A UTD alumnus’ new art installation is now on display at the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth.
Textiles artist and master’s graduate Gabriel Dawe’s latest piece, “Plexus no. 34,” went on display earlier this month and is the latest iteration of his “Plexus” series, which is comprised of over 30 pieces that use layered thread to create semi-transparent visuals.
After obtaining an undergraduate degree, Dawe worked as a graphic designer, but said he was worn out by having to deal with clients and working in front of a computer all day.
After quitting his job, Dawe enrolled at UTD to pursue an M.A. in aesthetics. During his last two years, he was selected for UTD’s CentralTrak program, an artist-in-residency initiative that provides artists an opportunity to live, create and exhibit their work.
“I really liked the flexibility of the program,” he said. “(It) really gave me a platform to make myself known in the Dallas art community and eventually outside Dallas, as well.”
Dawe said he was also inspired to pursue a career in art after remembering a childhood problem he faced.
“My grandmother would teach my sister how to embroider but she wouldn’t teach me,” he said. “Notions of gender identity I grew up with would dictate that boys were not able to sew or embroider because they’re male and that was female work.”
This childhood experience was part of the inspiration for “Plexus A1”, an installation made of embroidered thread that stretches from floor to ceiling in a repeating fashion. The piece was originally created specifically for display at the Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C. Dawe said he also drew inspiration from the architectural style of the Renwick, which was modeled after the Louvre in Paris.
“I (was given) one of the most challenging rooms because the room had … columns in the middle and I had to come up with something that would interact with those columns,” he said. “I found that my work really related to those architectural details.”
“Plexus no. 34” was created in a similar fashion to “Plexus A1.”
“The process to approach any installation is always very similar,” Dawe said. “I go and have some sort of dialogue with the space, trying to figure out what (it) is asking of me.”
Though Dawe always uses the same method of approaching his installations, each space brings its own set of challenges. The Amon Carter posed a unique obstacle for him. Because of the large space and high ceilings, Dawe had to use a lift that would take him 35 feet off the floor.
“(The lifts) move a lot up there,” he said. “It’s like standing on a boat — you’re swaying.”
Light was also an important consideration for the installation, as the angle at which light hits the installation creates different perspectives for viewers. From these different perspectives, the threads used in the piece seem to curve into space and defy gravity.
“I think the best thing people can do in relating to the work is to just move around it,” Dawe said. “The mind is bypassed and the work touches something deep inside us. It reconnects us to a childlike sense of wonder.”
“Plexus no. 34” opened for exhibition on Aug. 16 and will remain at the Amon Carter for two years. Later in September, Dawe will travel to San Antonio to create a piece for the city’s airport.