Art exhibition uses clothing as a catalyst for storytelling

We use clothing to cover our bodies and express our personal style, but our closets are also full of stories about ourselves and others.

That’s the idea behind a summer art workshop at Wichita State taught by Vladimir Ramos, a Peruvian artist and educator, and Dr. Lori Santos, WSU associate professor of art education. 

“In the life of a piece of clothing, there are multiple miniature stories we don’t usually pay attention to,” Ramos said. “We asked students to use their piece of clothing to reflect on a personal narrative. Once it’s turned into an art object, it allows others to connect with that story.”

The resulting student work is part of “From Lima to Wichita: Intercultural Dialogues in Clothing & Paint,” an exhibition at ShiftSpace, WSU’s student-run gallery. An opening reception will take place from 6–9 p.m. July 2 as part of Wichita’s First Friday gallery crawl.
Shelly Salley, a photography teacher at East High School, contributed work to the exhibition. She chose an East High polo shirt she purchased with her first paycheck and immediately stained with developer. Salley combined the shirt collar with other fabric to form a vessel that reflects her feelings about teaching. 

“Many of the stories have a lot of energy behind them,” Ramos said. “It’s even more interesting because we have such a diverse group, including students who are very young and those who are more experienced.” 

The workshop and exhibition reflect the WSU art education program’s emphasis on culture and community. 

“Intellectually, we understand that other people live and think differently than we do,” Santos said. “But sometimes it’s not real to us until we’re confronted with it. Working with artists from outside the U.S. gives students access to other ways of knowing, other ways to create.” 

In addition to conducting one-on-one critiques with students, Ramos delivered lectures on historical and contemporary Peruvian artists as well as the cultural traditions of his country’s diverse people.

“From Lima to Wichita” also includes works by the workshop’s leaders, who met on Santos’ first trip to Lima. In 2019, she returned to Peru with four WSU students to work on a collaborative mural as part of her Puzzle Peace Pledge Project (4PEACE). That fall, Ramos made his first trip to Wichita. 

Both artist-educators plan to continue their intercultural collaboration. Ramos hopes to return to Wichita next year to organize a community art project, and Santos would like to take students back to Peru. 

“From Lima to Wichita” will be on view 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday–Friday through July 30 at ShiftSpace, which is located inside Groover Labs at 334 N. St. Francis. It includes works by Levi Barton, Debbi Diver-Kaiser, Haley Ensz, Alejandra Guzman, Lydia Humphreys, Vladimir Ramos, Bishop Rice, Shelly Salley, Lori Santos, Brenda Vargas and Traci Walker.