Last week was the opening of my “Corral” art installation at the Method Gallery in Seattle, WA.
A corral is an enclosure to capture, confine, defend or protect.
Something “to bring a group of people together and keep them in one place, especially in order to control them” (Cambridge English Dictionary).
I work as an illustrator. I create art. I like to make clothing. And I like to take and twist garment making (sometimes literally) into something unexpected. I feel it is the ideal medium for me to explore human relationships: how we present ourselves; how we connect; how we exclude.
For Corral, I constructed thirteen white, button-down, men’s shirts from over 20 yards of Oxford cloth. Twelve are conjoined in a circle via their sleeves. The thirteenth is separate, with its sleeves joined behind its back in one piece from armscye to armscye.
Why did I sew thirteen shirts that no one can wear?
Here is my artist statement from the show:
Clothing is our human-made exoskeleton. Beyond functioning as a protective layer, it stands for how we see ourselves, and how we choose to be seen by others. Within each of our cultures we grow up learning the language of apparel. I enjoy using that language to reflect our own stories back to us.
We are accustomed to wearing clothes. It is natural for us to transfer our psyches into items of apparel and mentally “try them on.” By using familiar clothing forms as structures on which viewers may hang their interpretations, my work provides an opportunity to explore – visually, psychologically, spatially – how we interconnect and how we relate to others.
At first glance, you see the familiar: A bunch of shirts, like hanging on a shop rack or a laundry line.
Then you see that there is something more involved going on.
You begin to think about the possible meanings and the emotional content.
In order to make this piece, I researched the unique construction techniques traditional in menswear. I wanted the shirts to look as “store-bought” as possible. People are surprised that I could reproduce garments like this, but I think we forget that all our clothes are made by humans. Clothing factories have industrial sewing machines and specially designed equipment for specific tasks, but they are still made by human beings. Robotics have been slow to replace humans in garment production.
But sewing thirteen of the same thing tested my patience with repetition. When I imagine what working in a sweatshop would be like – making the same thing day after day, under pressure from the boss – I’m sure I wouldn’t last very long.
One of the interesting things about art is how differently it can be interpreted by different people.
Some people told me they saw this peace as playful, as though the shirts are dancing together.
Others said they thought it expressed community in unison.
Yet others see the shirts as representing white male dominance, with the lone thirteenth shirt being the “odd man out.”
What does this piece mean to you?