The Art of Wearables

(Wearing / "Coat," 2019, unbraided worn rug sewn into a coat, rug remnant, 36" x 47" x 3”. Photo courtesy the artist.

The Arts Center at Duck Creek is opening “Elizabeth Duffy: Wearing,” an exhibition opening on September 18, with a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. and remaining on view through October 23.

In this exhibition, Elizabeth Duffy focuses on the repurposing of woven rag rugs, a tradition dating back to Colonial American culture.

“These rugs, made from moth-eaten coats, worn blankets and clothing, reveal the tread of humanity going about their daily lives,” Duffy said. “I unbraid each rug, then press and sew the strips into cloth. The unbraiding reveals a myriad hidden patterns and exuberant hues. Lines of dotted holes indicate the years of tread marks eroding the fabric. Leopard-like spots of dirt pressed into the exposed parts of the rugs reveal human movement through time…The process of making these is something like an excavation, uncovering what the rugs hide in between the braids, while admiring the craft and labor of each anonymous maker.”

“Wearing/Tent,” 2020, unbraided, pressed and sewn worn braided rugs, rug remnants, tent structure, stones, 85″ x 52″ x 41″. Photo courtesy the artist.

“Wearing: Tent” is the centerpiece of the exhibition, made in 2020 during the artist’s residency at Ucross Foundation in Wyoming. While hiking near Ucross, Duffy observed the remnants of tipi rings, patterns of stones left by indigenous people in the High Plains. The braided rugs and tipi spoke to her fascination with home and security, both vestiges of communities and their histories. Shortly before the residency was cut short due to the pandemic, she fashioned a tent out of rug remnants, pitching in on a nearby bluff. The work speaks “about displacement, humility, and getting by at a time when everything felt upended and off-kilter.”

Elizabeth Duffy has exhibited her work at the Drawing Center, the RISD Museum, the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, White Columns, Wave Hill, and DM Contemporary. She has held residencies at the Bogliasco Foundation in Italy, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, the Sirius Art Centre in Cobh, Ireland, VCCA, Jentel, and Ucross. She is the recipient of awards from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Pollock Krasner Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. In 2019, she was the receipt of multiple grants from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts in both sculpture and craft.

The Arts Center at Duck Creek is at 127 Squaw Road, East Hampton. Gallery hours are Thursday to Sunday from 2 to 6 p.m. and by appointment. For details, visit