Exhibition Puts A Spin On Common Threads

“The Laundry Room,” a video by Katya Oicherman captured in this photo by Boris Oicherman, is one of the works on display at Drake University’s Threads Laid Bare exhibition featuring textiles and fabrics.

Writer: Allaire Nuss

Many of us think of textiles in their common, everyday uses, like clothing or home goods. But Emily Newman, assistant professor of art at Drake University, wants to challenge those preconceived notions.

Newman curated the Threads Laid Bare exhibition at Drake’s Anderson Gallery. The exhibition, open until Oct. 16, features 12 artists’ use of textiles and fabrics as an expression of identity and community.

“Textiles and fibers have always been very community-based, both historically and traditionally,” Newman says. “I think that continues in contemporary textiles and fibers.”

Newman hopes the exhibition can be an entry point for viewers who don’t have a background in textiles and fibers. These works allow them to see the materials in a creative light. “I wanted something for everyone, whether or not they were an expert in textiles and fibers, or they really hadn’t given the medium much thought beyond picking out their clothes for the day,” Newman says.

Because of COVID-19 and limitations on in-person showings, the exhibition almost never came to fruition. But with a grant from the Iowa Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts, Anderson Gallery expanded virtually, allowing patrons to experience the gallery from their homes. The app features exhibition photos, artist bios and interviews. The exhibition is now also available for in-person viewing for Drake students, faculty and staff.

After adapting her exhibition to online platforms, Newman wants to use the experience when planning future shows. “It’s really pushed us to consider how virtual programming can expand accessibility to people who may not ever be able to visit in person, even if they live just down the street,” Newman says.

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