All images are Copyright © 2016 Rena Detrixhe. All rights reserved.

Red Dirt Rug | 2016
Current Studio, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma


Loose red Oklahoma soil, imprinted with modified shoe soles

 

When I was a little girl I would sift dirt through an old screen door just for the pleasure of feeling the fine soft earth between my fingers and under my feet.


This work embodies the complicated history of our relationship to nature. In Oklahoma, like many places, human presence has deeply altered the landscape. This rich red earth is the land of the Dust Bowl, the end of the Trail of Tears, land runs and pipelines, deep fault lines and hydraulic fracturing. There is immense beauty and pride in this place and also profound sorrow.

The refining and sifting of the soil and the imprinting of the pattern is a meditation on this past, a gesture of sensitivity, and the desire for understanding. It is a meticulous and solitary act.

The form of the rug, from a western perspective, is an object of luxury; it is a symbol of authority and power. Though it is also an article of beauty and cultural significance and the result of many hours of careful labor. Through this form, I attempt to question the tension between nature and human impact while suggesting the ubiquitousness and preciousness of the earth just below our feet.

 

 

Excerpt from an essay by Louise Siddons. Full text available here.

 

Dirt, in the well-known formulation of anthropologist Mary Douglas, is "matter out of place," but Detrixhe's Red Dirt Rugs have their matter so carefully placed that they create a place for us—albeit an uninhabitable, precarious place. Oklahoma's "red dirt" is actually clay, used by indigenous people from the Mississippian period onward to make both domestic and ritual objects. Beginning in the late nineteenth century, it was also used to make the bricks that built colonizing towns across the indigenous landscape from which it was extracted. The dirt was thus Europeanized and politicized as it was transformed in material ways—and the violations of Indian rights and treaties were swept under the rug in the name of American progress. Underneath the "rug" of Oklahoma's red dirt, however, was (and is, although less and less) oil—oil that made some Native tribes wealthy as well as whites, and which is processed into a host of petroleum products, including the sneakers that Detrixhe uses as template elements for the surfaces of her Rugs. The process—and result—is disarmingly akin to building sand castles, and Detrixhe uses that sense of play to beguile us into a more profound consideration of the ongoing and intersecting histories of social and environmental (in)justice—without giving up the corresponding senses of wonder and beauty that come from our power to transform the world around us.

 

Louise Siddons, Ph.D.

Oklahoma State University

August 24, 2017

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