Sarah Zanchetta is a textile artist whose intricate work spans weaving, embroidery, soft sculptures and large-scale fabric installations that interrogate and expose the daily, minute, and often unseen experiences of being a woman in a modern society. Learn more about her current project, Quarantine Quilts, and the ways in which Sarah honours the teachings of her elders while creating a much-needed space of comfort and connection through her current project.
Who are some of the artists you discovered through your visits to MOCA?
I do not know if I could name all the artists I have discovered through my visits to MOCA. However, there is one exhibition that stands out in my mind. Ange Loft‘s A Foreign Source of Extraordinary Power, paired with her artist talk at the time, was breathtaking. I had heard of Loft’s work before, and saw bits and pieces online throughout the years – yet, seeing it in person was a truly mesmerizing experience. Her talk actually increased my interest in going to more artist talks, even for artists I was not previously aware of, and it has been one of the best decisions I have ever made.
Ange Loft, A foreign source of extraordinary power, 2019.
Tell us a little about your own practice as a textile artist and the themes you explore in your work.
I began experimenting with textiles during the thesis year of my BFA at OCAD University. Even though I graduated in 2018 with a BFA in Painting and Drawing, throughout my years at the school, painting became more frustrating than fun. It was not able to give me the texture or freedom I was craving, so the move to working with fabrics just made sense. Since then, I’ve continued to experiment and educate myself on a variety of textile techniques. In the past year alone, I have tried weaving, embroidery, soft sculptures and large-scale fabric installations. However, no matter the method, my practice explores and exposes the everyday rituals in a woman’s life. From simple ones such as taking birth control pills every morning to the harassment, we can face online. The goal of my practice is to elevate the modern female experience and to educate the public on the mystifying aspects of womanhood.
How did you start your current project, Quarantine Quilts?
My project, Quarantine Quilts, started at a place of desperation. Like many others, my last day of work was in March, and after I walked home that day – I found myself frustrated and confused about the world around me. The techniques I usually turned to for comfort, weaving and embroidery, no longer felt right. I sat in my studio, sorting out scraps of fabrics, as I called to touch base with my family members. My grandmother asked me what I was planning to do with all this newfound free time, and when I expressed my concern about undertaking new projects due to lack of store availability – she opened my eyes to something that laid right in front of me.
She told me to make something out of the things that I have on hand, the shirts that don’t fit and the bedsheets that are thrown in the back of the closet. Over the years, she taught me how to mend and repair the old before buying something new. So at first, I used it as an excuse to spring clean my apartment, and after I made a pile a few feet high, I called her again -“now what?” I could break down the collection to make fabric yarn for weaving, but it did not feel right to disassemble everything to their bare bones. She mentioned quilting, but I never quilted before – and really neither had she – but she made a good point that it is an excellent time to learn a new skill.
Quarantine Quilts, Courtesy the artist.
I sat on my studio floor, cutting up the fabric into different shapes, and organizing by colour. Day after day, I began to sew them together to create my first ever quilts. There was a sense of comfort through the repetition of making the quilt, sort, pin, sew, repeat. That feeling of comfort was sewn into each quilt. As I looked at them hanging on my wall, it felt like something was still missing. A part of this comfort came from the conversations I had while making these quilts, and they needed to be represented in some way. That’s why each quilt has an embroidered quote – to express the importance of communication as we experience isolation. My project of quarantine quilts aims to make a space of comfort in our troubled world. And though my personal isolation comes to an end as I am called back to work as retail shops begin to open, I hope they will continue to comfort their viewers for many years to come.
Artists everywhere are struggling with the global health crisis in very varied, yet immediate ways. Can you describe the ways in which the crisis has impacted your work? Are there particular communities and resources you’re relying on to find a new way of working and sharing your art?
The COVID-19 crisis impacted my work in a way that I did not anticipate. I expected stores to close, my residency and other events to be cancelled, but I did not expect to build a new community of creatives online. Due to isolation, I find myself scrolling through social media more than I used to. In the past, I would rarely comment, and I would never direct message someone who I did not know in person. Now, I message almost any and every artist whose work I enjoy – no matter their follower size or location. I send short messages filled with love and positivity, and often I get similar responses back. A few months ago, I could not imagine that I would casually be talking to an artist in the states who I just found last night – but I am, and I think that is great.
Who are some emerging artists in your field of work or outside that you’ve been following and admiring?
There are three emerging artists that I have been obsessed with recently. The first is Gracelee Lawrence, an artist based out of New York City. Her work unravels the relationships between food, body and technology through 3-D printed sculptures. Another is Matthew Gilbert, who is a multimedia artist currently studying at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. His fibre-based sculptures excitingly play with form through a dynamic combination of materials. Lastly, Alissa Alfonso, who is a quilting master. She is based out of Miami and focuses on repurposing materials to create landscapes. Her quilts are flowing with texture and playful forms that speak to the loss of nature happening worldwide.
Where has some of your work shown in the past, and what are some spaces you dream of exhibiting your work in?
I was most recently part of an online exhibition curated by The Pink Duct Tape Collective, called Virtual Stylez 2020. It is an ongoing exhibition that lives through video files posted to Instagram that highlights artists during the COVID-19 crisis. Previously, I had the fantastic opportunity to work with Bumble Canada and the Power Plant Gallery to create a large scale installation for their Power Ball: 21 Club. It was such an amazing experience working with their team, their guidance and expertise made all the difference. I hope I can work with them again in the future. Still, I dream of showing my work at MOCA, The Textile Museum of Canada, and other galleries that continue to value the education that is so intertwined in art-making.
What is one really great piece of art you came across since the lockdown began?
It would have to be a series of work by Ari Bird, who is based out of Oakland, California. She has made these oversized bread clips, the ones that close the plastic bags of the loaves we buy from the grocery store. They are simple yet stunning. It is modelled after an object that gets tossed aside, or lost in our kitchens. Yet, when presented in a time when many are turning to food banks and donations to not go hungry, its household simplicity reminds me of an easier time.
Learn more about Sarah’s work here.
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Banner photo by Gabriel Li.