Drawing inspiration from her experiences with religion, sexuality, family, and her South American roots, Sarah Zapata employs several symbolic elements to offer an optimistic in-between world in her new installation, a resilience of things not seen, now on view at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

The bold colors and textures in the work were chosen carefully. Using all four walls, the ceiling, and the floor, the installation fully embraces visitors entering the gallery.

Stripes and textiles have an undeniably important role in Zapata’s space. She says, “Stripes have a very contentious history: there are biblical texts that talk about how one should not wear a fabric that’s made of two [different fabrics], so from the medieval period onward stripes were used to delineate people who were on the fringe of society, like jesters and prostitutes. That’s actually where the jail stripe comes from as well as the American flag. It’s sort of been a way for me to access this untrustworthiness within a specific cloth as well as exalting those who are on the fringes of society.”

The history of textiles, how they are used, and their prevalence across the world also attract Zapata’s attention. Consistently deploying them in large-scale, architectural installations, she wants them to impact, inhibit, and control the body’s movement. She uses them to connect with her femininity and her South American roots.

Zapata’s a reliance of things not seen is part of the Arts Center’s Ways of Being, a yearlong series of exhibitions, programs, and performances exploring artists as world-builders, helping us navigate the present, re-orient the past, and project new, viable futures.

For more information, visit jmkac.org.

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