Eco Couture, Adorned Canvases and Climate Conversation Capture D.C.

Washington’s Textile Museum presents Green: the Color and the Cause|

If you can’t afford to own one of Alabama Chanin’s exquisite couture, slow-fashioned creations, not to worry. Washington D.C.’s Textile Museum will be wearing it for you for the next five months and entry, in keeping with the city’s custom related to cultural tourism, is free of charge. Green: the Color and the Cause opened Saturday in a timely fashion, just before Earth Day, exhibiting 35 contemporary works that have traveled from six different countries and 19 U.S. states which represent seven parallel themes including the color, nature, global choices, interconnectedness, repurposing, sustainability and adaptation.

Alabama Chanin, Swing Coat, 2010-2011

Metropolitans exhilarated by the native cultural and political repartee will enjoy the radicalizing mix of contemporary aesthetic, traditional craft and colorful controversy. From the eco-couture Swing Coat designed by slow fashion pioneer, Natalie Chanin, which hails from Florence, Alabama to Carol LeBaron’s Jacquard loom tapestry, Dry Pitcher, inspired by the “fragile beauty” of Alabama’s endangered biodiversity, we are offered a glimpse into the interpervasive nature of green both as a color and a movement. Maggy Rozycki Hiltner’s Hothouse Flowers, constructed from found textiles and cotton, boasts detailed embroidery and mimics the graphic style of the Japanese Superflat art movement, while Shigeo Kubota explores the ambiguity of human visual perception of the color green as noted by one common ancient ideogram used in East Asia for the colors green and blue. Kubota, born in Kyoto, illustrates this unusual collision between color theory and lexicographical commentary with his brilliant and massive installation, Shape of Green II. Just as nature epitomizes the connection between every living organism, we see how these works are also linked by places, media, shape and influence.

Maggy Rozycki Hiltner, Hothouse Flowers detail2, 2005

Reused, renewable, recycled, organic and waterless textiles take the form of tapestries, baskets, carpet, quilts, a garden sculpture and installations that canvass opinions and ideas from onlookers on global warming, the water crisis, hunger, education, throwaway consumerism, urban development and more. This is sure to satiate critics who seek a thoughtful look at the meaning of green and captivate artists and textile lovers of both the new and the old. Familiar pieces like Gyöng Laky’s Alterations, which was featured on the cover of The New York Times Magazine's award-winning “Green Issue” in April 2008, might prompt viewers to scrutinize the evolution of the modern green movement in just these last three years.

Gyöngy Laky, Alterations, 2008

And then there are the artists who perhaps win the crowd over simply for their innovative incorporation of waste. This is the case of William Knight whose rubber and steel Wall Tapestry is woven and knotted from “exploded automobile and truck tires” that were scavenged from the New Jersey highways. Curiously enough, it resembles the uncertainty, patterns and insights illustrated by Damien Newman’s famous squiggle (which portrays the design process as a chaotic scribble that comes to a coherent halt in the form of a straight line once the design is materialized), but Knight’s masterpiece lacks the final clarity. Is this a comment on the lack of focus or standardization in the green movement, or just a coincidence?

Celebrate Earth Month at the Textile Museum’s Green exhibition in the trendy Dupont Circle neighborhood and discover a diverse group of contemporary artists as well as 13 pieces from the museum’s permanent collection. Attend the Artist Lectures Series, which will feature Natalie Chanin on June 16, participate in one of several events like the “Upcycle Your Plastic Bags” workshop, or join in one of the half dozen “Arts for Families Programs” exciting events compliments of the “TM.” Events will run throughout the course of the exhibition which runs from April 16 to September 11 and be sure to also peruse Second Lives: the Age-Old Art of Recycling Textiles (February 4, 2011-January 8, 2012). Another must-see exhibition, especially for eco-fashionistas, is the Embassy of Finland’s Fabric Re:Defined which is just minutes from the Textile Museum and is showcasing eco chic, upcycled clothing and accessories from Globe Hope, a stylish sustainable Finnish brand, that proves with its dainty clutches, that designers and consumers no longer need to sacrifice aesthetics for ethics. If you aren’t local or can’t make the trip, have no fear; take a virtual tour of the Green exhibition via the web catalog and shop Globe Hope online.

Challenge yourself to answer the questions that the artists pose or consider the idea that the inner debate that many environmentalists experience daily can be exteriorized by artists who speak on our behalf through intricately woven textile art and fashion, crafted with both color and cause in mind.

Do you hear that hum? That’s the buzz of green chatter pervading the spring air. Who knew that D.C. had gone green?


The Ethical Fashion Missionary

Gosh, it’s finally here! I worked quite a bit on putting things together for this exhibition last summer. I can’t wait to visit once I’m back in DC early next month :)

Photo credits in order of appearance:

Alabama Chanin, Swing Coat detail, 2010-2011

Maggy Rozycki Hiltner, Hothouse Flowers detail 2, 2005

Gyöng Laky, Alterations, 2008