I’m trying to get people to realize that cloth can have that [life-guiding] kind of spiritual, emotional, and artistic content…If an artistic shawl or scarf ‘fits into your everyday life,’ then it has that kind of ability to spiritually elevate everyday life.
Kaleidoscopic colors. Bold patterns. Lush fabrics. These are just a few of the many phrases that could be applied to the work of Randall Darwall (1948–2017). A revered and beloved fiber artist, Darwall combined an early interest in painting with a poetic sensibility. He created one-of-a-kind textiles that were meant to be both worn and seen, somehow imbuing the threads with his own organic spirituality. This capacity would lead him to interweave, metaphorically and literally, elements of an artistic vision with the everyday—bringing his interest in color and texture in line with his strong belief that what he made was activated in its function.
This exhibition debuts an archive of over 135 scarves, shawls, and garments by Darwall at the Racine Art Museum. Dyed silk stands out as the material of choice, with metallic thread, wool, cashmere, and chenille on hand as well. While the number of works are impressive, so too is the variety with different patterns, colorways, and eras represented. In addition, as part of the archival supporting materials, RAM has been gifted textile works by other artists that served as inspiration for Darwall—several of which are included in this exhibition—and ephemera that document his career. His work boosts the quantity of art to wear in RAM’s holdings yet also dialogues with objects and images across media and types.