Gabriel Dawe, thread, embroidery, embroidery art, thread art, thread installation, Plexus, Plexus by Gabriel Dawe, Plexus A1 by Gabriel Dawe, Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum, site specific artwork, site specific installation,

The prismatic artwork pops against the Renwick’s 19th-century white gallery room and shimmers in the daylight like a mirage. Dawe’s artwork was created as part of an ongoing series called “Plexus”—a term for the intricate and weblike network of vessels or nerves in the body—and is his largest thread installation yet. Plexus A1 represents the full spectrum of natural light, from magenta to red, using 60 miles of thread in 15 different colors. The threads span the floor to ceiling in repeating overlays.

Gabriel Dawe, thread, embroidery, embroidery art, thread art, thread installation, Plexus, Plexus by Gabriel Dawe, Plexus A1 by Gabriel Dawe, Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum, site specific artwork, site specific installation,

Related: This room is adorned with 5,000 insects arranged in exquisite patterns

“[Plexus] was the perfect name because it not only refers to the connection of the body with its environment, but it also relates directly to the intricate network of threads forming the installation itself, and to the tension inherent in the thread, vibrating with an almost tangible luminosity,” writes Dawe. “Plexus evokes the intrinsic order within the apparent chaos that exists in nature. A hidden codification breaks through, piercing our daily perceptions, seeming to create both matter and the immaterial with colorful rays of light.”

Gabriel Dawe, thread, embroidery, embroidery art, thread art, thread installation, Plexus, Plexus by Gabriel Dawe, Plexus A1 by Gabriel Dawe, Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum, site specific artwork, site specific installation,

The site-specific installation was meticulously planned out in advance with the help of computer software. Though the gallery space’s long and narrow footprint proved a challenge, Dawe managed to give Plexus A1 a great sense of depth. From afar, the artwork appears to comprise two rainbow “planes” that begin from opposite sides of the room, twist in shape, and then intersect one another before reaching the ceiling. The rainbow layers are made up of multiple layers of thread attached to tiny metal hooks. The installation took 10 days to complete.

Gabriel Dawe, thread, embroidery, embroidery art, thread art, thread installation, Plexus, Plexus by Gabriel Dawe, Plexus A1 by Gabriel Dawe, Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum, site specific artwork, site specific installation,

Related: Gabriel Dawe’s Dynamic Colored Thread Sculptures Imitate Prisms of Light

Dawe’s Plexus series draws inspiration from the memories of the skies of Mexico City and East Texas, as well as his desire to subvert social constructs of gender. His exploration of embroidery was partly born from a frustration stemming from childhood, when his grandmother forbade him from learning crafts traditionally associated with women.

Gabriel Dawe, thread, embroidery, embroidery art, thread art, thread installation, Plexus, Plexus by Gabriel Dawe, Plexus A1 by Gabriel Dawe, Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum, site specific artwork, site specific installation,

On his work, Dawe writes: “The fineness of the thread makes these installations ethereal, almost immaterial, yet not, almost disappearing to the eye and leaving a color haze behind. This color mist alludes to a symbolic quest to materialize light, to give it density, so that I can offer the viewer an approximation of things otherwise inaccessible to us- a glimmer of hope that brings us closer to the transcendent, to show that there can be beauty in this messed up world we live in. Light is composed of the different colors of the spectrum. Here, it also comes to symbolize unity and wholeness.”

+ Gabriel Dawe

Lead image via Conduit Gallery © Ron Blunt, watermarked images © Lucy Wang