When Los Angeles-based furniture and textile designer/maker Tanya Aguiñiga was approached by the Craft and Folk Art Museum to create an exhibition of her work, the artist had an off-the-wall idea—literally. “I wanted to create this crazy environment that involved all different types of yarn, weaving in midair through suspension, and small bits of color floating around so that when you enter the gallery the art is off the wall, and completely unlike typical museum spaces where everything is stationary,” says Aguiñiga. On view now through May 8th, Crossing the Line: A Space by Tanya Aguiñiga is a contemporary hand-made, site-specific installation inspired by her recent trip to the indigenous region of Chiapas, Mexico where she learned the ancient method of back-strap weaving. The result is a beautiful cave-like cobweb of brightly-colored crisscrossing strings that envelopes the viewer in a space woven together by traditions old and new.
Unlike modern-day looms that use large wooden structures, Aguiñiga fell in love with the Mayan tradition of back-strap weaving whereby one end is tied to a post and the other around your waist, “It was really freeing to be able to think about yourself as part of the loom.” She was inspired by the idea of being unconstrained by structures, frames, and mechanical ways of doing things—and motivated by the beauty and possibilities of weaving in midair. Photo courtesy of CAFAM.
Aguiñiga’s installation was truly a handmade process, “When you are having to stand on a ladder and weave way above your head, your arms are pretty tired afterward.” From ceiling to wall to floor and back again, yards and yards of string were crisscrossed and woven together to create this interactive, cave-like environment. Even more intricate, specific geometric patterns were hand-laid across the ceiling from one end to the other. Photo courtesy of CAFAM.
For ten hours a day, eight days straight, twenty-eight people in total participated in the making of the exhibition. Aguiñiga adds, “It was a communal event. It’s not just one person’s hand in it.” Thus, all the weaving styles are wonderfully and uniquely different throughout the installation. Photo courtesy of CAFAM.
The Chiapas region, which is home to the largest population of indigenous people in North America, also inspired Aguiñiga’s color palette for the show. From bright purple and pink floral outfits to fudgy black skirts with shiny, fake silk tops to florescent pink and white embroidered ensembles, she noted how each town has a very specific way of dressing – almost like a uniform. “I became super attracted to these really bright colors and how they act as signifiers of where people are from.” Based on these hues, Aguiñiga chose five colors of yarn for the installation. Photo courtesy of CAFAM.
Throughout the space, little woven sections of color float randomly about connecting and creating the larger composition. Aguiñiga recommends spending time looking at these small woven details because, “It’s in these details you can tell it’s totally done by hand and by looking at that – you can become connected to the maker of the object.” Photo courtesy of CAFAM.
Rather than just being viewers of the piece, Aguiñiga sought to create an environment that viewers would be participants in, “I wanted it to be really interactive and people to feel as if they were completely surrounded in yarn in this magical space that would not ordinarily happen in nature.” In fact, a small section of the installation invites gallery-goers to “take their turn” and weave a section of the wall themselves. Photo courtesy of CAFAM.
In the center of the installation, handmade chair sculptures mirror the colorful geometric world of string. The pieces are composed of crisscrossing steel rods painted white with brightly colored rope and yarn braided and knotted throughout to complete the structures. Photo courtesy CAFAM.