Brooklyn-based artist Amanda Browder is taking her role as the inaugural Transformation Fellow for UNLV’s Department of Art quite literally: She plans to cover UNLV’s Archie C. Grant Hall in giant rainbow swaths of fabric. But her vision goes beyond just changing the look of a building. She hopes to recruit the community, and turn us all into co-creators and participants. Browder will serve as artist-in-residence at UNLV from February 20 through April 5. That should be just enough time to create her giant-scale fabric installation, “The Land of Hidden Gems.”
“The purpose of that title was finding the diamond in the rough,” Browder says. She wants to explore big, open-ended themes: large desert spaces, Las Vegas as an oasis and the sheer excitement of adding blasts of color to unexpected places. She has covered 10 to 15 buildings across the country—reminiscent of the wrapped monuments of Christo and Jeanne-Claude. Browder’s biggest building was 30 feet by 250 feet.
“There’s a sense of empowerment,” Browder says, “of taking something from your home and making it the size of a building.” She delights in how fabric can be both intimate and private as well as large-scale and dramatic. “I love working big.”
It’s a grand undertaking. First, Browder will solicit fabric donations from the local community. She’s looking to collect approximately 1,500 square feet of opaque, non-stretchy materials—cotton, poly, canvas, rayon, velvet—in bright colors and patterns. (To donate, email [email protected]). She loves when fabric donors see their contributions on the finished building. “It’s an homage to that person and their story.”
Then she invites the community to join in collaborative sewing days. No experience is necessary, and there are no age restrictions or educational requirements. She will even teach you to sew. Browder sees participants as co-artists, and herself as “facilitator, designer, artist and friend to everybody who walks in.” (For dates and information, visit facebook.com/AmandaBrowderTransformationFellow.)
Think of the project as a new kind of sewing circle. “Everybody should come out, have fun and see what we’re doing,” Browder says. “Please come and meet me. I’d love to meet you.”
The sewing process involves sorting fabrics of like colors (reds with reds, for example) and then joining them into large monochromatic strips. From there, Browder compiles the strips like giant puzzle pieces so that they cover the building in a way that will “wow people.” To achieve victory over gravity, Browder, who was once a math major, maps and plans. She has even worked with structural engineers in the past.
The piece will stay up for about two weeks. “I take it away before people get jaded,” says Browder, who archives the fabric after the installation is completed. “After it comes down, that building looks different.”
Amanda Browder: Aesthetics of a Collective Experience February 21, 7 p.m., $5 suggested donation. UNLV's Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art, 702-895-3381.