Join us for the opening reception of A thread through a past life featuring textile works by Udita Upadhyaya & Nina Littrell!
What memories are held within material? Silk from your mother’s favorite dress, a sleeve from a childhood sweater, thread left over from your aunt’s homemade quilt. Whether handmade or store bought, clothing is embedded with our history. In the work of Udita Upadhyaya and Nina Littrell, this history is dissected, examined, rearranged, and sewn together. By using fabric materials that literally and conceptually reference their past, each artist confronts their own histories and memories, stitching them together to create something new–something that is both part of them and outside of them; a quilted mosaic of their identities.
Garment making is at the heart of Nina Littrell’s practice. Often looking to her family’s complicated past, she repurposes clothing items that once belonged to her family members–such as her father’s shirt and her mother’s wedding dress–and completely transforms them into new textile pieces. Each piece becomes a mirror which to confront herself and her past, reshaping and taking ownership of who she is. This sentiment takes the form of Nina’s largest quilt piece to date: a complex self-portrait that blends traditional quilting patterns with the contemporary figure.
Material inheritance is also present in the work of Udita Upadhyaya. Born and raised in India, she sources fabric scraps (typically destined for the landfill) from her grandmother’s tailor when she travels back home. However, her fabric was not literally worn by her family, but instead references the aesthetic and styles that are common in contemporary Indian culture. For Udita, what is not present is equally as important as what is. Although loss is felt when removing yourself from what forged you, it creates a new space to become yourself. Like loss, absence allows for new possibilities in Udita’s work, allowing her to weave together a past that is post truth, cutting and stitching a new form that fits her own identity.
A thread through a past life offers works that take the shape of a body, that represent a body, or once covered a body. With both artists’ quilts and clothing on display, the impression of the body can be felt, even when it is absent. Like our past, it is ever present, embodied by who is left holding the fabric, the keeper of memories.
Middle Child Gallery is located in room #950 on the 9th floor of Mana Contemporary, 2233 S. Throop St. Chicago, IL.
About the artists:
Udita Upadhyaya is an interdisciplinary artist, researcher and educator. Upadhyaya works with the principles of Vipassana meditation to uncover the trajectories of desire, craving, trauma, shame and their many intersections. Her work spans live art, devised theater, performative photographs, sculpture, installation, video, writing, text, and fiber arts. Her work wonders which bodies have access to literacy? Which to expression? When? And Where? Upadhyaya attempts to reconcile with a cultural fabric where she finds herself in fluctuating positions of power and privilege. Upadhyaya studied International Relations and Film Production at Boston University before obtaining an MFA from School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She also has an MBA from S.P.Jain Institute for Management and Research, Mumbai, following which she investigated the rise of materialism, labor and urban migration in the rural community in western India. This experience informs her research and community based approach to creative practice.
Nina Littrell is a Kansas City based artist who is interested in merging art and fashion. She is an environmental activist, maker, natural dyer, and a quilter who works through the medium of garment design. Nina’s work explores quilts that live on and off of the body. Nina is currently a resident artist at Charlotte Street Foundation in Kansas City Missouri. She is using her residency to explore themes of storytelling and memory within her quilting practice.