Seattle artist Marita Dingus is well-known and widely acclaimed for her soft sculptures of recycled cloth and other so-called "waste materials." Now she's put her own wardrobe on display in the PACCAR Gallery at the Northwest African-American Museum (NAAM)--a host of fabrics reworked from old clothes her friends were ready to discard. Influences on her approach come from sources as disparate as French high fashion, patchwork quilts, and African textiles.
Dingus created the pieces between 2002 and 2008, after she returned from living four years in the American South, an environment which she says felt alien to her. Previously, she had been dressing like many artists in black, but in the South, she wore khaki and white in what she calls an effort to be invisible. Since her return, she has dressed in the vibrant splotches of mismatched but somehow harmonious patterns and textures on display in the outfits at NAAM.
For this exhibition, she has added faces and accessories to her wardrobe, while stringing the "figures" on wires in an array of animated, sometimes flying or dancing, postures. Some of the faces are fashioned from bits of leather; one head features coils of foil from the necks of wine bottles adorning its "hair."
Far more than just a fashion or aesthetic choice, the pieces also reflect the artist's sense of the interplay between the personal and the political.
Dingus will be lead an all ages Halloween costume workshop, Sunday October 13, and an all ages holiday doll-making workshop, Sunday, December 8. Her work will be on display at NAAM through January 5, 2014. For more information, check http://www.naamnw.org/