Whether pulling on a pair of blue jeans or closing their drapes, people rarely think about the origin and culture surrounding the fabrics they use in their everyday lives.
The latest exhibit at James Madison University’s Duke Hall Gallery aims to change that using work from three artists.
The show, which opened Oct. 24, features installations from textile artists Surabhi Ghosh, Rowland Ricketts and Michael Andrews.
Curated by Robert Mertens, assistant professor and head of JMU’s Fiber Arts and Weaving, the exhibit shows how textiles can be used for more than just industrial and sartorial means.
“We’re all working in a studio art context and that’s something not a lot of people have a lot of experience with,” Ghosh said. “I think that’s why Rob [Mertens] was excited to bring us to JMU for his students and a lot of people to get that new exposure.”
Ghosh’s singular piece in the show, “Draupadi’s Hair,” showcases her work with pattern and the relationship between decoration and function.
The piece consists of strips of matte black vinyl upholstery draped over a partial wall, cascading down the wall and across the floor. The 10 yards of vinyl stripes end in a curve shape to imply an infinite line.
“I’m exploring the concept of limitlessness through a research-based train of thought,” said Ghosh, who is an assistant professor and program coordinator of the Fibres and Materials Practices program at Concordia University in Montreal. “If patterns go on forever, repeated and looped forever, does it have the potential to be infinite?”
But the piece has cultural significance to the Indian-American artist.
The name of the piece alludes to the heroine from a section of one of the most famous Hindu myths, “Mahabharata.”
In a section of it, Draupadi is pulled across the room by her long, black hair, and it becomes a point of weakness and vulnerability.
In another section, a man attempts to strip Draupadi of her sari, so she prays to the god Krishna for a miracle. Krishna turns the sari into an infinite textile, so the man keeps pulling and the cloth never runs out.
The references further explore Ghosh’s idea of infinity.
Ricketts, an assistant professor of textiles at Indiana University’s Henry Radford Hope School of Fine Arts, has worked for years with indigo dye and uses natural dyes and historical processes to create his contemporary textiles.
“He trained in Japan for many years to understand the agricultural side of indigo,” Ghosh said. “He makes the most beautiful minimalist, large scale work exploring the color blue and how it can create spaces when he uses textiles.”
Andrews, an assistant professor in the Fiber and Material Studies program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, integrates technology with his textile work to conceptually intertwine opposing elements.
“He’s working with a lot of newer technology, animation and video, and he makes a lot of really wonderful works that show the relationship of glass as a textile material and a digital interface,” Ghosh said. “It kind of blows my mind.”
Ghosh thinks those who see the exhibit will understand how the artists created work representative of their careers as both artists and educators.
“You will pick up on the sense of learning traditional history of weaving, dyeing and printing textiles when looking at the work,” she said. “But you will also get really great works of what practitioners in the field are doing right now.”
All three artists will be visiting JMU on Dec. 8 to talk about their work.
The exhibit runs through Dec. 9.
For more information, visit jmuforbescenter.com or call 568-6918.