I create large geometric sculptures from carefully folded and stacked second-hand clothing. I sort the garments by hue, color, value, or intensity and arrange them to create patterns and gradients.
As clothing wears, fades, stains and stretches, it becomes an intimate record of our physical presence. I believe that clothing holds energy and carries a trace of the person who wore it. As the sculptures grow and the layers of clothing accumulate, the individual garments are compressed into a single mass. This symbolic gesture explores the ambiguity between the need to be an individual and the need to belong.
The clothing used for these works is folded to precise dimensions, stacked to minimize gaps and arranged to create visual harmony. Careful attention is paid to the ordering of the garments with even transitions in hue or the relative lightness/darkness. In some works, the sequencing is determined by the way clothing is typically layered on the body and/or material characteristics such as the texture, pattern or thickness.
For me, the process of sorting, folding and stacking the individual garments adds a layer of meaning to the finished piece. When I come across a dress with a hand-sewn repair, a coat with a name written inside the collar or a garment that reminds me of someone I know, the work starts to feel like a collective portrait. As the layers of clothing accumulate, the individual garments are compressed into a single mass, a symbolic gesture that explores the conflicted space between society and the individual, a space that is ceaselessly broken and re-constituted.
Through these processes, I hope to engage the viewer and communicate the emotional resonance of second hand clothing.
“I consider Melander a colourist working in the abstract expressionist offshoots of colour field and hard edge work…It is in the stacking that his joyful colour work is created. Using no dye, and relying on the range of colours that have been in the fashion market, his selection and placement of colour is simply brilliant. The work changes in colour as you look up across and around the corners of the cube, going from dark at the bottom, anchoring the work to the floor on which it sits, drifts in layers of dark to light to dark again, with swirls and diagonal shifts of colour that are as complex and subtle as a Turner landscape.”
– Joe Lewis, Artyst, London, England, May 13, 2015
“The largest and most physically impressive sculpture in the show, six-foot-tall, neatly squared and color-spectrumed columns of used clothing called “The Painful Spectacle of Finding Oneself,” is by Derick Melander, you have to stop yourself from nodding in mute acknowledgement.”
– Dan Bischoff, The Star Ledger, NJ, February 9, 2012
“Soterios Johnson, regarding Q4 at the Queens Museum: “What stood out for you?” Carolina Miranda: “There were a number of pieces, a tower by Derick Melander made out of used folded clothing…He creates color diagrams out of old clothes and through the process of the show he’s going to be making a second tower from clothing that people bring to the museum…I think it really gets at this whole idea of using found objects, using things that might be cast-off and giving them another life.”
– Carolina Miranda/Soterios Johnson, NPR/WNYC Newsroom, January 27, 2009
“Derick Melander surprises with a stunning circular sculpture made of stacks of folded secondhand clothing. It raises, in my mind, all kinds of questions about affluence, idealism, social mobility – the kind of things that clothes signify in our culture.”
– Benjamin Genocchio, The New York Times, January 1, 2006
“The painstakingly folded and architecturally stacked works of Derick Melander form ramparts, coliseums, and rubble in a separate alcove of the exhibition. Melander’s accompanying preparatory drawings suggest plans for structures made of stone and logs. But when his plans are fleshed out, they are tenderly, interdependently built instead from cast-off clothing. For Melander, these building components are amassed surrogates for society.
-Deborah McLeod, Baltimore City Paper, December 13, 2006
“Possibly the iconic work of the show is Derick Melander’s “Grasp II,” a partially open circle comprised of layers of stacked clothing over six feet high. Peaks of denim, argyle, stripes and straps can be seen in an effort to express the dynamics of social networks and to define boundaries within relationships. Given the size and character of this sculpture, along with its ability to interact with the viewer, it commands a captivating presence within the art space.”
– Geraldine E. Vincent, The Two River Times, December 23, 2005