Interdisciplinary artist Sarah Rosalena is smashing the boundaries set by colonization through a multimedia exhibition made in collaboration with Ohio State’s Department of History of Art.
The Columbus Museum of Art at The Pizzuti is currently showcasing Rosalena’s exhibition “In All Directions,” which is available to view until Feb. 4. Rosalena challenges historical narratives by incorporating traditional loom weaving and emerging modern technology in her work.
“You’ll notice a lot of things that are 3D printed, woven with a Jacquard loom or created with artificial intelligence,” Rosalena said. “This is an interesting way to kind of re-imagine and rethink how we see and know things in this current moment.”
Rosalena said she employs various mediums including ceramic, textile and beadwork to depict topics such as climate change, land dispossession and indigenous rights. She said she aims to challenge viewers’ binary narratives of history and encourage them to leave her exhibition more open-minded.
“Really, it’s a reconsideration of craft as a way to think about changing the world,” Rosalena said. “A lot of my works really examine this idea of epistemology, which is how we know and understand things.”
Kris Paulsen, an associate professor of history of art and the exhibition’s organizer, said Rosalena is able to feed an algorithm into the digital Jacquard — a mechanism to create textile images by weaving colored threads — to construct a pixelated product of multiple images combined.
Paulsen said one of Rosalena’s pieces, titled “Exit Point,” is a prime example because it combines a satellite image of Earth with an image of a black hole to create an intersecting woven product.
“The blue marble hovering in space, our fragile, perfect blue paradise planet, is combined with the deep blackness of infinity,” Paulsen said. “This is a real ‘coming to terms with who we are’ moment and then having something imploding in on itself, sucking all these things out and finding what is in between these two things.”
The Ohio State Department of History of Art’s professional relationship with “In All Directions” began when Paulsen received a grant aiming to involve students in making and writing about exhibitions in January, according to the Department of History of Art website .
Paulsen said she taught a seminar course last year during which eight students exclusively studied and discussed Rosalena’s work. After inviting professional authors to work alongside them, the students drafted the exhibit’s official catalog, she said
“We were thinking about how we can create a system where the exhibition space becomes a laboratory for learning these skills, but also having a more flexible training beforehand,” Paulsen said. “This is certainly the biggest and most ambitious one.”
Rosalena said she begins her artistic process in a highly conceptual way, focusing on power structures and how images influence others. When working with source data, Rosalena said she often does so in collaboration with NASA, family members and other weavers.
“I draw a lot of inspiration from space and how much power the symbol of Earth has on us,” Rosalena said. “For me, it’s really about things that are so unseen, where there has been an injustice or something that’s been overwritten that I’m very interested in.”
Other than textiles, Rosalena said she incorporates 3D-printed sculptures into her exhibition. She said these sculptures’ compositions are intended to represent colonialism’s inherent flaws.
“They’re very much inspired by patterns of weaving and basketry, but they have holes in them or they’re collapsing on their form,” Rosalena said.
Rosalena said weaving is ultimately a direct reflection of her family history and female role models. She said she used her own mother’s loom for the beaded works displayed in In All Directions.
“I learned weaving from my mother, my grandmother and her mother’s mother,” Rosalena said. “It’s a matriarchal lineage in my family; it’s Wixárika.”
Rosalena is not only an artist but also an assistant professor of computational craft and haptic media at the University of California, Santa Barbara. More information about Rosalena’s artwork and overall career can be found on her website .