︎The Gold Divide

Photo by Maribeth Macaisa

The Gold Divide
In the courtyard at Massachusetts College of Art and Design.
April 16th to April 25th, 2013.
Gold crystal organza fabric, polyester thread, tarp lining,
grommets, galvanized aircraft cable, clamps and thimbles.
57' x 80’

During my senior year at Massachusetts College of Art and Design I created a large-scale installation called The Gold Divide. It was installed on April 16th, 2013.

I initially visualized The Gold Divide as a transparent wall, a large surface representing emotion and energy. The piece was inspired by my experiences studying abroad in Amsterdam, time spent at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, and the community at Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

It was a cumulation of things—like riding my bike through the city of Boston and seeing large construction netting wrapped around buildings that were being worked on. These large surfaces of material really triggered my fascination for creating something at an enormous scale. I was thinking about process, how something is made, and was intrigued by the idea of independently sewing four hundred yards of fabric on an industrial sewing machine. When it came to installing the piece I had the support and help of my community at MassArt, especially Kelsey Trottier, Howard Larosee, professors Judith Leemann and Ann Wessmann, the Performance and Cloth class, friends from the fibers and film departments, and MassArt facilities. 

I chose the gold crystal organza fabric because its color, lightness, and transparency reminded me of being in the sun while riding my bike through the city of Amsterdam. It was often cloudy or rainy, and when the sun came out it transformed the city. I felt very alive during those moments.

There is a connection in Dutch culture between visual and verbal transparency, and this inspired me to think about windows—connecting interior spaces with the outside world. Ultimately, the reason I chose to install The Gold Divide in the courtyard at MassArt was because it was connected by all the different windows, which would allow multiple perspectives and ways of seeing the piece.


Photo by Allison Disher

The scheduled installation date happened to be the day after the Boston Marathon bombings. The piece took on a new dimension that I couldn’t have predicted. The Gold Divide was such a contrast to the chaos in the city that it became a significant part in helping bring people together.

The installation moved and existed in the space like it was alive, interacting with the wind and the courtyard; it touched the ground, the walls, the sky, and the people. It was suspended between two buildings and measured fifty-seven feet high and eighty feet long. The movement and sound of the piece, at such a large scale, captivated onlookers.

I was interested in the concept of space and the changes that occur within a space over time. The Gold Divide naturally ripped in half, after the first day of install, into two large panels. This would later give me the opportunity to install half of The Gold Divide at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts.

Photo by Morgan Hale

The Gold Divide at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts.

In 2015, I was invited to participate in the Open Studio Residency at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Isle, ME. That was the first time I pulled out The Gold Divide as a performance piece in the environment. Over the next three years, I would continue to install the piece at Haystack with undergraduate students and alumni from Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

Each time the piece was activated in the environment it captured the exploration of material and its response to wind through human collaboration.

Collaborators: Open Studio Residency artists, 2015
Photo by Norah Emily

Collaborators: Mitch Shiles and Trevor King, 2015

Collaborators: MassArt undergraduate students, 2017

Collaborators: MassArt undergraduate students, 2017
Photo by Julia Zell

Collaborators: MassArt alumni, 2018

The Gold Divide at Monson Arts.

It has been a goal of mine to transform The Gold Divide into a sculptural weaving. In May 2019 I was given the opportunity to participate in a month-long residency at Monson Arts in Monson, ME. During this time I was able to experience The Gold Divide in an interior space. This residency gave me the time and place to start to disassemble and transform the piece.

I have completed the process of tearing the fabric by hand; each panel transformed into several strips of fabric. Each bundle of fabric measures the height of the initial installation. I chose linen for the main structure of the weaving because it is a strong natural material that compliments the synthetic gold fabric. I was intrigued by the repetitive process of winding the linen warp, tearing the fabric into strips, wrapping the fabric into separate bundles, setting up the loom, and weaving the fabric.

The Gold Divide has been a huge part of my life and I hope by transforming the piece into a tangible form, it would allow me to share it with others and create a proper ending.

Copyright 2019 Leah Medin