Dallas artist creates rainbows with 60 miles of thread

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Gabriel Dawe sculpts 60 miles of sewing thread for his installation piece at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art’s State of the Art exhibit. Video produced by Dane Walters of KERA

Dallas artist Gabriel Dawe makes physically imposing and yet nebulous sculpture of thread stretched between points on the ceiling and points on the floor. He creates a multifaceted geometric shape, the color changing like a rainbow as the viewer’s eye shifts around the form. Essentially a simple concept, like the nail-and-thread art that many children make, Dawe has taken this idea to its extreme. In his words: “doing that same idea but in space, and pushing the boundaries of what drawing could be, putting steroids in them.”

Originally from Mexico, Dawe moved to Dallas from Canada to transition from a career in graphic design to one in art. He’s created installations around the U.S., in Canada, Mexico and London. Dawe is one of three Dallas artists included in the massive new prestigious exhibit in Bentonville, Arkansas.

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, founded three years ago by billionaire heir to the Wal-Mart fortune Alice Walton, curates a nationwide survey of more than 100 contemporary American artists for the exhibit State of the Art. The museum wants to showcase what it calls “under-recognized” American artists from outside the media centers of New York and LA. Dawe is one of those artists.

"I think with my pieces you have to see them in real life to catch the subtleties," said artist Gabriel Dawe.

“Every time I have a new installation, I start a dialogue with the space. I have to take into account architectural peculiarities of the space, and see where I can accommodate the hooks that the thread it attached to,” said artist Gabriel Dawe.

KERA’s Art and Seek caught up with Dawe a few months ago to watch him install a piece in a building across from the Dallas Arts District. Dawe’s “Plexus” inhabits the building’s main stairwell, and is his tallest creation so far.

“It’s going to be a structure that is formed completely with sewing thread, a geometric structure that reaches from the ceiling to the floor, in the central staircase,” he said, as the project began. “I don’t know exactly how much thread I am going to be using, but roughly around 40 and 60 miles of thread. The thread is in 16 different shades, and it starts with blue on the outside, edges and angles, to green then yellow.”

Dawe uses large spools of regular sewing thread, that he selects in turn based on their color to create his rainbow, that fools the eye into thinking the tones fade without seam or transition into the next.

“Photographs don’t do the pieces justice,” said Dawe. “They do make beautiful photographs, but I think with my pieces you have to see them in real life to catch the subtleties. They change as you move round them; they are almost kinetic; the lines … really start messing with your depth perception, and it comes to life when you move around it.”

Local Beat is a weekly series on Art Beat that features arts and culture stories from PBS member stations around the nation.

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