Artist weaves donated fabrics into ‘community’ project
At the start of the pandemic in March 2020, Patricia Miranda says she knew little about the history of lace, despite having for years hand-dyed the decorative fabric for art projects.
Then she began posting, on Instagram and Facebook, pictures of lace handed down from her Irish and Italian grandmothers and colored with dyes she makes from cochineal insects.
Something unexpected happened: Family, friends and strangers began sending her emails and messages offering pieces of their own lace and linens, some of it belonging to grandmothers and great-grandmothers. Soon, the packages started arriving — individual pieces of lace, and decorative clothing, napkins and tablecloths — from around the country and overseas.
“Someone sent me a fairly large box of lace, and then another box came and another box came,” said Miranda.
Those donations are the foundation of Punto in Aria (which translates as Point in Air), an installation of Miranda’s textile-based art that continues through Nov. 7 inside two galleries at the Garrison Art Center. The exhibition, which incorporates more than 1,500 pieces of lace sewn together into artworks, combines large sculptures with panels and glass gilded with vintage and inherited gold leaf.
Miranda, the art center’s visiting artist for 2021, estimates that some of the lace she received dates to the 18th century, and said that some people included notes describing their donation’s history. One person sent a six-page, handwritten letter, she said.
“I realized that this became a community project, and that people felt compelled to be a part of it,” said Miranda, who splits her time between Manhattan and Peekskill. “It’s an honor and kind of a responsibility in the best sense of the term.”
Miranda “can’t remember I time when I didn’t think of myself as an artist.” As a child, she sketched, sewed and began making her own natural dyes and paints from insects and flowers.
She majored in art at SUNY Purchase, earning a degree in sculpture, then added a master’s degree from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has founded two artist projects (the Crit Lab and MAPSpace), worked with homeless youth in Westchester County, developed programs for schools and museums and exhibited at galleries and museums in the U.S. and Vienna.
Her choice of medium eventually changed from painting to making objects “that live in the world in a different way.” Deciding to return to her roots in sculpture, she began working with lace colored with her handmade dyes and paints. The material served another goal: to make larger works with a low environmental impact, but not ones requiring a lot of space to exhibit and store.
“Textiles seemed like a wonderful way to be able to do what could be large installations that would fold up into a manageable scale that I could transport. And also, the materials were environmentally safe,” she said.
She also began to see textiles as a “powerful metaphor” for women’s labor on two fronts: the textile mills where they have historically toiled, and in the household, where lace was either sewed or bought to adorn such items as aprons and handkerchiefs.
A new sense of lace’s history drives an adjunct to the project: Miranda has been photographing, measuring and documenting each piece of lace and linens she received for an online archive at thelacearchive.net. Visitors to the exhibit are encouraged to add their own fabric to the collection.
Miranda is also leading two free workshops for children and adults on Saturday (Oct. 23), where she will demonstrate how to make dyes and color fabrics. “It’s been an amazing project,” she said.
The Garrison Art Center, at 23 Garrison’s Landing, is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday to Sunday. The Oct. 23 workshops will be held at 10:30 a.m. for families with children and 1:30 p.m. for adults, followed by an artist’s talk at 5:30 p.m. Register at garrisonartcenter.org.