clò mòr: Exhibit by Carl Stewart
In early 2015 images circulated around the world showing Islamic State militants in northern Iraq executing men accused of committing homosexual acts. The bound and blindfolded men were taunted, beaten, taken to the top of a 100 foot building then pushed to their deaths.
As horrendous as these brutal killings by Islamic State are, we would do well to remember that there are currently 66 countries around the world, some with legitimate, democratically elected governments, where homosexuality is against the law with penalties ranging from fines to incarceration to execution.
Fabric is fundamental in the making of culture and identity. From fabric we can fashion what we need, create what we want, and define who we are. The gift of a piece of fabric is a gift imbued with possibility. The gift of a piece of hand-woven fabric is an extension of the hand. A hand extended in support, hope and love.
clò mòr is Scottish Gaelic for the great cloth. The symbolism embodied in clò mòr speaks to the interconnectedness of our shared humanity and the responsibility we have to respect, defend and care for one another.
To weave is to unite. And in that spirit of unity and solidarity I have created my own clò mòr, 66 unique pieces of hand-woven fabric, one for each country where homosexuality is criminalized. The national flag of each of these 66 countries serves as inspiration for the colour, proportions and pattern of the fabric.
clò mòr, references Scottish estate tweeds, fabrics originally designed as camouflage a striking metaphor for how members of the LGBTQ+ communities in these 66 countries must, out of self-preservation, hide in plain sight, blend in, and pass, for all intents and purposes, as heterosexual.
Unlike Tartans which are intended to be worn only by members of a specific clan or family wherever they may be in the world, estate tweeds were intended to be worn by people who live and work in the same area regardless of familial ties.
The inclusion of yarns hand-dyed with dyestuffs from my landscape, from my home, anchors the work and creates a bridge, a safe passage, from that place to this place and with an extended hand we say, “you are welcome here and you are one of us.”
During the executions if the men did not die upon impact with the ground, and even if they did, the crowds that gathered to watch the executions were encouraged to come forward and stone the men with rocks provided by the militants.
When a piece of weaving is removed from the loom there is always an amount of yarn left on the loom that cannot be woven. This unwoven yarn has been used to create càrn, a collection of needle-felted stones, a companion work to each of the 66 fabrics in clò mòr.
Canada Council for the Arts
Fibre Art Now
Ontario Arts Council