Carla Fernández: The Barefoot Designer: A Passion for Radical Design and Community
April 17 - September 1, 2014
Carla Fernández: The Barefoot Designer: A Passion for Radical Design and Community will explore the traditions and techniques of indigenous Mexican artisans and how they can be applied to modern fashion and styles.
Carla Fernández has gained international recognition for her extraordinary approach to documenting and preserving the rich textile heritage of Mexico's indigenous communities by transforming it into beautiful contemporary clothing, and proving tradition is anything but static.
This first-ever fashion exhibition at the Gardner Museum explores the development of a new language in visual design that Fernández has built over two decades. She uses a method called "the Square Root" based on the Mexican tradition of making clothing from squares and rectangles. This process emphasizes forms of fabric and delicate, thoughtful construction based on whole fabric, as opposed to cutting in curves and molding to the body.
The Barefoot Designer is multi-faceted exhibition consisting of garments, textiles, drawings, photographs, performance, video, workshops and source materials demonstrating Fernández's multi-layered design process. A key component of that process is her design workshop Taller Flora, a mobile laboratory that collaborates with Mexico's indigenous communities, a sustainable business model based on close collaboration with and recognition of local knowledge and talent. During her career, Fernández has worked with many indigenous communities throughout Mexico. The exhibition will highlight the styles and techniques of five states: Chiapas, Yucatan, Campeche, the State of Mexico and Mexico City.
Mobility and collaboration can be seen and felt throughout the exhibition: in its installation, multiple films and monthly dance performances, as well as workshops for the public. The garments and mannequins are positioned on life-sized, mobile displays. Fernández has also activated the garments through a live and filmed dance performance by dancers Raushan Mitchell and Silas Reiner, bringing to life the notion of "clothing as canvas." The exhibition will include short process videos of weavers, embroiderers, and carpenters by photographer and filmmaker Ramiro Chaves, as well as fashion films produced by Chaves and Pedro Torres in New York City, Boston and Mexico City. A series of fashion photos by photographer Graciela Iturbide will be on view. A large workshop table adds a hands-on visitor experience to the exhibition, with a variety of workshops scheduled. Fernández will run a two-day clothing workshop as well as workshops with the Gardner's School and Community Partnership Programs.
"I want people to understand that you can find happiness many different ways, and one way is by creating goods by hand and making things unique to the artist," Fernández said. "Discovering the process helps people to understand how these different worlds work, because you fall in love with the artisan, and then you fall in love with the piece. You can create a whole economy based on the artists, and how their work is made."
Learn more about Carla Fernández's residency at the Gardner Museum.
Carla Fernández: The Barefoot Designer: A Passion for Radical Design and Community is made possible with generous support from The Coby Foundation, Ltd. and the National Endowment for the Arts, with additional assistance from the Consulate General of Mexico in Boston. The Museum receives operating support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. The media sponsor for Carla Fernández: The Barefoot Designer is Boston Globe Media, Inc.
Image: Carla Fernández, Molinillo bracelets and embroidered Molinillo rebozo. Artisans: Bracelets by Juan Alonso; embroidery by Endy Lopez; rebozo by Fermin Escobar. Model: Liliana Dominguez. Photo: Graciela Iturbide.