SANTA FE, N.M. — At the time of her passing, Jason Ripper’s mother was living with him in his two-bedroom apartment in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Back in 2014, the artist began going through the room she stayed in while in hospice, once his studio, including her drawers full of clothes.
“Instead of embodying that piece of clothing as something like ‘Can I get rid of this?’ I shredded it and turned it into something else,” said Ripper.
It’s then that he began the process of creating “Blood and Bone,” a red-and-white skeleton made completely of shredded everyday wear. The clothes he used were not only his mother’s, but also some of his own and some from his father, who passed away in 2007.
From white shirts to the red velvet vests he said his mother often wore, he ended up with about 700 to 1,000 small pieces to create his more than seven-foot-tall work. He described the finished product as not only a way to bring him and his parents together in one piece, but also as a representation of the unity between all people and how “we’re all made out of the same stuff.”
The binding and twining of the clothes was a meditative process that helped him through his grieving. His mother’s clothes still smelled like her, he noted, from the dried flower sachets she kept in her drawers.
The work took about a year and allowed him to separate himself from the memories attached to her clothes, he said. Instead, he was able to “archive” those memories as a way to heal.
“I don’t need that physical object as a memory anymore,” he said. “It’s embedded in me.”
The fiber artist has been using old clothes and fabric in his work for years, though usually it comes from places like thrift stores. His “Blood and Bone” is one of more than 20 fiber artworks selected for an exhibition using memory as its theme, opening at Tansey Contemporary gallery tonight.
The exhibition is being staged in conjunction with the Española Valley Fiber Art Center’s second annual fiber arts crawl this weekend, in various galleries and studios throughout Albuquerque and Northern New Mexico.