Upcycled textiles…all the way to the Brooklyn Museum!

“Eco” in my lexicon includes more than printing with natural dyes. Vintage textiles repurposed as art media is a major interest for me. So this post's topic is the vintage textile and textile-inspired work by Mickalene Thomas whose work was on recent exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum. What charmed me greatly was this:

The artist had sewn patchwork covers for the viewing benches in the exhibition area. I understand she sewed them with her own hands. What a concept!

Just to make the point, here is another image. I love the daring idea that artists sew. And find ways to include viewers in their art beyond eyeballing it.

I believe Thomas' point with the patchwork-covered brenches was not to be cutesy or (that dread, dead term) “inclusive”.

Using a variety of vigourously patterned cottons and polyester fabrics (and many African printed cottons), and rugs and wallpapers besides, she covered not only gallery benches for viewers like me but whole display rooms – couches, chairs, floors, walls, art on the walls…She created IKEA diplays gone maximal and mental and stay-away with prints of every colour and scale, of chaotic value association, no cowardly beiges or whiteys here. Was the patchwork-covered bench outside the display her invitation to bring me as a viewer into museum “rooms” I was otherwise forbidden by guard and cordon to enter? Or was her patchwork gallery bench simply my seat at the back of the bus? Or was I truly welcome to sit where I wanted not only to view the art but to participate in it, feel at home in it? Was she telling me how bloody-well exclusive the Big Art world is still for her and for me? Go Big because you can't go Home here…

Love the Big Stitch

A second area of work was devoted to enormous canvases, collaged or “patched” with patterned fabrics and pieces of painted canvas in characteristic vibrant colours and larger than life forms intended to recall classic art landscapes or works with female subjects and (Thomas is an art historian as well as a practising artist.) Some examples:




Loads of loud textured glitz on this one as on many others

Note the scale of Thomas' paintings.

Finally: An important fashion note. The tall young lady on the extreme left closest to the wall is my hostess and Newly Wed Daughter who asked me to note that the folks in the gallery are wearing the NYC uniform of black from head to toe..the one in the white shirt is a tourist. O, we could learn a thing or two from Mickalene!

Next post:

More eco prints on paper and some books by medieval authors. And maybe in between an update on my dye plant page!



12 thoughts on “Upcycled textiles…all the way to the Brooklyn Museum!

  1. Love this – it seems a shame that items that look so comfortable and inviting couldn’t be used by the viewing public, though … maybe artists and galleries need to be less protective of their art, and look at ways of making it more interactive? Then we can be in, or part of, the art, rather than outside looking in … =D

  2. Reblogged this on Phoebe Willow and commented:
    Nice to see vintage textiles hit the big time! Brooklyn Museum no less. You’ve got to admit this looks pretty appealing when you consider some of the stark interiors in many public spaces. It makes me want to chill with a pot of tea and watch the world go by. Happy days.

    1. Indeed I agree, Phoebe Willow. “Simpicity” all too often says “stark” in modern interiors. When I try to imagine myself in one of those severe, neutered and lab-like environments, I know I would be carted right out of the door as “clutter”…

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