The Rug begins with earth. Red, loose soil from Oklahoma, where Detrixhe spent three years, is gathered and hand-sifted to create a fine powder-like substance. This material traveled two thousand miles to the gallery to be carefully reconstructed on the ground. Spiraling outward from the center of the plotted rug, the dirt is poured, smoothed, and imprinted with modified shoe-soles to create intricate patterns.
This work embodies the complicated history of our relationship to nature, particularly at the region from which the dirt was sourced, where human presence has deeply altered the landscape. This rich red earth is the land of the Dust Bowl, the end of the Trail of Tears, land runs and pipelines, deep fault lines and hydraulic fracturing. There is immense beauty and pride in this place and also profound sorrow.
The refining and sifting of the soil and the imprinting of the pattern is a meditation on this past, a gesture of sensitivity, and the desire for understanding. It is a meticulous and solitary act.
The form of the rug, from a western perspective, is an object of luxury; it is a symbol of authority and power. Though it is also an article of beauty and cultural significance and the result of many hours of careful labor. The form questions the tension between nature and human impact while suggesting the ubiquitousness and precious- ness of the earth just below our feet.
Rena Detrixhe is an interdisciplinary artist currently based in Salina, KS where she is working as a Research Resident with The Land Institute. Through large-scale objects and installations, ephemeral sculpture, performance, drawings, and process-based work, she explores systems of value and cultural relations to land and the more-than-human world with attention to histories of injustice. Her current research is focused on Midwestern agriculture as both an important cultural signifier, and a deeply troubled relationship to the land. Her research is supported by multiple grants and residencies including: a Serenbe Co-Esistere Residency, Stoneleaf Retreat, Tallgrass Artist Residency at the Konza Prairie Biological Station, a two-year residency with Charlotte Street Foundation in Kansas City, and a three-year residency with the Tulsa Artist Fellowship among others. Detrixhe has lectured in universities and museums throughout the US and presented at the International Sculpture Conference. In 2017 she received both the public and jury vote award for ArtPrize for her work Red Dirt Rug. Detrixhe holds a BFA from the University of Kansas.
Work in the exhibition was made with research assistance from David Van Tassel, lead scientist, and Sydney Schiffner, research technician, at The Land Institute.