At PlatteForum, refashioning Kevlar into intimate looks

Erika Diamond's “Escape/Run, Hide, Fight” is open through May 31. Photos by Tasha Feichtinger.

This week at PlatteForum, the artwork is just as safe as the bunker-like Temple building that houses the nonprofit gallery in RiNo. Immediately upon walking in, visitors are greeted by large airplane safety instructions woven into tapestry form. These wall hangings are intricate and surprising — yet they are not the true star of the show.

In her new exhibition, Erika Diamond puts her full costuming talents on display. “Escape/Run, Hide, Fight” includes a series of Kevlar vests, each individually crafted to represent a queer individual who has impacted the artist in a deeply personal way.

Erika Diamond uses Kevlar, the stuff of bullet-proof vests, as her raw material.

Each piece displayed is a showcase of Diamond’s skill with textiles. Kevlar, the choice of material for SWAT teams everywhere, seems to be the very definition of uniformity. Despite this, Diamond molds the unyielding fabric into wildly original works of art. Each carefully crafted vest is a nuanced and loving portrait of an individual. In The Spider Vest, for instance, she wove the fibers together into a golden lace-like pattern at the top, only to let them flow freely down the length of the wall. Far from a clunky bulletproof vest, the garment allows us insight into the soul of a dear friend, letting us experience their elegant complexity as the artist does.

Diamond occupies our attention with the garments, nearly letting us forget the material. Yet, by crafting with the famous bulletproof fabric, she reminds us of the threats that face the queer community. The 21st century has allowed LGBTQ+ individuals more free expression than before in recent history, but they are still haunted by a certain vulnerability.

Political thought in the 21st century is not as quiet as it once was. Technology has given it a loud voice. Queer communities are constantly prodded — they have little choice but to respond. Attacks that hit the core of identity give individuals only three options; escape, hide, or fight back. While showing off her artistic prowess, Diamond does not let us forget this fact. The

A detail of “The Robert Tie.”

attracts attention from the lineup with its yellow color and deviance from the vest shape. Diamond does not let this natural gaze go to waste — she embroiders yet another reminder of her message through stick figures. In fact, this series of tiny men precisely illustrate the title of the exhibit: Escape/Run, Hide, Fight.

While Diamond is fluent in tackling concepts of justice, she also offers a critique of that discussion itself. In art, we have come to expect certain topics to be placed in their neat little categories. “Queer Art” is supposed to be politically active and broadly societal- we have come to expect things to tell us about the community at large. Ideas, in turn, become starkly abstract.

This series strikes a beautiful balance between activism and personal identity. Using Kevlar vests, she chooses to discuss monumental themes through the intimate lens of personal expression. Amidst a sea of political commentary, this exhibit reminds us that we often forget the most important thing in politics: the people themselves.

The Spider Vest.

 

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