Intimate relationships and the tenuous, complicated threads that bind them are the focus of the group exhibition Soft Life at the Hyde Park Art Centre in Chicago from today until March 3oth. Curated by Frank Connet and Allison Peters, the exhibition features work by Chicago artists Aviva Alter, Danny Mansmith, Dutes Miller & Stan Shellabarger, and Rebecca Ringquist that utilize the stitch to tangibly represent the passionate, chaotic and sometimes painful connection love generates between individuals.
By incorporating found and lived-with fabrics, embroidery, fabric appliqué and paper, each with a distinct history, these works weave together new stories from the various narratives that become fused together. Many of the actual textiles have a highly personal connection. Alter uses the clothing of family members who have passed away to comment on the idealization of lost relationships, and Mansmith incorporates often discarded papers such as letters, notes and photos from loved ones, so as not to forget even the insignificant moments of being loved. The video installation “Between the Sheets” by Miller & Shellabarger temporarily relocates the couple’s iron bed frame and sheets from their bedroom in Logan Square to the gallery for a performance of sewing themselves into the bed together. The bed is also a central symbol in Ringquist’s work as she encrusts bed sheets and pillowcases with commercial vintage patterns of bonneted girls, tomatoes and hens to comment on gender roles.