Small Holbein Pattern Design (Oriental Rug or 552,000 Painted Knots), 2005-2006
Exhibition: Aidekman Center for the Arts Tufts University; 808 Gallery, Boston University; Jewett Art
Center Wellesley College; LaMontagne gallery South Boston; The Bee Hive, Boston
Oriental rugs were first introduced into Europe in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries and were quickly assimilated by the elites. Painters, overwhelmed by their beauty and by the fact that painting these rugs was a testimony to their mastery and their social and political status, started painting rugs without hesitation. Usually represented in the backgrounds of paintings or over tables, these ornamental symbols of power were promptly named after the artists who painted them. They then entered into the history of painting and the Oriental rug market with their new names including the Memling rug, the Holbein rug, and the Lotto rug, among others. The origin of these rugs and their cultural implications were erased in this process of assimilation, and the consumption of one culture over another was materialized. Thus, the Oriental rug appeared as a perfect example ofcultural migration and colonization, and opened for me a space for artistic intervention.
I decided to paint the Holbein rug as an exercise of power. My intention was to present the rug rather than represent it and use simulation as a strategy for subverting cultural hierarchies. More than a hyper-realistic painting, I attempted to replicate the rug’s physical presence and materiality. At the same time, I sought to bring the ornamental otherness of the rug into the foreground as the new subject of study in the work. I showed the Holbein rug as an object in space, freed from its wooden stretcher. I presented it as my own cultural product with the intention of claiming my own part in the history of Western painting.