The Shapes We Take by Rachel Breen
Exhibition Runs: November 14 – December 20, 2020
For the last seven years Rachel Breen’s work has examined the labor rights of garment workers, a nexus for many challenges of capitalism- globalization, climate crisis, racism, and labor abuse. The Shapes We Take is yet another chapter in Breen’s commitment to making visible, systems that are hard to comprehend and deeply entrenched. And this is a critical time to address the way multinational brands privilege profit over human rights and inform American consumers about our complicity in the way garment workers are treated.
Breen traveled to Bangladesh in 2015 to conduct research, interviewing survivors of the Rana Plaza Factory Collapse and meeting with union organizers. Outside of the numerous garment factories were huge mounds of fabric scraps – the negative spaces of our clothes. These scraps have become iconic symbols to Breen, “of our connection to the people who make our clothes.”
Her tool in this journey is the sewing machine, a deeply symbolic and practical object. The revolving needle of the sewing machine draws but also connects people to each other in the fact that most humans on the planet wear clothes made by this same tool. For The Shapes We Take Breen uses the lines created by the sewing machine and the fabric scraps she collected in Bangladesh to create abstracted supply chain maps. “In between our clothes and these fabric scraps are women, laboring in unsafe factories and grossly underpaid. It is through the complicated pathway of an invisible supply chain that our clothes connect us to the labor of these women. These works seek to make transparent the very opaque and complex system by which our clothes arrive to our bodies.”-Rachel Breen
Rachel Breen is a visual artist who works at the intersection of drawing, installation and public engagement. She has exhibited her work locally and nationally and is the recipient of four Minnesota State Arts Board grants, the Walker Art Center’s Open Field fellowship, and the 2019–2020 Jerome Hill Artist Fellowship. Rachel holds an MFA from the University of Minnesota and an undergraduate degree from The Evergreen State College. She is a Professor of Art at Anoka Ramsey Community College.