Fashion Forward: Exhibition Explores Relationship Between Garments, Identity

Six BIPOC artists’ work is on display at the Momentary in Bentonville.

Clothing has many uses. A jacket, for example, can keep us warm or protect us from rain. The color or design of the jacket’s fabric can help make a statement about how we see ourselves and help express a part of our identity. In Some Form or Fashion, a new visual arts exhibition organized by the Momentary, explores the cultural implications of fashion and how identities are shaped by the purchasing, wearing and disposal of garments. 

The exhibition, which opened to the public over the weekend, is organized by the Momentary and curated by associate curator Kaitlin Garcia-Maestas, with curatorial assistant Taylor Jasper. The show features a combination of existing works and site-specific works. All of the multimedia installations are site-responsive in that the six participating BIPOC artists were asked to intentionally think about the space in which their work would be shown. 

The contemporary arts venue is located in a former Kraft cheese plant in Bentonville and the artists’ work is installed throughout the building. The show features artists Garcia-Maestas selected because of the “layered and nuanced conversations” they were having around clothing as sources for inspiration around ideas of identity, thinking about issues of gender, race and class. 

“I was really drawn to their practices because I think they’re having very interesting conversations around the history of garments and clothing that reference back to their own personal identities, but are also thinking more broadly about how clothing is used within our own culture, both American and international cultures.”

Skins Shirt Curtain by Pia Camil, an artist from Mexico City, is one of the first works guests can catch a glimpse of once they enter the Momentary lobby. The 65-foot long curtain is made of flesh-toned, second-hand shirts manufactured in Latin America that were shipped to the United States where they are purchased, consumed and then recycled or donated. These shirts ended up in an open-air market in Mexico where Pia sourced them for this work. 

“Through layering them together she’s having this larger conversation and a critique really around these cycles of mass consumption, textile waste and also thinking about what it means to take these T-shirts and give them a completely new life as a work of art,” Garcia-Maestas says. 

The exhibition also features the work of artists like Troy Montes-Michie and Simphiwe Ndzube. Montes-Michie is an interdisciplinary painter and collage artist from El Paso, Texas whose work engages Black consciousness, Latinx experience, immigration and queerness. Ndzube lives and works in Los Angeles and Cape Town, South Africa and his work is characterized by a fundamental interplay between objects, media and two-dimensional surfaces. While the theme of garments tie their work together, each artist brings their own point of view to their art.

“Both artists are having similar conversations, but they’re really pulling in different points of reference, which I think is the interesting element,” Garcia-Maestas says.

In curating this exhibition, Garcia-Maestas hopes visitors will have a unique experience that will inspire them to consider their own relationship to garments and how they participate in cycles of consumption and the impact of that. 

“Thinking more broadly around our own role and relationship to fashion, clothing, the fashion industry at large is really what I hope that visitors will take away from this exhibition,” she says.

In Some Form or Fashion is on view at the Momentary in Bentonville through Mar. 27, 2022. More information is available at www.themomentary.org.

Antoinette Grajeda
Antoinette Grajeda

Antoinette Grajeda is Editor-in-Chief of Arkansas Soul, the host of the Affirmative Action podcast and a Northwest Arkansas-based journalist. She has covered race, culture, politics, health, education and the arts in Arkansas for nearly 15 years.

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