“You are what you wear” is frequently an overstatement (despite what my pants say about me, I am not about to do any yoga), but some clothing undoubtedly carries a deeper personal meaning—like military uniforms, for example. That's the idea behind Houston Center for Contemporary Craft’s upcoming installation. The museum is inviting members of the public to donate military uniforms and civilian clothing that artist Drew Cameron will turn into a handmade paper flag entitled 9.5 x 5: Houston. Cameron is one of three artist-veterans behind United by Hand, an HCCC exhibition paying tribute to veterans and raise awareness about war culture in the United States.
“Every veteran is a civilian,” says curator Kathryn Hall. “We have a tendency to want to divide people and recognize people as [veterans or civilians]. This is a way for us, especially through this installation, to come together and make a statement acknowledging we are all part of war culture.”
Community participation is crucial for this project, as it will be for other components of United by Hand. Hall encourages those interested in donating to bring one item of clothing with special meaning to them—natural fibers such as cotton, linen and hemp are strongly recommended. In addition to donating clothing, participants are welcome to contribute a note about a specific memory associated with their donation. These anecdotes will then be submitted to United by Hand artist Alicia Dietz for possible inclusion in her ongoing installation Collective Cadence, an archive of stories gathered from active-duty soldiers, veterans and their families.
On March 25, the day after he completes the paper flag, Cameron will also host a workshop where individuals can make their own paper and bring it home. The flag will be on display through the end of the exhibition on May 27—Memorial Day weekend.
Cameron served in the U.S. Army from 2000 to 2006. Deeply affected by his service in Iraq as a Field Artillery Soldier, he found catharsis through a family tradition: papermaking. In 2007, Cameron cut up his uniform and reconstituted it into paper. The product was titled You Are Not My Enemy. That same year he co-founded Combat Paper, an organization dedicated to transforming military uniforms into paper or paper-based artwork. Now, he and co-founder Drew Matott travel the country turning clothing into paper sheets which he calls “lineage fiber,” embuing them with stories, emotions and experiences.
Hall anticipates needing 20 pieces of each group of clothing for the installation. Any remaining civilian clothing will be donated to charity, while all military uniforms will be sent to Cameron for future Combat Paper projects. Donations can be dropped off at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft between now and March 1. More details can be found on HCCC's website.