Artist Rena Detrixhe creates beautiful and ornately decorated rugs as part of her Red Dirt Rug series. The mats are uniquely ephemeral and fragile, as they are created from finely sifted dirt and then stamped with modified shoe soles. Detrixhe collects the soil by hand from her surrounding Oklahoma landscape, and this fact brings an important context to these faux textiles; the rug art reflects the delicacy of both the materials and their fleeting forms.
Detrixhe describes herself as a hunter and gatherer. Many of her works start by collecting seeds, petals, shells, and berries. For Red Dirt Rug, the Oklahoman earth is particularly significant as it's the original landscape of her home state—one that's been drastically altered and impacted by human presence. “When I was a little girl,” she says, “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.”
Detrixhe is interested in artworks that explore the complicated history of humans' relationships to nature. “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,” Detrixhe explains in her artist statement. “There is immense beauty and pride in this place and also profound sorrow.”
For Detrixhe, the rugs are much more than just intricately designed pieces of art. The creation process combines multiplicity with repetition, and it involves intense focus similar to embroidery, crochet, or bead work. “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.”
One of Detrixhe's red dirt rugs is currently a part of the group exhibition Shifting Landscapes at Form & Concept in Santa Fe, New Mexico through May 20, 2017.