‘With Every Fiber’ exhibit at Pelham Art Center uses textiles to convey emotional stories

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The Pelham Arts Center’s newest exhibition, “With Every Fiber,” is a focus on textiles and the meaning they present beyond the fabric, organized by Brooklyn-based curator Anki King.

The exhibition features a variety of artists, including Ruby Chishti, whose visual art specializes in the use of fabric to create both powerful and personal pieces. Born in Pakistan, she immigrated to the United States in 2002, and now Chishti disguises deep intimate meaning behind each of her meticulous works of art.

Chishti has experimented with a slew of different materials, but her main focus is in working with cloth, or recycled fabric, because “there is an abundance and clothes are discarded so rapidly that there is no shortage of materials.” Growing up in Pakistan, Chishti was able to use her sibling’s clothing to begin her artistic journey. From a young age, she rebelled against her conventional clothing in a unique way by cutting and sewing through scraps to produce her own individualized wardrobe.

Although her experience with different materials began in her early life, Chishti never claimed fabric as her own until 1999, when she took on the responsibility of taking care of her mother for eleven years. It was in this task that she was able to connect the “worn-out clothing” to her mother’s body and find similarities to produce dolls that replicated her mother, leading her back into her interest in working with cloth.

Stuffed with straw and sewed carefully together, the figures were sculpted to life. Through the National College of Arts, Chishti was trained as a sculptor but she felt her artistic passion was never completely fulfilled through sculpting, although she still incorporates the skills she grasped as a sculptor into her current work. She explains that her relationship with cloth, “was such a comforting kind of bond that the fabric never really left me.”

All of Ruby Chishti’s pieces include a moving story embedded into the fibers of the fabric. More of her recent work embodies the hardships faced throughout the course of the Covid pandemic.

For her pieces displayed in the Pelham Art Center, Chishti touches on cases involving love, loss, recollection and the beauty of life, as well as representations of her native culture, gender inequality and immigration. She describes that her piece found in the Pelham Art Center titled, “Mother, Wake Me Up at 7:00,” is “in remembrance of the home that I brought with me here to the United States and the desire to assimilate, with the windows and the openness for other forms of life to come in, but I also include the faded color of architecture that I remember of my own home.”

One of her most heartbreaking pieces expresses the trauma of her childhood, as the birth of a girl was an event to not be celebrated as that of a boy in Pakistan. Dealing with detailed precision in her art, each piece can take Chishti an average of one year to complete.

Chishti motivates everyone to remember, “to follow our hearts and not think about what is going to be the end result.” Chishti’s journey through the worlds of art and the stories that come with it are heart-wrenching and intimate as her pieces express the underlying themes of her life.

“With Ever Fiber” is on exhibit at the Pelham Art Center through April 3.