Inventing a place to call home: Imagined Garment, Imagined Ground, at the Morgan Conservatory
“Monumental” and “Architectural” are words that come to mind when you walk into the Morgan Conservatory and see the first of Iowa-based Julie McLaughlin’s paper garments there, hanging from the rafters, larger than life, as if standing on a pedestal between floor and ceiling. Bathed in natural light from the windows of the south wall, it seems to glow with the color of petals on a brown-eyed susan.
The scale, color, shape, and presentation all combine to bring those words to mind, but the soul of the piece—and of all of the garments in the collection—is the paper itself, its luxurious surface, and the way it holds color. The material is simply gorgeous, and McLaughlin’s use of it in traditionally sewn kimonos presents it in a structure that shows off those qualities beautifully.
The kimonos are McLaughlin’s part of a two-person exhibit at the Morgan, Imagined Garment, Imagined Ground. The other side of the gallery wall is hung with prints on paper by Rochester, NY and Providence, RI-based Masha Ryskin. Taken together, the two artists’ works are less about the end product than about the artists’s explorations—in McLaughlin’s case with the process and material itself, and in Ryskin’s with the ways it helps her create and connect to an environment, or perhaps a home.
Ryskin emmigrated from the Soviet Union, and in her statement echoes the thoughts of many expatriates, that a sense of place and belonging is extremely important to her, and central to the direction of her work. The prints on paper she has framed behind glass are abstractions evocative of maps, with their blocks of color that could read as variations in the landscape, from farmland to forest, from a body of water to a land mass, and lines that could read as rivers, or roads or maybe even politial borders.
The torn and irregular paper she has printed on gives the work the look of artifact, like an old map that has been folded, and packed away, and maybe dampened and torn. It’s as if she is trying to invent the place to call home.
Imagined Garments, Imagined Ground is on exhibit at the Morgan Conservatory June 24 through August 6, 2016.