Denim can be blue collar, high fashion, and in 2016, absolutely ubiquitous. Jeans are the most common form of indigo worn in the world today, and so many people, whether they realize it or not, are wearing indigo. Whether the dye used in jeans is synthetic or authentic is another question entirely. While their origins are working class, jeans have turned a new corner: as a luxury item and status symbol. Yet, indigo remains a controversial subject today: as some jeans are produced, their chemicals are known to cause water pollution. Newer production practices are moving away from this detrimental effect.
Artist Rowland Ricketts came to the world of indigo by way of a two-year apprenticeship in Japan in 1996. Today, Ricketts works with his wife and fellow artist, Chinami, as they handle indigo in all the stages of its inception: growing, processing, vatting, and dyeing.
His installation is titled “Mobile Section” and is made up of a large, indigo-dyed textile, 11½ ft. tall by 30 ft. circumference, dried indigo plants, and a video illustrating the indigo cultivation and dying process.
Ricketts collaborated with sound artist Norbert Herber to bring color into an additional, aural dimension. The sounds are drawn from field recordings of Ricketts’ process and synthesized using data from various conditions that produced the dye and color gradations of the cloth in the installation. The work plays upon the notions of materiality and immateriality, and is a true multisensory experience.
Artist Anissa Mack’s unusual new version of a quilt will be on view in the exhibition. She was inspired by the opening lines of Star Wars films, “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away….” which she plotted to create her own version with Adobe Illustrator. Broken Star is a quilt that would not cover a bed. Instead, hanging on the wall, it provides a new version of an American star quilt design seen in vanishing perspective. The artist said, “I wanted very much to stress the Americanness of quilts…and to marry this concept of a backward/future narrative with the idealism of American frontier denim.” It is a quilt for the computer age.