By Jordan Castaldo, Free Press Staff
Imagine a place that you could go, for free, to watch a movie, concert or performance. At this specific place, there are hand-woven blankets made for your comfort to share amongst the friends and family you have brought to watch this performance with you. You are able to put one on the ground to sit on for added comfort, along with one to wrap around your shoulders for warmth. The idea of sharing warmth and comfort with others, while watching beautiful, artistic performances, is something this gallery hopes that all their visitors will take part in.
Located on 538 Congress St. in Portland, SPACE Gallery is a nonprofit gallery that showcases contemporary art projects and screens films and documentaries that might not be available to see elsewhere. In 2015, a total of 37,908 visitors attended the 203 events it offered. The name “SPACE” came from the idea of lending space for things to happen. The gallery’s ultimate goal is to present work that may not otherwise be accessible to many in Maine.
SPACE held one last exhibition before closing down on March 8, 2017 and re-opening on April 7, 2017 for renovations. This exhibit, titled Return to Great Mother’s Infinity, was organized by Jovencio de la Paz, an artist from the University of Oregon where he is the fiber and textile coordinator. He gathered handweavers from both Maine and Oregon to weave a site-specific blanket library for SPACE that encourages visitors to spread warmth and teaches them to share. Some of the weavers, besides Jovencio, include Nilufar Amali, Cathy Barnes, Melina S.A. Bishop, Synclaire Horlings, Jeanne Medina, Anna Post, Seah Choo Fen, Kok King Ying and Ashley Wernher-Collins.
Jovencio has been working with textiles for quite a long time, and his family has practiced the tradition of blanket-making for generations. Like Gina Adams, who exhibited Its Honor is Here Pledged last fall at USM, Jovencio is concerned with how certain forms and aspects of art can be “… linked to expansive histories of colonialism, globalization and immigration.” Since he earned his master’s degree from The Cranbrook Academy of Art, he has been teaching at places like the Ox Bow School of Art and the University of Oregon.
Weaving is the process of intersecting threads and gathering said threads into a singular plane for the purpose of art. The blankets are hung up throughout the room on copper tubing and they can be used during the gallery’s music, film and performance programs and shows.
But Jovencio did not stop with sharing the blankets. He also wanted to teach people the act of weaving, so he began to weave a blanket and allow the crowd to help him complete it on First Friday where the exhibition was premiered. Estimated to be about ten feet, this blanket hangs on a separate wall near the stage at SPACE until their temporary closing day.
There are blankets of all types of weaving patterns and colors. Some even had very touching back stories. Elizabeth Spavento, the visual arts coordinator at SPACE, took the time to mention a story about one of the blankets specifically.One rainbow-colored, checkered blanket was created by Jovencio’s grandmother and his mother. Spavento told the story behind the blanket.
“His grandmother used to hoard the leftover thread scraps, and she would tie them together. His mother found the art in that, turning those leftovers into a beautiful hand-woven blanket with a gorgeous design and eye-popping colors. Jovencio is said to have taught his mother how to weave and she, in return, had taught his grandmother.”
Although the exhibit is no longer being shown at Space Gallery, a documentary publication will soon become available that provides a history of the project. Patrons of Space can look forward to new installations in April, when the gallery will reopen after renovations.