Gary Markle, Shag Rag Rug, 1995. Synthetic carpet yarn, cloth strips of various fibers, 140 x 229 cm. Gift of the Artist 2007, Mount Saint Vincent University Collection.


Perhaps you feel it before you notice it; under your shoed foot, or in between your toes. Gary Markle’s Shag Rag Rug is voluminous, colourful, textured, and varied.

Gary wove this rug in 1995 as his thesis work for his Master of Fine Arts degree at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. The project began long before Gary started weaving, making the loom from scavenged materials he found along Halifax’s streets such as discarded 2 x 4s and old hockey sticks. Initially, he began to make a representational tapestry but pulled it off of the loom after a few weeks. When he began again, he let the process of making a free form rag rug and the domestic materials he was working with guide him. This way of working lifted the tight sense of preciousness that had felt stifling and allowed Gary to labour in a way that facilitated personal reflection, in-depth development of a personal textiles practice, and a sweet sense of community. As the project progressed, Gary fell into a pattern of working on the rug in the evenings and into the night, and as more and more friends became aware of this work schedule, they would drop in and hang out with him while he weaved. People began bringing Gary contributions for the rug: old clothing they no longer wore, a sweater belonging to an ex that someone didn’t want to throw away but couldn’t bear to keep, the favorite t-shirt of a recently passed away father, and so on.

Clothing and other intimate textiles are deep repositories for feelings and memories. The rug became a collection place for these sentimental and personal artefacts, serving as an affective archive. As a queer artist, Gary uses his artistic work and fashion production to reflect on the social form of textiles, the embodied nature of working with textiles, and the importance of social connectivity and cohesion that textiles can lend to individuals and groups. Beyond being a purely aesthetic artwork, the rug has so often served as a social object, from the intimate setting of a confessed secret tryst to the public site for several artistic performances that were part of Gary’s thesis work. It seems only fitting that Shag Rag Rug would ground the activity of the Living Room and lend the space its special magic.

– JH