Artist: Mimi Haddon
Media: Cotton fabric (t-shirts), cotton thread
Gallery: CSULB School of Art, Max L. Gatov Gallery West
Photographer and color warrior Mimi Haddon is working towards her MFA degree in the School of Art’s Fiber Arts program. She obtained her undergrad in Graphic Design in 1994 and is back to explore her passion for costume design. She spoke with enthusiasm on the idea of dressing people, rooms, and spaces with various shapes, colors, and textures that make powerful visual statements. She describes herself as an intuitive artist, working with less of a plan and more on feeling. She gets her inspiration from various other sources, some of whom reflect her recent pieces shown in the gallery this week.
Haddon’s work currently on display is a colorful representation of today’s “fast fashion” world. Haddon began the project one and a half years ago, when she became inspired by a Ghanaian sculptor, El Anastui, whose art focused on utilizing materials that at one point in time served a prior purpose. Haddon came to realize that in her world, t-shirts were this ubiquitous object that are highly prized yet highly disposable. They were the perfect material for the project. She began to explore the material, cutting and shaping each shirt, breathing new life into each one. One of her pieces that she simply described as a “map”, was inspired by the her vision that territories are fluid in nature. Each piece is a “cell structure” Haddon described…”each doing it’s part for the finished product”.
Another piece of Haddon’s, the wall that looks like balloons, was inspired by an old picture that she took at the Santa Monica pier that had always stuck with her. She described this feeling of being”deflated” when she spoke of this piece – almost insinuating to the short functional life of a t-shirt. Haddon stayed true to the re-purpose concept throughout the process – reverting the shirts to their original structures as cotton threads and giving them a new purpose through her art.
The exhibit showcases 300 t-shirts cut, stretched, and reformed into fours pieces of three- dimensional art. The work is grand, utilizing the large wall and floor space. Each piece, while unique, show obvious unity to the other pieces. Each piece showcases the same undulating and sinuous flow. The colors, which were not retouched by Haddon, are dappled yet harmonious. This protected feature suggests tribute to the original state of the shirt. A full range of value is seen throughout. This representation of value gives each piece depth, with no two angles the same. With a medium such as t-shirts, there is an actual texture of softness recognized as one walks into the room. In true fiber art fashion, the shirts have lost their utility and now serve an aesthetic purpose.
As I walked into the gallery my eye was not immediately drawn to any specific place. Each line was soft and meandering, effortlessly carrying my eye over each piece as I walked through. It wasn’t until I spoke with Haddon personally that the work began to resonate with me, however. This idea of fast fashion and how the circuitous life of a t-shirt goes completely unnoticed is sad. I connected with that. How many times have I also received a t-shirt as part of a volunteer event to wear it once and throw it in the donation pile? I was a culprit to fast fashion. It got me thinking…as I have a feeling was Haddon’s intention. As with many things when the truth has been laid out for you, you begin to see things in different ways. I now look a t-shirts in a totally different way – no longer taking their life cycle for granted. I think it’s beautiful how Haddon breathed new life into these washed up and forgotten t-shirts.