Textile Museum Profile: Trang Tan

NOW Digital Residency: Textile Museum of Canada

As part of this month’s Textile Museum of Canada Digital Residency, we’re profiling a number of artists and professionals associated with the museum and wider community. See all of the profiles here.

What’s your connection to the Textile Museum? 

Through Young Canada Works, I worked as a curatorial assistant at the Textile Museum for two seasons. 

What do you do in your industry? 

I am a researcher and academic currently based in New York. I work within disciplines of architecture, design and visual arts. 

In your opinion, how can textiles tell stories? 

A textile is a medium that encompasses material, colour, texture and history almost like no other. Its ability to be transformed into both an object of utility and art simultaneously allows it to symbolize a history that surrounds both its maker and its user in an intimate way. The process in which a textile comes to life can carry with it an entire narrative of material access, geographical location, climate and vernacular techniques.

What’s your favourite place in Toronto to do some creative thinking?

Though I like to be surrounded by nature and the outdoors, creative thinking is the most productive for me when I am inside an enclosed space like a coffee shop or library, and preferably surrounded by people and drowned out by conversation and music. I think it is something that happened as a result of fighting for desk space at Robarts Library during my undergrad. 

A number of the Textile Museum’s exhibitions showcase ancient creative techniques adapted for contemporary contexts. What do you think we can learn by engaging with art from the past in this way? 

Textiles are a universal medium, in that they touch almost everyone and are experienced everyday. Looking into the history of textiles and artists’ techniques allows us to witness a material that that many people encounter. It is crucial that the documentation of these techniques and objects is shared and understood so that visitors are able to make connections and relate to these objects and techniques in their own way. 

So much of our attention is drawn to the digital and virtual possibilities of art. Can you explain what role textiles play in your day-to-day life?

My parents are tailors and have a store that also sells fabrics. This brick-and-mortar experience is one that I grew up with, and will always have a strong relationship to. Textiles are something that I come across a lot in my own research interests as a material that is seen in a lot of design and architecture. I always find it interesting that a physical model or prototype that has a textile will always speak to me more than a digital rendering that cannot replicate the tactile texture of a textile … at least for now. 

Name one artist of any discipline and any era who never ceases to inspire you.

Currently I am very inspired by Erin M. Riley. She a textile-based artist practising in New York and she makes large-scale tapestries that are socially and politically relevant. We have the same floor loom – of course hers is double in size! I must also say that Barbara Bloom is my all time favourite contemporary artist! 

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