In their exhibition, (w)rest, collaborative couple Orange Barrel Industries employs printed, repurposed fibers and craft traditions to share their domestic bliss amid concerns over an uncertain ecological future.

The collaborations offered in (w)rest use the nuclear family and consumption of natural resources as complementary metaphors. Domestic bliss, as celebrated in America, is reliant on outmoded, gendered roles and division of labor. Methods of extraction, manufacturing, and consumption of resources are equally tired and inefficient. In both cases the warmth and comfort gained through old modes is potentially volatile and wholly unsustainable. Recent pieces extend the metaphor—incorporating the day to day labor of child-rearing, and how a new mouth to feed means a bigger mess to clean up. These pieces are executed using craft methods and repurposed remnants from the home, reinforcing the domestic metaphor, while thwarting our instincts toward quick consumption. The trash and packaging materials that compose Leftovers highlight our unintended environmental impact, its hidden costs in resources and labor, and the lasting, geological consequences on the landscape.

Printmaking is a dirty medium, so we strive to reduce the ecological impact of our work any way we can. A transition from paper to discarded, secondhand fibers saves material from the landfill. Crocheted pieces—inspired by traditional rag rugs—incorporate proofs on fabric, used clothes and linens from our own lives, those of friends and family, and sometimes strangers. The resulting Footprints document the detritus of our shared lives, literally linking the contributors together, emphasizing our shared history and considered future. The process uses nearly every scrap, continuing a tradition of salvaged material passed down through quilting circles and Japanese boro, garments mended and patched ad infinitum, that highlights history and care. Sewing is a metaphor for global interconnectedness as well. We are all stitched into an elaborate tapestry, so when one thread begins to unravel, the whole piece is in danger of falling apart.

(w)rest itself alludes to undulating expanses of serene prairie and fallow farmland. The tranquility is interrupted by a rupture, referencing the ecological violence of resources being wrested from the ground—by a large-scale portrait of our son, Levee—an impulsive act impacting landscape, wildlife, and geology alike. The piece is the clearest acknowledgement to date that our choice to grow and root our family has unperceived, far-reaching consequences that we must work to offset to earn our joyful, if uncertain future.

The large works in this exhibition appropriately describe the vast depth of humanity’s shared ecological imprint, and the monumental effort needed to change our ways to diminish future impact. We wish to thank LHUCA for hosting this exhibition. The Center’s impressive dimensions—a microcosm of all of Texas!—reinforces the scale of our task at hand.

The lasting viability of Earth, and humanity’s threat to that vitality, is a driving force behind our work. Much of the art we currently create is an acknowledgement of our complicity in ecological waste and destruction. These works provide a garish reminder of how our growing family, and the creature comforts that go with it, have a negative impact on the environment. We employ printmaking and traditional craft media to discuss how conventional notions of family, domesticity, and success affect our behavior as consumers and planetary neighbors. To practice what we preach, we use green methods and reused materials whenever possible. For example, all the material employed in the fiber works has been recycled or repurposed from various sources.

While the work could be read as thematically negative, it is both an indictment and celebration of our domestic bliss. Recent collaborations deal explicitly with the joys and trials of toddlerhood. The toddler metaphor is particularly apt as our society, which obviously needs to be changed, seems to be backsliding; we are less likely to share, more likely to throw a fit! The vibrant colors and bold shapes should evoke the garish effects of our mayhem on the planet as we extract, abuse, consume, and pollute. They also reference the thankfully exhaustible energy of the child, and the reserve of energy discovered by the parents during naps and cuddle time. To extend the family/environmental metaphor even further, parents/citizens must be diligent as we follow behind—cleaning up messes and teaching better habits—to preserve a happy home. The future is uncertain, and anxiety is the norm, but this work should evoke a feeling of comfort in our discomfort, hope in our hopelessness.