June 25, 2021 – September 19, 2021
A textile, much like land or skin, reveals the imprint of time and experience. While its presence in our lives is often overlooked, it quietly absorbs our actions, develops scars, and connects us to rich histories and cultural identities. Think of a cherished piece of clothing, or a worn family quilt passed down for generations. The power of these items comes from their use, and they become the living relics of stories that are endlessly woven into their fibers.
Marie Watt, Adrian Esparza, and Elodie Blanchard embrace the indelible nature of the textile. Celebrating the everyday through their reclamation of used clothing and blankets, they deconstruct and dramatically transform these materials, allowing past stories to blend with new ones. Their work centers textiles as potent signifiers of the relationships we build and the histories we share.
Together, the artists featured in The Stories Woven Within intrinsically relate to one another while their work stands independently.
Marie Watt: My Stories Change When I Know Your Stories
Reclaimed blankets, holding the stories and memories of others, have long been at the center of Marie Watt’s work. She honors the space that these textiles occupy in our lives, swaddling us in birth, death, and countless moments in between. She invites the accumulation of these stories in her newest body of work, Companion Species.
A citizen of the Seneca Nation, Watt often highlights Indigenous history and teachings in her work. Iroquois protofeminism and the larger interconnectedness among all beings combine with other point of influence, such as the longing and hope from Marvin Gaye’s 1971 song, “What’s Going On.” With the addition of text on her sewn tapestries, Watt’s larger pieces are now often produced in sewing circles, inviting the participation of the public. As people sit and work with something as familiar as cloth, with hands and eyes focused on the meditative act of stitching, storytelling starts to unfold. Watt values the moments where we can learn each other’s stories, allowing our shared histories and relatedness to come to the fore.
Adrian Esparza: Windows
Adrian Esparza begins this work with traditional sarape blankets, which he wholly unravels before redeploying their colorful thread into large-scale installations. The sarape, an object that is part of the everyday experience in border towns like Esparza’s El Paso, functions as an enduring symbol for the Mexican-American culture in which the artist was raised and continues to live. He sometimes even refers to these works as abstract self-portraits, exploring his own cultural identity through this iconic fabric craft. Placing the sarape at the center of his practice, Esparza embraces the histories and meanings embedded within this commonplace object. Yet, in deconstructing and recontextualizing it, his work also speaks powerfully to the potential for change and transformation in what surrounds us.
Elodie Blanchard: The Forest
Elodie Blanchard creates forests with her fantastical sculptural installations, building a dense mass of tangled objects that stretch high into the air. Are these trees, with spindly trunks, branches, and burls? Or perhaps tentacles, or even bodies? Each sculpture has a unique size and shape, but they are uniformly playful and humorous. They manifest joy.
Blanchard covers these pieces in brightly colored bands of repurposed fabrics, sewn together and sometimes embroidered. The scraps often originate from her own clothes, or those of her friends and family, creating a three-dimensional quilt of memories. Recognizing the power of textiles as signifiers of our individual identities, she names each piece for someone special in her life.
IMAGE CREDIT: Marie Watt, Companion Species (Declaration), 2018. Reclaimed wool blankets, thread, and embroidery floss, 20.5 x 29 inches. Collection of Merrill Wright. Photo: Aaron Johanson.