Ari Tabei, image courtesy of

Ari Tabei, image courtesy of

We wouldn’t be surprised if Ari Tabei is a distant relative of The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe. But instead of a shoe this quirky performance artist lives in a swaddled cocoon of fabric. Well not really lives in it, but her Japanese-inspired designs sure are reminiscent portable homes, like shoes, if you really could live in shoes.

Yesterday, Tabei put on a show in Rebecca & Drew’s West Village shirt shop. The petite artist enveloped herself in a 50-pound kimono made up of
thousands of miniscule scraps of cloth. No small task for this
five-foot-four lady!

Tabei was the winner of the 2009 Sprout Emerging Artist Competition, which
recognizes and showcases up and coming artistic talent. The grand prize‹ was a
show at Rebecca & Drew. Tabei did not disappoint onlookers with her
intricate artwork.

Tabei’s dresses, robes, and skirts are fashioned out of fragments of fabric,
tissue paper, bits of plastic and even broken eggshells. Her work makes a
statement far beyond shock value; it finds and expresses the ability of
fashion to transform societal ideas of current style norms.

“I make garments and bags to create nests that are like my own home, my own
world. These function as cocoons for me, to heal and nourish myself so that
I regain strength to survive when I emerge from them,” explains Tabei in her
artist statement found at A.I.R. Gallery.

Tabei consistently challenges the current views on fashion  particularly,
how clothes cannot only alter our appearances, but also, our internal
experiences. She uses traditional Japanese garments such as the kimono as
inspiration for her vivid exhibits and installations. “They’re like cocoons,
coddling and protective,” notes Tabei. “When I’m inside, I nourish myself,
and then when I get out, it’s like I’ve transformed.” Tabei’s past
performances have been held at galleries such as New York City’s
A.I.R. and Williamsburg’s Sideshow.

Art is perhaps most effective when it lends us the power to exceed our
personal experiences. Tabei’s wild and unexpected work pushes the envelope
of the social regard of community and the opportunity to be transformed and
healed by visual works. And not to mention, it’s just pretty damn cool.

Tabei was born in Tokyo, but now lives in the artist friendly borough of
Brooklyn, NY.

-Cora Nijhawan

Ari Tabei, image courtesy of

Ari Tabei, image courtesy of

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