Cultured Magazine

June/July 2015

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Artist Tanya Aguiñiga—a self-described "maker"—weaves contemporary art and design together in a way that makes them seem like old friends. Her work seamlessly flows from textile-based sculpture to dyed-rope bracelets to felt-covered folding chairs to relational performances. There's a sense of tactility to everything, a textured fuzziness that makes her world inviting and gentle. But the many-threaded nature of her work wasn't always so easily achieved. After studying furniture design at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), Aguiñiga moved to Los Angeles, where she worked as an assistant on a DIY Network furniture design TV show before winning a grant, which enabled her to start a design studio in her garage. Now, she runs a studio stuffed full of textiles in the Atwater Village area of Northeast L.A. Still, she grimaces when describing the design-heavy nature of her beginnings. "My early work was kind of between industrial design and Etsy—before Etsy happened," she says. "Little by little, the art side started to creep in. Now, I'm letting myself play, and not be so strict with the categories that people place on me. I am whatever you need me to be." This openness has led to a unique career that has seen her show at such divergent places as Reform, a mostly mid-century furniture gallery in L.A., and Volume Gallery, a modern design gallery in Chicago, where she exhibited a show called "Mothering the Form" earlier this year. Filled with mysterious sculptures, massive tattered wall hangings, bulbous cradles made of copper-coated rope, fantastical alpaca hair–embedded pottery and animistic tables, the show was a mixture of myth and form. "I was thinking about the 'Popol Vuh,'" says Aguiñiga, who was born in Tijuana, Mexico. "It's a Mayan creation myth; it's weird and Surrealist. I think about it all the time. So I started attacking this show with Surrealist ideas of a creation myth, and the creation of things. I was dealing with being a new mom and all the weird stuff that happens to your brain and your body." Claire Warner, co-founder of Volume Gallery, first showed Aguiñiga's work in 2013. "She doesn't put a lot of emphasis on whether a piece is functional or not," says Warner, who co-owns the gallery with Sam Vinz. "That openness is an incredibly contemporary thought. She's making very conscious decisions, but the brilliant thing is that she's visceral and intuitive with her work." Gerard O'Brien, the owner and curator of Reform Gallery, agrees. He has worked with Aguiñiga since 2007. "Tanya is a maker in every sense of the word; she's a doer," he says. "The multidisciplinary approach to her work is what I was attracted to. I saw in her the same qualities that I saw in the best historical makers that I work with." Like O'Brien says, Aguiñiga is a doer: Currently, she is splitting her time between teaching in the Fiber Department at California State University on Long Beach, while working on a two-person show with painter Nancy Baker Cahill at Tinlark Gallery in L.A. and a tropical-themed group show for Gallery Diet in Miami in July, where she'll make a massive hammock to go with soft fruit-like piñatas. Soothe table (Provide) and Hold 3 at Volume Gallery; Aguiñiga with her installation from "Crossing the Line" at the Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles, "Little by little, the art side started to creep in. Now, I'm letting myself play, and not be so strict with the categories that people place on me." CULTURED 205

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