By Jacob Cutler
Donna Rhae Marder’s newest body of work, “The Cover Up,” is on display at the Society of Arts + Crafts in Boston’s Seaport District through August 20. In the past, Marder has created dresses, teapots and aprons out of common discarded paper objects such as photographs, old magazines and teabags. This exhibition is a departure from her previous works. This new body of work features textiles made entirely out of her family’s old garments. In addition to creating masterful garments and other textiles, Marder contemplates various social and political issues along with her domestic views.
The inspiration came from not wanting to let go of her family members old garments. In addition to this, Marder would clip out articles in which the main focus of the issue was centered around clothing. She found articles about women in Jerusalem that were removed from the Wailing Wall because they were wearing prayer shawls and op-ed pieces both for and against burqas. With this new body of work, Marder ponders the question: “ How is it that these simple, basically flat pieces of cloth can carry so much emotional weight?” With that in mind, Marder created talises, saris and burqas, amongst other religious garments, out of her family’s old clothing and thread.
One thing to note is the way in which the works are presented. Each garment is presented fully extended, either on the wall or hanging from the ceiling. This is to portray that these pieces could be used as decoration. However, in order to preserve the original purpose of these garments, they curator had the pieces hung with some folds and wrinkles in the garment to remind the viewer of how the garments would rest on a body. For example, her piece “The Sari,” is hung from the ceiling spread out, but the Sari’s ends are draped and are not full extended.
Marder’s use of her family’s discarded garments and textiles is her way of showing that despite the fact that these garments, like the Sari, which have strong cultural ties, they do not and should not divide humanity. For instance, “The Sari” is made from her father and grandfather’s silk ties. From a distance, one would not notice this; however when viewed up close, one can see that the textiles used to create this piece were once neck ties. The use of the neck ties is Marder’s way of proving to the world that these religious and cultural garments should not divide society. By incorporating the ties, she is portraying a possible world were we all intertwine despite our cultural differences.
This series of items featured in “The Cover Up,” unlike any of the other works Marder has created in the past, contemplates the social, political, religious and cultural impacts that clothing has on society.
(“Donna Rhae Marder: The Cover Up” will be on view at the Society of Arts and Crafts through August 20 at the Society of Arts + Crafts, 100 Pier Four Blvd., Suite 200, Boston. For more information, call (617) 266-1810.)