Mission textile artist Rachelle Gardner-Roe exhibiting wool artwork from family sheep farm

“Portal” is Mission artist Rachelle Gardner-Roe’s new exhibit that debuts Friday, Oct. 4. Photo courtesy of Rachelle Gardner-Roe

Mission artist Rachelle Gardner-Roe is showcasing some of her latest work at an exhibition this Saturday.

The multimedia artist — who was commissioned for the “Art on the line” project with the Kansas City streetcar a few years back — finds herself immersed in textile work as of late.

This weekend’s show, titled “Portal,” is a textile-based exhibit that will be an extension and counterpoint of Gardner-Roe’s most recent solo show in June at the Bunker Center for the Arts in Kansas City.

Rachelle Gardner-Roe. Photo submitted

“For me, it made some sense to have them really be connected, and yet they’re very, very different,” she said.

In the new show, her artwork is shaped in a three-dimensional dome that comes out from the wall so that viewers could also immerse themselves in her work.

“One of the things I like about this type of work is… I put so much into it that you can keep looking at something and find something new each time,” she said, adding that this exhibit is intricate and detail-oriented.”

Her soft wool textile work at the exhibition this weekend is in the same vein as her previous solo show, which incorporated metal laced work of muted tones, brass, iron and copper with patina.

“A lot of the imagery is the same, a lot of flora and fauna native to our region or that I grew up with,” Gardner-Roe said. “But in this case, it’s getting away from the muted tones. Everything is going to be an explosion of color from the hand-dyed wools.”
She hopes viewers get lost in the colors and “come away with questions” that get them thinking even after visiting her exhibition.

The wool from this weekend’s show came straight from the sheep off her family farm outside of Adrian, Missouri, a fact that garners a lot of pride for the artist.

“At the end of the day, it’s not just my hands in the work,” she said. “My parents raised the sheep, sheared the sheep, taken care of them year after year. So this material, it’s not just my hand in it, but it’s also the labor and energy of my family.

Rachelle Gardner-Roe shears sheep with her mother. Photo credit Dr. Michael Gardner

“It’s multiple generations in a single work, and that’s not something that you can see, but it’s always something that I’m really interested in artwork, is the physical energy and the intention that goes into it.”

Gardner-Roe said she learned the skill of working with wool from her mother.

“I always like the idea of generational knowledge being passed down from woman to woman,” she said. “Initially, me really diving into textiles did have a lot to do with the fact that I just had all this access to material and equipment to do some of this stuff. It was a meandering path that led me to really get obsessed with it.”

She also feels more connected to the wool material itself because she helped her parents raise the sheep, making her a firsthand witness of the process “from cradle to grave.”

“This is actually something that most artists don’t see in terms of material,” she said. “It’s fascinating. It gives me a real appreciation for the material, and a real respect for it as well. In some cases, I actually know the name of the animal that my material came from.”

Gardner-Roe’s show debuts today, Oct. 4 from 6 to 9 p.m. at Leedy-Voulkos Arts Center, 2012 Baltimore Ave., Kansas City, Missouri. The exhibit continues through Nov. 20. Another reception takes place from 6 to 9 p.m. Nov. 1. Both First Friday receptions are open to the public. The Leedy-Voulkos Art Center’s regular gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.