Lushly evocative, mural-scale, and hand-tufted, Alexandra Kehayoglou’s wall-hung wool carpets depict the vegetation and landscapes of specific sites to call attention to local environmental issues with global implications. In recent works, she renders the locations of controversial proposed dam projects in her native Argentina that could put the terrain in peril. In another installation, she represents the endangered lands of indigenous Patagonia tribes. More personal in theme and contemplative in tone, Kehayoglou’s tapestry Shelter for a memory II (2015) was a highlight of “Prizing Eccentric Talents II,” an exhibition of mostly young Greek artists, recently on view at PET Projects in Athens, organized by artist Angelo Plessas and curator George Bekirakis. The piece hung partly on the wall from a height of some seven feet and extended several more feet across the gallery floor.
Of Greek heritage, Kehayoglou established a studio in the Paraná wetlands in Argentina during the pandemic and has since moved to Athens; Shelter for a memory II depicts the garden of her childhood home in Buenos Aires. Green clusters of foliage on the wall are interrupted toward the center by a tan passage suggesting a footpath. Richly nuanced details in the section on the floor include patches of wool strands several inches tall indicating grasses, moss, and shrubs. These sculptural forms contrast with the more illusionistic pictorial feel and flatweave look of the wall-hung portion, made with shorter strands of wool.
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The work is not intended to convey a sense of urgency to protect a place, unlike her aforementioned projects. It suggests instead an urge to preserve the image of a much more intimately familiar landscape—a garden that still exists but differs from the fanciful childhood memory the artist imparts with this piece. Kehayoglou’s process is slow and arduous, and the work’s scale nears life-size; viewers are in fact invited to walk or sit on the floor sections. The artist creates here a simulacrum of nature not unlike the Tappeto-Natura by Arte Povera artist Piero Gilardi. While both artists achieve a level of verisimilitude, in Shelter for a memory II, Kehayoglou presents a more opulent view: This is her Eden.