Event: Drawing in Space
Artist: Sheila Pepe
Location: The Elaine L. Jacobs Gallery @ Wayne State University
Duration: 1/11/2008 to 3/7/2008
(All photos taken by Colleen Davis and Detroit Chic, courtesy of Sheila Pepe)
Sheila Pepe's work has drawn critical acclaim across the nation for its vibrant living feel. However, to truly understand her work fully you must look at her history. She began working in large spaces with crocheting in 1994, which she learned from her mother. To incorporate her father’s side of the family, Sheila decided to begin using shoelaces in her art since her grandfather owned a shoe company in Manhattan, thus making her work more autobiographical. In 1995, Sheila Pepe received her MFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts.
Sheila approaches her installations as drawings and brings a 3 dimensional life to each by creating structures made with objects that could be found in a kitchen drawer. These created shapes that bring life to negative spaces could be described as tents or hammocks and are focused on breathing character to the shadows made. Her pieces do not only focus on the physical creation itself, but also the transformation of the space around it.
While living on the Wayne State University Campus, I had the opportunity to visit the Elaine L. Jacobs exhibit Drawing in Space: An Installation by Sheila Pepe. I was expecting a few paintings, or even a small 3 dimensional structure of two. Instead, I was completely enthralled by the mesmerizing labyrinth I encountered.
Stretching from pole to pole is a spun web of color. But you won’t find an insect traversing It’s beauty. The hanging shoestrings are like an oozing dripping venom in a toxic bright maze; A majestic torrent of color winding its way through the otherwise blank and arid room. A Rainbow of sorts; Blue to red, yellow and orange to purple. The viewers eye is drawn to the knotted creation and the empty blue “dream catcher” like circle in the centre, mirrored by a colorful oval shape to its left with surrounding knots and rhetorical elements at the end of each string. At first I was slow to notice that the knots, and creation in its entirety, is fashioned out of shoestrings. Hundreds of knotted shoestrings tied together to form a net; A hammock, a colorful webbed haven. The 3D effect is enhanced by the maze of shadows cascaded around the floor and walls.
Pictured: Drawing In Space 1 – A brilliant dangling web of shoestrings and colorful material, Drawing In Space resembles a rope bridge or spider web of a surrealist's dream.
A feeling of safety is felt when I stand staring at it. Looking from above, the observer can clearly see there must have been much effort and time taken to create such a sight. When sitting underneath and staring up, a feeling of vulnerability takes over with a calming torrent of color weaving its web above with a dizzying effect. I welcome the thought that it could fall on top of me at any moment, layering me with color, letting me become a piece of it.
Pictured: Drawing In Space 2 – Purple ropes swarm like toxic venom or perfumed jungle flowers.
Pepe has transformed a blank canvas into a lit room filled with dancing color and shades. As an artist trying to make it in the hectic and competitive environment of Detroit, I can truly appreciate the stimulation of senses felt while interacting with this piece. The magnificence of this woven light and shadow, is indeed a drawing in space.
Pictured: Drawing In Space 3 – A brilliant azure circular web pattern conjures up images of dew and, perhaps, flying saucers.
When asked if she felt Detroit is a good setting for her work, and if so what qualities of Detroit represent of complement the spirit of her work, Sheila Pepe responded, "Detroit — is very cool.. It's got that urban – big space – cheep space thing NYC had in the 70s. Tons of amazing work can get done in that kind of environment. A small lively center of artists, writers, curators and — bristle make stuff – have ideas and its all about doing it and not the quick glam. I don't really know what's going on in Detroit, but it seems that could happen… Might be happening right now.”
We sure think it is, and I also think this artist's display is one not to miss.