I create large geometric configurations from carefully folded and stacked second-hand clothing. These structures take the form of wedges, columns, walls and enclosures, typically weighing between five hundred pounds and two tons. Smaller pieces directly interact with the surrounding architecture. Larger works create discrete environments.
As clothing wears, fades, stains and stretches it becomes an intimate record of our physical presence. It traces the edge of the body, defining the boundary between the individual and the outside world.
The clothing used for these works is folded to exact dimensions and attention is paid to the ordering of the garments. For example, the sequence can relate to the way we layer the clothing we wear or the clothing can be sorted by color, gender or by the order that it was received. Individual components are often connected together with shirt sleeves, pant legs and belts forming bridge-like appendages.
For me, the process of 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, or a coat with a name written inside the collar, 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, between the self and the outside world.
“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
“…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