SANTA FE, N.M. — At the time of her passing, Jason Ripper’s mother was living with him in his two-bedroom apartment in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Back in 2014, the artist began going through the room she stayed in while in hospice, once his studio, including her drawers full of clothes.
“Instead of embodying that piece of clothing as something like ‘Can I get rid of this?’ I shredded it and turned it into something else,” said Ripper.
It’s then that he began the process of creating “Blood and Bone,” a red-and-white skeleton made completely of shredded everyday wear. The clothes he used were not only his mother’s, but also some of his own and some from his father, who passed away in 2007.
From white shirts to the red velvet vests he said his mother often wore, he ended up with about 700 to 1,000 small pieces to create his more than seven-foot-tall work. He described the finished product as not only a way to bring him and his parents together in one piece, but also as a representation of the unity between all people and how “we’re all made out of the same stuff.”
The binding and twining of the clothes was a meditative process that helped him through his grieving. His mother’s clothes still smelled like her, he noted, from the dried flower sachets she kept in her drawers.
The work took about a year and allowed him to separate himself from the memories attached to her clothes, he said. Instead, he was able to “archive” those memories as a way to heal.
“I don’t need that physical object as a memory anymore,” he said. “It’s embedded in me.”
The fiber artist has been using old clothes and fabric in his work for years, though usually it comes from places like thrift stores. His “Blood and Bone” is one of more than 20 fiber artworks selected for an exhibition using memory as its theme, opening at Tansey Contemporary gallery tonight.
The exhibition is being staged in conjunction with the Española Valley Fiber Art Center’s second annual fiber arts crawl this weekend, in various galleries and studios throughout Albuquerque and Northern New Mexico.
The Tansey Contemporary show, the crawl’s largest event, was designed to showcase the fine art side of fiber work by Southwestern artists, said Olimpia Newman, EVFAC’s director of development and co-organizer of the show. The approximately 20 artists juried into the exhibit are from New Mexico, Colorado, Texas and Arizona.
Newman said the theme of memory was selected to attract a diversity of works. “From personal, specific memories, to we have a couple of artists that are addressing the collective memories of humanity from the history of the earth,” said Jen Tansey, owner of Tansey Contemporary, who collaborated with Newman on the show.
Abiquiú-based Amanda Speer made a 36-inch-square linen weaving to honor the 36 people who died in the Oakland Ghost Ship warehouse fire in 2016, including her friend Joey ‘Casio’ Matlock. Texas-based artist Catherine Hicks used the memory of famous artists to create her own take on a 1919 Alfred Stieglitz photo of Georgia O’Keeffe mixed with M.C Escher’s 1948 “Drawing Hands.”
Instead of tapping into her own memories, Rio Rancho textile artist Kelly Butterman took inspiration from the imagined memories of an entire village of people: the Kuaua Pueblo.
Butterman, who has been a volunteer at the Coronado Historic Site in Bernalillo for the past year, analyzing 400- to 800-year-old found pottery and working in the gift shop, has been mesmerized by working within the ruins of the pueblo. While pottery and paintings on kiva walls discovered in the early 1930s gave archeologists a “glimpse” into the people who lived there, Butterman said there are still so many unknowns. Her piece, “The Traveler,” a sculpture of a woman made from an old crutch covered by fabric and rope, is “in some ways” her effort at filling gaps of their history.
“All I could think of is she would travel from place to place and teach the people, and tell them stories so they could appreciate not only the beauty of (life’s) journey, but the challenges of the journey,” said Butterman.
The narrative she provides for the piece says the stories of the traveler who came to the pueblo 800 years ago have been passed down through generations. “They took her words to heart,” Butterman adds. “Once she felt they knew what she knew, she went on to teach other people.”
“Recall, Recapture, Remember” will be on display in Santa Fe until June 17. It will move to Tansey’s Denver gallery July 7-August 5.
If you go
“Recall, Recapture, Remember”
WHERE: Tansey Contemporary, 652 Canyon Rd.
WHEN: Opening reception is tonight from 5:30-8 p.m. The show will stay up until June 17.
The New Mexico Fiber Arts Crawl
WHERE: Various galleries and studios in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Española, Los Alamos, Tierra Amarilla and Taos. For locations, go to nmfibercrawl.org.
WHEN: Today through Sunday