An impossibly large beam of colorful light bounces off sterile surfaces in the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth, creating an ethereal indoor rainbow. Gabriel Dawe, whose installation opened Aug. 16 and will run for two years through Sept. 2, 2018, created the illusion of light using eighty miles of sewing threads in every color of the spectrum.
Dawe, a University Park-based artist, experiments with all kinds of textiles, but sewing thread is where his focus currently lies.
He was born in Mexico City, and raised there by a middle-class family with conservative values.
“As a child, [textiles were] forbidden to me because I was a boy. Boys don’t embroider. That’s why, in my late twenties, I started experimenting with that childhood frustration as a way of challenging those notions of gender identity that dictate what a boy can and cannot do,” Dawe said.
The artist studied graphic design during his undergraduate career in Puebla, Mexico, then moved to Montreal, Canada to pursue a career in that field.
“I had a big burnout, so that’s when I decided to quit my job and become an artist. Naïvely, I thought that I was going to be able to make it right away. That didn’t turn out to be true,” Dawe said.
In 2008, he moved to Dallas to study for his M.F.A. at the University of Texas at Dallas, where he spent his last two years in the program as an artist in residence at CentralTrak in Fair Park. Now he works mainly out of his home office in UP, since his installations vary with venue.
“I come into a space and have a sort of dialogue with the space to see what it is asking of me,” he said. “Then I come up with a way to create this volume of thread that’s suspended and threshed within the space.”
Dawe, whose work has been shown in galleries in the UK, Canada, and Belgium, is represented by Dallas’ Conduit Gallery. The gallery’s owner and director, Nancy Whitenack, is quick to brag about his creations. She came across Dawe’s work during his time at UTD and was immediately impressed by his threadwork, as well as his drawings and embroidery.
“I was really excited by what I saw,” she said. “The sort of detail really is astounding. He’s a magician with color.”
During the six years the gallery has represented him, she’s taken note of the purpose with which he works.
“His work ethic is remarkable and he uses his time really well,” she said. “He’s involved in each installation. He’s physically involved in it. They all require a lot of effort.”
Dawe hopes to deepen his experimentation with materials in the future, but for now, textiles are his concentration.
“I’m sure it’s going to evolve at some point into other materials, but so far it hasn’t. It’s not for a lack of interest. It’s where the work has taken me, so I’m just following the work,” he said.