Fallen Cave paintings on textile (photo credit: Mary Tinti.)
I never realized how much I would be affected by my brother’s decision to join the Peace Corps. His stint in Mali, West Africa a few years back introduced my family to a part of the world and a people with which we had little prior familiarity, and gave me an entirely new lens through which to view so many things–not the least of which was the interconnectivity of art (be it musical or visual) and life. Knowing all I do of his experiences and how they absolutely continue to shape his personal and professional pursuits, I find myself drawn to the stories of other former PCV’s and the ways they weave together their disparate worlds long after their time in the Corps has concluded.
Former Peace Corps Morocco volunteer Terra Fuller (a.k.a. Touria), a self-dubbed adventure artist, takes the concept of interweaving to new extremes. Merging her fine arts background with traditional rug-weaving techniques acquired through her relationships with the women of The Valley of the Roses, Fuller now creates gorgeous Amazigh-inspired textiles with a contemporary twist. (As explained in the Fort Point Arts Community Gallery press release, Amazigh is “the indigenous culture of North Africa and Morocco”).
On view at the FPAC Gallery through August 30th, Fallen Cave Paintings: Mouhou, Touria, and Zahra presents a sampling of recently hand looped and loomed rugs by Fuller and two of her mentors (Zahra Ait Eshu, a cave dwelling nomad and Mouhou Boussine, a subsistence farmer). These beautiful, painstakingly woven rugs are made for practical purposes; they travel easily, provide warmth, are sat and slept upon, and become the backdrop of a family’s daily existence. Fabricated from a magnificent motley of dyed yarn and camel hair, strips of old fabric, rags, ribbon, and even sequins, these utilitarian rugs are fascinating textiles in their own right. But in the context of the gallery, surrounded by photographs, drawings, and a documentary video by Fuller, they prompt viewers to reconsider the distinction between fine art and craft. The poetic title of this show, “Fallen Cave Paintings” similarly stakes a claim for these rugs within the history of art, not just by connecting them to some of the earliest evidence of pictorial representation, but also by playing off the provocative, Day-Glo “Fallen Paintings" of Lynda Benglis from the late 1960s (mounds of colorful latex poured directly on the gallery floor).
Mary Tinti stands on Fallen Cave painting (photo credit: Mary Tinti.)
I’m a sucker for a shag rug, and this exhibit is full of them! Combine that feature with clusters of jumbled colors and textures and I couldn’t wait to take off my shoes and feel their softness beneath my feet. I love the way the abstract patterns in these carpets appear averse to symmetry or rigid repetition and are far more free-form, expressionistic, gestural, lyrical, and open to improvisation than one might assume. And I couldn’t help but conjure photographs of Jackson Pollock in his studio…with a canvas spread across the floor, Pollock literally would dance and spill and drip his Abstract Expressionist paintings into being—the results of which seem to be a not so distant cousin of these sensual Moroccan carpets.
All in all, Fallen Cave Paintings: Mouhou, Touria, and Zahra provides a welcome window into the cultural traditions of the Amazigh, the interesting artistic path of a former PCV, and the continued interweaving of ancient and modern influences in art making the world over.
Note: Thanks to FPAC Gallery Committee member Courtney Rae Peterson for speaking with me about this exhibition and getting me jazzed about it from the get-go!
Fallen Cave Paintings: Mouhou, Touria, and Zahra
Thru September 21st
300 Summer Street, Boston MA 02210
New summer hours:
Monday-Friday 8am-4pm, Thursdays until 6pm