MU’s Association of Graduate Art Students hosted installation artist Gabriel Dawe on Thursday for a presentation in Chamber Auditorium.
AGAS President Aaron Fischer said Dawe is one of six visiting artists who will be coming to MU through the program.
Before beginning his art career, Dawe grew up in Mexico City, where the idea of machismo, or masculinity, was prominent. Being a homosexual man in this society proved to be difficult for Dawe.
“Growing up gay is a challenge when you have all of this input telling you who you are is out of step,” Dawe said.
Once Dawe began his exploration into the art world, he chose to use the one medium denied to him as a child: thread. Growing up, Dawe’s sister was taught to embroider, but as a male, Dawe was denied such teachings.
During his late 20s, Dawe was finally able to pick up a needle and thread, and he completed a series of work he entitled, "The Fear Series." These pieces featured oversized embroidered insects, all of which were meant to symbolize various fears.
During graduate school, Dawe completed another series entitled, "The Pain Series," in which he took various articles of clothing and covered them entirely with sewing pins pushed inward through the fabric.
“(I was) exploring the idea of the pain of life and how we deal with it on a daily basis - how we have to carry that pain and wear it in a way,” Dawe said.
For his next project, Dawe combined both his work with sewing pins and his work with thread in a series inspired by the repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Act. With this series Dawe wanted to represent the perceived threat of homosexuals in the military. He created a set of pin-covered army pants, which weigh more than 35 pounds, as well as a pair of string-covered boots, which he created to represent how a single artificial structure, such as homosexuality, can wrap around us.
Further along in his career, Dawe got the chance to collaborate with an architect on an installation that explored the relationship between fashion and architecture. This began Dawe’s venture into his most well known installations - his architectural string pieces.
Taking this concept of fashion and architecture to his own studio, Dawe covered an entire wall with string by going up and down a ladder 300 times a day for five weeks. Since then, Dawe has created installations of these structural string pieces everywhere from St. Louis to the United Kingdom and has in turn expanded his audience reach.
“One of my favorite things is when I have to install with construction workers around," Dawe said. "They stop and ask questions, which is very satisfying because it’s people who don’t care about contemporary art engaging with the pieces."
MU students were equally interested in Dawe’s work as he spoke about his artistic process and showed a slideshow of his various pieces.
“I thought the work was really interesting, the scale and sublime sort of nature. I think it would be really nice to see it in person,” MU art graduate student, Eric Norby said.