Prayer rugs are the subject of a new exhibition called Sanctuary presented by the San Francisco arts non-profit For-Site. The show, which runs through March at the Fort Mason Centre for Arts and Culture, features work by 36 contemporary artists (including Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei, Palestinian mixed-media artist Mona Hatoum and African-American conceptualist Hank Willis Thomas). All the rugs were hand woven in Lahore, Pakistan.
The conception of the exhibit originally was focused on artists from the six Muslim-majority countries on Trump’s travel ban, but the list eventually expanded to include artists from Botswana, Syria, Mexico, and 17 other countries, and thus made it an interfaith event. The exhibit encourages visitors to remove their shoes and walk across, sit on or even lie on the rugs. According to Cheryl Haines, executive director of the non-profit, this is way of “making oneself more vulnerable to the ideas—just the very act of exposing that part of their body to experience the work.”
Ms. Haines says the artists were given relative freedom in subject matter and composition. “We really did not edit the content of any of the works, and when you see the multiplicity of approaches and ideas, it’s clear that many of the designs have a highly personal significance.” She says that the foundation is hoping to take the exhibit on the road, so that other communities can be exposed to the themes of the show. “Not just on the coast, not just in the blue states. In places where this will really spark conversation.”