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Pip Brant: The Flying Carpet and Other Reusables

October 12 - December 9, 2007



The Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum at Florida International University presents Pip Brant: The Flying Carpet and Other Reusables, as part of the Florida Artist Series. This exhibit is on view at the museum October 12 through December 9, 2007. This solo exhibition presents Brant's most recent series of work (2004-2007) and features bold weavings, dyed and embroidered tablecloths, and two large-scale interactive installations laden with controversial commentary. The exhibit is accompanied by a catalog with an essay by Eleanor Heartney.

Brant's fiber-based art reflects political and social headlines, while it chronicles current events that confront and perturb the public in recent years. Her work embraces the absurd with tongue-in-cheek humor; she uses assertive visual vocabulary that is disconcerting yet thought provoking. By taking objects out of context and altering them in ironic ways, she highlights social and political messages embedded within them. "Old Tablecloths and exhausted carpets become time capsules for the absurd ways in which communities face compromising issues," explains Brant.

A faculty member of FIU's College of Architecture + the Arts, Brant was raised on the Western Plains Indian reservations (Sioux, Cheyenne, and Assiniboine). After receiving her BFA from the University of Montana and her MFA from the University of Wyoming she then lived and worked in Montana, Wyoming, Missouri and London, England. She has exhibited paintings, non-loom fibers, artist's books and guerilla installations nationally and internationally. Brant has been awarded residencies at the Hungarian Multicultural Exchange, Balatonfüred, Hungary, and UCROSS and Jentel, WY. Brant is a recipient of the Wyoming Visual Arts Fellowship (1992), the New Forms Consortium Grant for Cattle/Text Interaction (1993) for her work in the collaborative art group, Kunstwaffen, and the South Florida Cultural Consortium for Visual and Media Arts (2003). Her work is found in the collections of the Nicolaysen Art Museum, Casper, WY; the Rock Springs Art Center, Rock Springs, WY; UCROSS Foundation, WY; and the Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale, FL.


Foreward to the exhibition catalog

The Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum at Florida International University is pleased to present Pip Brant: The Flying Carpet and Other Reusables. This solo exhibition features Pip Brant's most recent series of work (2004-2007), including dyed and embroidered tablecloths, weavings, and two large-scale interactive installations laden with biting political commentary.

This exhibition is presented as part of the Frost's Florida Artist Series. These shows highlight the work of FIU's Art faculty and other Florida artists and reflect the Frost's commitment to support and acknowledge artistic accomplishments within our local community. Director of FIU's School of Art + Art History, Juan Martínez, states that "These exhibitions bring the new work of the faculty to the attention of the FIU community, enhancing the cultural life of the university. They are also a gift and a bridge to the Miami community."

A special thanks to art critic Eleanor Heartney for her essay contribution to this exhibition catalog; to the FIU School of Art + Art History; and especially to Pip Brant for sharing her work with FIU and the South Florida community. Special recognition is made to Caroline Parker, Curator of Education, who edited this catalog and worked closely with the artist to make the exhibition and this publication a success. We also wish to express appreciation for the continued support the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs, the Mayor and the Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners, and the Friends of The Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum.


Texts from the exhibition


The Flying Carpet and Other Reusables

They are like a painter adorning the walls of a sinking ship with still lifes.
-- Bertolt Brecht

Pip Brant's most recent series of work (2004-2007) features dyed and embroidered tablecloths, weavings and two large-scale interactive installations laden with controversial commentary. Brant's fiber-based art, which reflects political and social headlines, chronicles the familiar news stories that have confronted and perturbed the public in recent years.

Brant interprets her work to be "time capsules," which contain depictions of national and global issues. Collectively, these original materials and patterns form a backdrop that represents the last few years of news and events, all while addressing topics that have existed throughout history. By taking objects out of context and altering them in humorous and ironic ways, she brings out the social and political messages embedded within them.

She decisively addresses these topics using a tongue-in-cheek humor. This approach allows the viewers to contemplate these disturbing and sometimes terrifying topics in a different, less serious light.


Blood Veil

Blood Veil is comprised of a large-scale, red rebar frame in the simplified shape of a human head with doilies crocheted together and draped over the frame. Brant invites visitors to circle the work as well as to walk inside it.

This work was inspired by the controversy over the role of veils in Muslim cultures. For some, veils are seen as protection for women and a way to ensure modesty. For others, they are seen as oppressive and disempowering, reflecting a diminished societal role. In this work, the red "cage" represents oppression while the doilies, with their exquisite, celestial appearance, represent the counter argument. The artist presents both sides, leaving the viewer to decide their position on the subject. This work speaks to the need for greater understanding of religious and cultural contexts.

As a fabric-based artist, Brant shares a personal connection to this work. The largest, ovular, crocheted piece located near the top of the work belonged to Brant's mother, who played an influential role in the artist's life by passing the tradition of needlework on to her daughter. Brant explains how acts of crocheting, sewing and knitting provide a mental escape from the harsh realities of life, "I chose doilies as a metaphor for a kind of Valium of the old days. When one is involved in a needlework project, the mind can travel and, for that matter, escape earthbound rules."


The Flying Carpet

This interactive, sculptural installation is Brant's interpretation of a fantastic vehicle coming to Iraq's rescue. Playing upon familiar legends about magic carpets, the carpet can be set into motion with a foot pedal that sends it into vibration mode. A map of Iraq is embroidered over an old oriental rug, a stereotypical, exoticized symbol of that which is foreign and unknown. The carpet has been placed on the chassis of an American-made truck; the work incorporates tail lights from another American automobile manufacturer. The artist uses these items to express her view that the War on Terror and other current conflicts in the Middle East are motivated primarily by oil. The words, geographic borders, and rivers embroidered into the rug describe the artist's concern regarding the future.


Brant uses found cloth as backdrops for her Tablecloths series. The recycled cloth, with their geometric patterns and floral motifs, seem wholesome and comforting at first glance. After closer examination, the viewer realizes that printed and embroidered images inserted by the artist transform the meaning of the cloth into something entirely different -- a dismal, and perhaps more accurate representation of our times. Explosions, war crafts, skeletons, hurricanes and tsunamis reflect recent topics in contemporary history.

The materials and processes used by Brant are integral to the substance of each work. The techniques she uses incorporate both ancient and modern technologies. First, Brant pairs the original image of the found cloth with a topic. Then she dyes the cloth several times and several ways using different shibori dying methods. Shibori refers to traditional Japanese resist techniques that involve shaping fabric in different ways and securing or binding the fabric tightly so that dye does not affect the cloth where it is secured. After the dye process, Brant uses two very low-tech techniques to silkscreen the work: either contact or butcher paper is used to make simple stencils or a Thermo-fax imager (a 1950s transparency maker) is used to make photo silkscreens. Dishwasher liquid is used to discharge the dyes. Lastly, she embroiders the fabric to enhance the visual impact of selected images.



The Weavings series acts as a catalyst for thinking about current events and their relevance in contemporary history. The images used in this series come from three varied sources: news video stills, Mormon Family flash cards, and photographs from the artist's brother in N.E. Montana. These images are juxtaposed against text extracted from Miami Herald, May 7th, 2006 newspaper headlines.

The disconnect between the placid scenes and the unsettling texts forces the viewer to reconsider the apparent peacefulness of the scene. For instance, a black and white image of a perfect '50s father proffering a bottle to his baby becomes a meditation on the uncertainties of the future when overlaid with the phrase "Brazil builds nuke facility." A quiet winter scene of a rural meadow punctuated with snow encrusted trees becomes anything but bucolic when inscribed with "Official: Bin Laden likely in Pakistan."

The weavings were designed on the JacqCAD Master program, a textile design system used primarily for commercial use. The program is compatible with standard image files and graphics programs, allowing the artist to upload images and text and manipulate the composition. The program then communicates with an industrial loom that weaves a tapestry in approximately seven minutes. By using this particular method of production, the artistic component within this Weavings series is not the craft, but rather the concept and design of the final product.

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