February 27, 2014
July 13, 2014
Honolulu Museum of Art
A rag, by definition, is a scrap of cloth, a fragment, typically threadbare or tattered and soon to be discarded. But rags and remnants also preserve memories of a woven past. Economic hardship and harsh climate conditions often gave rise to industrious survivalist attitudes in recycling and reappropriating cloth into new modes that could be construed as an esthetic of poverty.
From a jacket made of strips of old kimono to a wall hanging by contemporary artist Levina Gerritsen, Remaining Remnants illustrates how cheap textiles and old rags make up the fabric of our lives.
In Japan, boro, or rags, were a reminder of an impoverished past but now the term also refers to rural ethics and esthetics. Mottainai is an expression instilled in younger generations to use resources carefully, to regret being wasteful and to demonstrate gratitude. Patched, stitched or rag woven assemblages persisted as affirmations of hope.
On the Atlantic seaboard of North America, hooked rag rugs added warmth to American and Canadian homes. Housewives from the late 1800s turned discarded scraps of clothing into colorful folk traditions admired for their naïve quality and delightful compositions.
These hauntingly beautiful works offer us more than just material goods. Shredded stories of shared values are captured in an array of gift or food coverings, apparel, home furnishings, or pious religious offerings resonating as innate artistic imperfections. Emphasizing lessons in patience and reveling in the handmade, these reworked remnants reinforce ideals of tolerance, humility and compassion instilled in an undeniably strong connection to their community.