Artist Ian Berry is known for transforming denim scraps into artful masterpieces capturing topics like isolation and solitude—and now he’s paying homage to denim’s history with a project focused on pop culture icons that have influenced denim’s trajectory.
A denim influencer and 2019 Rivet 50 honoree himself, Berry has already created a total of 30 denim portraits of key influencers such as Marilyn Monroe, Steve McQueen, Brooke Shields and Clint Eastwood.
These portraits, as well as his previous works of art like a secret denim garden and Hotel California canvas, are currently being showcased in a solo exhibition entitled “Material World” at Sweden’s Textil Museet in Boras from now through May 1, 2022. The exhibit will continuously be updated to include more portraits as they’re made—a process Berry says takes around one week to complete.
To make the artwork, he uses worn denim and denim samples sent from mills and brands, with an inventory of more than 3,000 pieces of denim at his disposal. His final piece will be a culmination of all of the portraits to signify their collective impact on the material’s evolution.
“For me, the real art is the collection of all of the influencers—not the individuals,” he said.
In the meantime, Berry is calling on others throughout the industry to identify other denim figures to feature in the exhibit. Using an online survey on ianberry.org, the artist asks readers to nominate celebrities that have changed denim “from that of the workers in the fields and mines to everyday urban wear.”
Last year, Berry’s work was showcased in the home of Levi Strauss in Buttenheim, Germany at the Levi Strauss Museum.
“Denim is a fascinating material that spans history, and actually has been there at so many important cultural moments and subculture movements,” Berry said. “I think we can learn a lot from this material.”