Mesmerizing “Rainbow Art” is Taking Over Museums & Instagram

Gabriel Dawe creates seemingly magical, indoor rainbows that stretch between the inner structures of buildings. His works are visual representations of the full spectrum of natural light, harnessed by stretching and layering miles of colored embroidery thread in a continuous overlay.

The effect is ethereal and illusory, like a shimmering mirage that distorts perceptions. They have inspired awe in audiences around the globe, and have even been said to induce a feeling of vertigo when encountered in person.

Both Images: Plexus No. 19 at Villa Olmo, Como, Italy. Photo: Gabriel Dawe.

Mexican born, 42 year-old Dawe has been creating these rainbow ‘Plexus’ installations for nearly 10 years. In this time, he has developed a rigorous process for their construction. Each rainbow is precisely designed for the room that will contain it. That room could be anything from a stairwell, to an airport lounge, a museum, a gallery, or an office building.

He uses computer software to create the sketched plans for his installations, but doesn’t use any kind of computer-generated algorithm or design software to plan their shapes. When in the space, Dawe works in a very particular order, carefully stretching the threads in layers.

Plexus No.3. Photo: Kevin Todora.

The Plexus installations explore the connection between fashion and architecture, and how both relate to a human’s need for shelter. Dawe explained to My Modern Met:

“Buildings and clothing both have the function of sheltering. But then when you use the material of the clothing on an architectural scale, you lose that physical sheltering quality, but it gets transformed into this very childlike quality. It becomes like a sheltering of the soul in that way.”

Charts for Plexus 15. Photo: Gabriel Dawe.

Details of Plexus 10. Photo: Electric Egg.

The inspiration for Dawe’s work can be traced back to his childhood, growing up in Mexico city. He recalls being scorned for wanting to learn to embroider like his grandmother, who would teach his sister but not him. She insisted that sewing was for girls and not boys.

As he grew older, he realized he could learn this skill if he wanted to – that gendered ridicule couldn’t stop him. Dawe began to make textile work that challenged patriarchy and the complex constructions of gender, identity and masculinity in his native Mexico.

Plexus No. 12. Photo: Carlo.

Color is an important aspect of Dawe’s work. He uses the many hues to subvert society’s narrow view of gender and identity. He describes tolerance as the ’embodiment of joy’, and enjoys the fact that all the different parts come together to ‘form a unity’.

Clearly Dawe’s work speaks to a lot of people. He has been exhibited across the US, Mexico, Netherlands, Italy, Belgium, Canada and the UK.

Plexus A1 at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Photo: Ron Blunt.

Nicholas Bell, a curator for the Smithsonian American Art Museum says of his work:

“You’re completely beholden to it. It’s just you and the object, (the viewer) is so captivated that the rest of the world falls away.” – Nicholas Bell for Smithsonian Magazine.

When a Plexus work is dismantled, Gabriel collects the used threads into clear boxes. They become new artworks calls Relics. He explained to Yatzer that this ”gives the work a second life… from the ethereal to the dense.”

Relics. Photo: Gabriel Dawe.


See more of Dawe’s work at

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