia in 1981 on a Crafts Council of Australia Fellowship.
'Floating Forest' is a monumental work, containing seven woven totem forms, a variety of other fibre constructions and three large figures of hand-made cast paper. One figure, covered in paperbark collected in Arnhem Land, rests in a dream canoe. A menacing nightmare tableau also appears in the environment. This fibre environment relates closely to Fuch's own early sense that something was wrong with his own body, the meaning of which became clear to him when he was diagnosed as having AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) in 1984. (1)
The environment was constructed in the second half of 1981 at the Jam Factory in Adelaide from a wide range of natural indigenous Australian plant fibres. Work began in July of 1981 and was completed by mid-November. During construction, various people dropped into the Jam Factory studio and lent a hand. Hossein Valamanesh collaborated on a number of the major pieces and Kay Lawrence, Pat Grummet, Georgia Clarke and Elena Gellibrand also helped at various stages in assembling the units (2).
The sculpture was commissioned by the Australian Crafts Council as part of Fuchs' creative Fellowship award. During his Fellowship, Fuchs also taught contemporary basketry and investigated the basket making of Aboriginal Australia. 'Floating Forest' was exhibited at the Adelaide Festival Centre Gallery, the Meat Market Craft Centre in Melbourne and the Crafts Council Centre Gallery in Sydney during 1982.
(1) Douglas Fuchs, 'No immunity: One artist's nightmare confronts us all', Craft International, Vol 5. April/June, 1986.
(2) Douglas Fuchs, 'Floating Forest Exhibition', Craft Australia, Spring, 1982/83.