For Nika Feldman, garments are a language that people can read.
In Feldman’s new show “Spirits in the Material World,” Feldman communicates through intricately embroidered t-shirt parts and the aluminum pull-tabs embellishing them. The show opens at form & concept on January 25.
“All around the world, people wear t-shirts,” says Feldman, a Santa Fe artist who moved to town from Nova Scotia at the end of 2017. “T-shirts were originally an undergarment. But now, through their logos, they inform others about the specific groups, companies, rock bands and organizations we like.”
Feldman liked the idea of putting pull-tabs in her work for the same reasons she was drawn to t-shirts. They’re readily available. There’s an abundant supply of them. They’re also an integral part of Western culture.
The pieces in “Spirits in the Material World” reflect cultural and consumer identity while celebrating the materials and processes used in creating them. Feldman had been awarded a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts to make this series of garments in 2015.
“I enjoy seeing where the materials take me,” Feldman adds. “My process is labor-intensive. It involves needles, thread and scissors.”
The first piece took two months to make, working 40 hours a week. Feldman’s body hurt so much that she had to take time off to rest between each of the pieces. She estimates she spent more than 2,000 hours making the work for the show.
“I like that it took thousands of hours of hand work on factory-made items to make these pieces,” she says. “The t-shirts I used were ones that Goodwill and the Salvation Army weren’t able to sell. I got bags and bags of these discarded, unwanted t-shirts.”
Feldman has been interested in garments for many years. She attended Kyoto City University of Arts in Japan for two years as a textile researcher under the university’s master’s of fine arts program. She also has traveled to the Mexican states of Oaxaca and Chiapas to study clothing on a grant from the Ontario Craft Council.