Beauty In The Eye of The Beholder – The Embroidery Work of Hannalie Taute

South-African artist, Hannalie Taute’s contemporary take on embroidery happens on rubber stitched together from discarded inner tubes. Her work is dark and edgy.  I can only think of words I would not use to describe it, like: sedate, subtle, or delicate.  The faces stitched into the abandoned materials scream at you from their tough leather looking exteriors – this is not your grandmother’s embroidery.

I’m a fan of Taute’s work.  She master’s the askew – doming it under bell jars, framing it in silver serving plates, leaving threads to dangle out of her stitching, letting the danger seep into our realm.  I find it difficult to look away from her strangely beautiful things.

As time drew closer for me to call Hannalie for our interview, I imagined a husky sounding woman picking up, morosely explaining her work to me.  All of that dreaming, fell completely out of context when this sweet-sounding mother, who admits she sometimes patterns her work after pop culture offerings, greeted me with a cheerful ‘Hello’.

What we assume is not always so.  Hannalie owns many expressions of her personality which allow her to evolve creatively.  Just like embroidery is composed of more than feminine linens stitched with sweet sayings for butts to sit on.

Before we get started, Hannalie apologetically warns me that Afrikaans is her first language, so the interview might get a bit rocky.  She mentions this after we have gushed on about The Little Prince, Minecraft and an Andy Warhol penis.

I think she did just fine…

This is the first time I have seen embroidery on rubber. To your knowledge, are there any other artists that work with this material?

Hannalie: I know that there is another South African artist, Nicholas Hlobo – part of my inspiration. He works with rubber as well, but he uses it differently.  He takes ribbon and rubber, and makes sculpture & abstract works – but he doesn’t embroider per say. He works with the medium, but I said to myself, ‘I can get a lot of artists that use oil paint, and each one would employ it differently.  I can use rubber as well, but make it my own.’

It is a lovely medium to work with. Even though I’m inspired by his use of rubber, our process and concept is very different.

That is what’s lovely about inspiration; that spark you can spin into something else.

On average, how long does it take you to complete a piece? I want people to get a sense of how labor intensive your work is.

My huge wall hangings can take up to six months. A smaller work, like the one I sent for the STITCHED show at Paradigm Gallery took about 2 months – that includes sourcing the rubber, cutting the rubber, cleaning the rubber, stitching and framing the piece.

 

What a process … How do you prime the rubber to then begin working with it?

I get it in a tube from the company. Some companies just throw them away, so I go and collect them.  I wash, dry, and polish them before I draw on them.  I don’t have an assistant at the moment, so I do everything myself.

 

Woah.

Yeah.

 

Creep(er) embroidery on rubber, 2017  – now on display at Paradigm Gallery for the STITCHED group show. | Taute explains how Creep(er) self-portrait came to be: “Minecraft is a computer game and my children play it a lot. Apart from Zombies and Skeletons, one can also encounter a ‘Creeper’, and they normally explode. A Creeper can be recognized by its tall vertical structure, and green pixellated skin. I can relate to their need to explode, so I decided to embroider a self-portrait wearing a ‘creeper’ jacket, but instead of holding dynamite or some sort of explosive, I decided to embroider an Andy Warhol inspired-penis.”

 

I’m curious, are you constantly bending your needles trying to pull your thread through the rubber?

I’ve broken a couple of needles…the rubber is not that tough, its’ softer than leather actually. So I don’t need to make my holes beforehand, the needle goes straight through.  I’m struggling to work with fabric at the moment because I’m used to the thickness of the rubber.

How long have you been working with this medium?

I started in 2012 – so a short while ago.  My first Solo Show was called Rubber Ever AfterI’ve got so much to learn still.

There is something macabre about the aurora of your work, which I find quite interesting.  But then, I suppose it might be a bit difficult to go sweet with rubber.

Yeah, all the connotations to bondage and stuff. (laughing)

Maybe ‘sweet and leather is the perfect juxtaposition.

You also draw inspiration from books and your children’s interest. Does each piece start with a particular memory?

I love reading and listening to other people’s stories about their relationships, and such. Even if I don’t find my inspiration directly at that moment, I’ll collect those moments, write out my thoughts and revisit them later.  Mostly, its driven by how I feel at a certain stage.

‘What is essential is invisible to the eyes’ is on display at Paradigm Gallery for the STITCHED group show. | Taute on this piece: ‘What is Essential’ was inspired by The Little Prince – I read it every year at least once. The quote goes, “What is essential is invisible to the eye. It is only with the heart that one sees rightly.”

How has your work been received in South Africa?

Very good… I won my first art award working with rubber. I like it when people come up to me after a show to chat – I’ve had a few great discussions with them about ancient embroidery.

Ancient embroidery? Is this art form much order than most realize?

Oh yes.  There’s a pretty good book called Subversive Stitch… you know, men used to do this too and not just women.  The book has a detailed history of how women used needlework in the 18th and 19th centuries. Stitching has such a rich history throughout the world. The origin of it is fascinating.

My mother-in-law does needle work as well. When she sees my work, she gets so frustrated because she believes it must be perfect. If she makes a mistake in her work, she will pull everything out and start again. I don’t allow myself that luxury, I keep on going and working.  Its’ ok to make a mistake and carry on.

Well then, your imperfections make for unique pieces. I really enjoy your sculptural work; they are fascinating and a bit scary. There’s one from your series Implanted Memories that I love – the pig face on the body of a young child.

That’s She Wants to Build a House with Thread.

It is interesting what people find scary.  My children watch monster movies; I remember scary monster stories from my youth. Compared to theirs, my monsters are cute and cuddly.  I’m wondering what is scary out there still?

She Wants to Build a House with Thread, 50 x 30 x 30 cm Medium: Fabric, found object, cotton thread and rubber

 

I don’t know.  Maybe we’re afraid of the ‘imagined threat’. I still get chills when I read older stories from The Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Andersen.  That’s what I meant when I said I love the scare factor in your work, because they remind me of darker fairy tales – the ones without the cute moral endings. 

I had an exhibition called, The Grimm Needle. I asked people, ‘What did they fear? Could they name a fear for me based on the unknown?’ Their responses were quite interesting. I suppose there is a lot of fear around that – the unknown.

Because you don’t know what to expect. If you can’t prepare for something, then comes the onset of anxiety.

I guess that is why people fear death because it is the unknown.

So many questions swirling around that.

Wonder if I could stitch it…

“Heks/Witch” Altered photograph, cotton thread, rubber and wood. 61 x 42 cm

 

The More You Know:

Ask A Curator: Wassan Al-Khudhairi Talks About The Exciting New Exhibit Third Space At The Birmingham Museum of Art

 

The new contemporary art exhibit at Birmingham Museum of Art, Third Space  borrows its name from philosopher and Havard Scholar, Homi Bhaba‘s term ‘third space,’ which he defines as a space that “challenges our sense of the historical identity of culture as a homogenizing, unifying force, authenticated by the originary past, kept alive in the national tradition of the People.”

Wassan Al-Khudhairi is the Hugh Kaul Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Birmingham Museum of Art; as curator for Third Space, Al-Khudhairi is quite aware of the power of shared experiences.  Her personal experiences growing up in one place and traveling to others color the exhibition.  She reaches, through the selections to explore the commonalities that draw communities together and make them stronger.

Third Space is intended to create a dialogue that allows for the discovery of connections between the American South and the rest of the world,” Al-Khudhairi said. “We hope visitors walk away from this exhibition with the desire to have those important conversations related to the experiences we share.”

We put together a brief Q & A together for Wassan Al-Khudhairi – we hope this will allow the readers to understand some of job responsibilities of a curator and how Third Space came together. 

 

Wassan, can you tell us how the idea for this exhibition come about?

The exhibition idea was inspired by thinking about the Birmingham Museum of Art’s collection and its relationship to Birmingham, the American South, and the Global South. The American South is often discussed within the parameters of the United States of America and within a North-South dichotomy.  I was interested in thinking horizontally and creating an opportunity to have an south-south conversation.  The Global South refers to a loose geographical space, a space that is often a post-colonial space.  I wanted to explore the Museum’s collection through this lens of post-colonialism — a condition that is quite similar in many ways to other places in the Global South.  The exhibition title, Third Space, is a term borrowed from Homi Bhaba a philosopher and scholar who coined the term to describe another space, one where commonalities come together to create an alternative space.  The term felt like the perfect way to encompass the exhibition ideas.

 

What was the largest hurdle in pulling it all together?

Pulling it all together– being sure the exhibition ideas are being communicated to the visitor and creating the conceptual space for people to feel like they can reflect their ideas and experiences onto a work of art.

On another note, the exhibition is open for 2-years and within those 2 years we will have 3 changes in the galleries. The first one takes place this August– many of the large works will remain on view but photographs and works on paper throughout the exhibition will be replaced with other works from the collection.  This will happen 3 times in two years… it was a challenge to think ahead in planning the works that will be on view for example in Fall 2018.

But these changes every 6 months will mean that there will always something new to see for our visitors, so we hope people will keep coming back!

 

How did you go about selecting these works of art?

It’s not such a linear or defined process as you might be imagining. It is more of a constant back and forth between building the framework for the ideas of the exhibition and selecting works that help shape and push those ideas further. It is a back and forth, back and forth until it feels like you have been able to find the right balance.

Wassan Al-Khudhairi Talks About Third Space At The Birmingham Museum of Art

Jose Bedia Mpangui jimagua (Twin Brothers), 2000 (Acrylic and conte on canvas with objects)

Assuming you had more pieces in mind than the show could contain, and how did you narrow your choices?

Its a juggling act– and many different things factor into how to make those decisions. You have to take a lot into consideration and one decision affects another so its a domino effect.  Which works speak to the exhibition ideas the strongest? How works relate to each other in the space? Will the work physically fit in the space? What works will our visitors respond to?

 

What piece do you think will receive the most attention (whether its via social media or conversation gold) and why?

It depends on who you’re talking to or what platform you’re looking at. Contemporary art has the ability to allow for multiple interpretations and what I hope Third Space will illustrate to our audiences is that there’s something very personal about what works you are most drawn to and that you may see something in a work that I don’t– that there are many interpretations and the hope is that all our visitors can find something to relate to in the works of art in Third Space.

 

I thought it was an interesting choice to use perspectives of the selected works for the audio guide, instead of the merely quoting the artist. How did you arrive at that decision?

This was a very deliberate decision that my colleague Angela May and I made– we wanted to include voices of people in the community speaking about the works of art in the exhibition. The hope is that by hearing a ‘non-art professional’ speak about a work of art our visitors will feel empowered to make their own interpretations and speak about the works in the exhibition as well.  We also wanted to weave into the exhibition the voices of people in our community to show that there is no one way to talk about these works of art and that the exhibition should be a place for conversation and sharing of ideas.

 

I noticed a mention for the upcoming video diary allowing for visitors to share their experiences with the exhibition. How will the museum utilize those perspectives?

We aren’t sure yet how we will use these perspective immediately– but including an audio guest book was a way to create another space for visitors to the exhibition to leave behind their story, their voice, their perspective. If we want the exhibition to be a space to share ideas and create conversation then we needed to keep our work by offering the space for that to happen…. we hope it will be ready soon, so if you’ve visited the exhibition already please come back!

If you’re still intrigued, please check out our 10 of our favorite pieces from the exhibition, they’re sure to provoke stirring conversation on the exploitation of people and land, identity and race relations.

THIRD SPACE, SHIFTING CONVERSATIONS ABOUT CONTEMPORARY ART @ BIRMINGHAM MUSEUM OF ART : 10 ART PIECES THAT SPOKE TO US

THIRD SPACE, SHIFTING CONVERSATIONS ABOUT CONTEMPORARY ART @ BIRMINGHAM MUSEUM OF ART

I travel to Alabama about once a year, one of my favorite places to visit while in town is the Birmingham Museum of Art.  A few weeks ago, I got a chance to experience their latest exhibition, Third Space: Shifting Conversations.  Third Space includes their visitors in the examination on the cultural crossing of Alabama and the American South’s relation to the Global South – the concept that the state of our cultural climate is not chained to a geographical location; that were are united by a connected past that defines our present. “It is an imagined place that ties cultures together by their common experiences and considers the voices of people who are often unheard.”

The exhibition opens up that dialogue with over 100 contemporary art pieces – most culled from the museums’ own collection.  A few of the pieces are on display for the first time, having been in storage, due to the museums’ lack of space. The works of art and the ideas that inspired them are meant to resonate regionally, as well as reach out on a global level. Photographs, sculptures, and paintings are just a few of the mediums represented here along with a rich multitude of artistic representation from Alabama, Brazil, Cuba and South Africa – to name a few.

“This important moment for the Birmingham Museum of Art and our collection of contemporary art extends an exciting opportunity to recognize and explore a shared human experience,” Gail Andrews, R. Hugh Daniel Director of the Birmingham Museum of Art, said. “Works of art offer ways to see the world from a new perspective, serve as points of discussion and can create empathy and respect, at a time when our country seems to need it the most.”

Your journey is tied to reference points that guide you in finding personal meaning within the art. The sections are: representation/agency/gaze, tradition/memory/history, landscape/nature/spirit, and migration/diaspora/exile.  Third Space will run for 2 years, during that time the works of art will change every 6 months, shifting your travels.  You can also use your iPhone or iPad provided at the museum to access the Smart Guide, an interactive feature that allows you to listen to different perspectives on selected works of art from voices of children, musicians, activists and a host of others from the Birmingham community.

And as we are invited to share our perspectives and interact with the art, in no particular order, here are 10 art piece gems in the exhibition that spoke to us:

  1. Dennis Oppenheim’s Slow Clap for Satie, 1989 (Acrylic, wood, steel, motors. ficus trees, pots, turntables, vacuum formed masks, loop recording of Erik Satie piano music)THIRD SPACE, SHIFTING CONVERSATIONS ABOUT CONTEMPORARY ART @ BIRMINGHAM MUSEUM OF ART
  2.  Jose Bedia Mpangui jimagua (Twin Brothers), 2000 (Acrylic and conte on canvas with objects) – Jose Bedia’s years studying and experiencing Afro-Cuban and Native American spirituality are reflected in the two representing men drifting together in the boat communing with and pulling their collective spiritual forces.  Is it a representation of Bedia continuing to pull the spirit and traditions of his heritage along in life?  As your eye pulls away from the boat and notices the figures on the large canvas, you have to wonder…are you staring at two figures or do they represent a blending of one?THIRD SPACE, SHIFTING CONVERSATIONS ABOUT CONTEMPORARY ART @ BHAM_Glenn Kaino, Bridge
  3. Skylar Fein See You at the UpStairs Lounge, from “Remember the UpStairs Lounge”, 2009 (latex on wood) – This is a recreation of original sign from The UpStairs Lounge,  a gay bar in the French Quarter of New Orleans.  In 1973 a fire broke out, claiming the lives of 32 men.  The fire was set intentionally, and the 15 survivors were persecuted afterwards for being at the bar. A more in depth history of the event can be heard here.  THIRD SPACE, SHIFTING CONVERSATIONS ABOUT CONTEMPORARY ART @ BHAM_Ebony G Patterson
  4. Ebony G. Patterson Among the weeds, plants and peacock feathers, 2014  (Mixed Media) – It wasn’t until we looked through the lens of the camera did we see the body scattered among beaded tapestry.  Patterson’s work explores themes of identity and class, race and gender in the media. Among the weeds draws the viewers in, revealing a heartbreaking discovery.  Too often we bypass the crushing and Patterson calls our attention to a prevailing attitude.  Third Space at BHAM_Nick Cave
  5. Nick Cave Soundsuit, 2009 (Fabric with appliqued crochet and buttons , knitted yarn, and mannequin)Third Space at BHAM_Glenn Kaino
  6. Glenn Kaino Bridge, 2014 (Fiberglass, steel wire, and gold paint) – Made from a cast of Olympic athlete Tommie Smith’s arms and fist, the sculpture harkens back to that iconic moment when, along with John Carlos, Smith raised his black gloved fist in the Black Power Salute during the metal ceremony in the 1968 Olympics.  Do yourself a favor and listen to Chenoia Bryant, Social Justice Advocate and Feminist speak on the audio companion about the larger meaning behind this piece.Third Space at BHAM_
  7. Whitfield Lovell Rise of the Delta, 2013 (Conte on wood, silver plated platters, penny, wrought iron scone ) – Lovell was commissioned by Birmingham art collectors Norm and Carnetta Davis to create this piece from of photograph of Carnetta Davis’ mother. I love the halo of silver and pewter serving plates placed around Davis’ mother.  They symbolize her mothers’ love of hosting guests in her home, while the pewter piece at her feet is reference to ‘Birth of Venus’.
  8. Kerry James Marshall As Seen on TV, 2002 (Enamel on plastic vase, plastic flowers, framed video still, wood and glass shelf with steel bracket and chain)
  9. Glenn Ligon Runaways, 1993 (Lithographs) – This series of prints are inspired by advertisements for runaways slaves from the early 1800s.  Ligon makes use of the advertisements bearing physical descriptions and personal details, wording that humanized people perceived as property, standing in opposition to the advertisements obvious lack of humanity 10-must-see-pieces-at-third-space-birmingham-museum-of-art
  10. Esterio Segura La historia se muedre la cola (History Bites its Tall), 2013 (Painted fiberglass) – Using a bound Pinocchio as a metaphor for the history of lies told us by our governments was brilliant.  Even more stinging when you think how apropos it is when applied to the lies we tell ourselves.

Stitching Less to Convey More – Tsurubride’s Charming Embroidery Confession

 

meghan-willis-tsurubride-embroidery

It’s a lazy Saturday afternoon and Brooklyn based artist, Meghan Willis (aka Tsurubride), and I are chatting about the calming effect embroidery has on us. One of us ‘might’ have mentioned that embroidering keeps us from murdering people at work. And while mine might actually look like it was stitched by a shaky hand after an actual stabbing, Meghan’s hand embroidered work delicately captures women in various stages of undress, laced in bits of boldly colored textiles.  She gives her women strength within the stitch, dressing them in a celebration of their sexuality, creating an illusion of movement with clean lines — my favorite are her double and triple takes stitched like a series of rapid blinks.

Three of her newer pieces will be exhibited in Paradigm Gallery’s upcoming group show, ‘Stitched’.  The show focuses on the shift in opinion toward embroidery, stitching, and other fibers techniques historically associated with women and “domestic tasks”.  Sadly, this type of work doesn’t get shown in museums a lot.  Is that due, in large part to an ongoing contested artistic legacy of the work? Or is it lack of knowledge of the skill and creativity required to create these artworks? Do you think shifting the focus toward the creativity required to produce these pieces pushes the conversation into the art realm?

Meghan and I jump right into our explorations on the evolution of stitching:

 

I want to steer the conversation away from craft, by refraining from overuse of technical terminology. I think it’s a real concern, that if we continue to talk about the medium in terms of crafting, that’s the way people will continue to view it.

Tsurubride: I see the point. It’s just another way; another medium.  Instead of a pen or a paintbrush – even with digital art and collage – a combination of all these skills come together to bring whatever is in your head, onto the fabric.

It has excited me to see opinions shift drastically about fiber techniques—I stitch during my commute on the train. Sometimes people sit down next to me and either recount watching their grandmothers stitching or express a surprise that anyone still does it.  I’ve noticed that most people don’t recognize what an embroidery hoop is.

I sometimes take my work with me when I travel, but I rarely get a chance to touch it.

How do people react to you embroidering while you’re traveling?

I have stitched while riding Amtrak a couple of times.  Once I was in business class sitting around people in suits.  There I was, in my jeans and t-shirt, stitching a nipple.  It was actually the perfect thing to be stitching in that environment. It was like, ‘yes dude, I’ve got my boobs over here, it’s all fine folks.’

What a juxtaposition (laughing). 

Tsuru Bride-double-exposure

For a while, embroidery seemed to be viewed as a lost art form and an antiquated one at that. We generally tend to think of older women embroidering.  So I think people are shocked to see younger women – even men, now taking up this art form.  Even the way they choose to express themselves with it seems to raise eyebrows, and a lot of curiosity.

I’ve been stitching forever and I know a large part of the embroidery community have stitched for a long time as well. When you hear words like “a resurgence,” its’ like, ‘No we’ve always been doing it.

I do think there’s more awareness being brought to it. Hopefully its less in the shadows – hopefully receiving less craft credit and more art credit.

With a rise in popularity, how soon do you think it will be before embroidery kits are being stocked in the novelty section of Urban Outfitters?

I think that would be fun.

I certainly like to create my own work, but if you’re just getting started and see that kit at Urban Outfitters, perhaps you’ll pick up that hoop and have some fun with it… Maybe they start with that kit, have their own take on the product and build into some really innovative ideas.

meghan-willis-tsurubride-embroidery

I learned my basics from aunts and my grandmothers, but I still take to resources like YouTube to learn more from other people in the stitching community.  At the end of the day, I’m still thinking about how to transform that information into my thing.

I think places like YouTube are great for learning new techniques, but you have to find your own take on it – your own approach to it.  At least those sort of resources are there to start with the fundamentals…

The question is, ‘how do you now incorporate that into your work?’

People on Instagram will comment and ask what stitch I’m using.  I only use backstitch, but it’s the way that I’m using it – people are surprised that that’s the way it ends up looking. Taking something as simple as that stitch and being able to translate it into my work ends up creating this visual that’s my trademark.

Were these skills passed down to you?

As a little kid, I was very crafty.  Both my grandmothers were very much into sewing – they encouraged the habit.  I started making terrible clothes for my Barbie doll. The fabric would be sewn wrong sides together  You’d turn it out and the seam allowance would be all wrong.  Everything would be done with these really long stitches cause I was impatient, I just wanted to do it.  I never thought about how the Barbie doll would then get into the clothes.

It seemed like a natural progression to be in fashion.  During the day I do that, and then at night I don’t want to make clothes anymore – partly because that is part of my day job.  This is a lot more relaxing, to be able to sit and create something.

I still have that same impatience though – I love the beauty of fill stitches but that’s part of the reason I never really incorporate it into my work.  I have an idea and I need to get it out of my head and create it.  fill stitches seem like they’re going to slow me down.  I’ve got too much art to make!

I love that confession. Impatience is such an oxymoron when you think about embroidering.

When I look at your work I’ve always thought , ‘it’s so purposeful in what side of the story you choose to tell by what was meaningfully left out’.  Knowing this now doesn’t make your work any less lovely, it enhances for me. You’ve really made the point that less is sometimes more.

Even when I started with the leather appliques… that happened because I used to make handbags in my spare time, and I had a lot of leather lying around .  I thought, ‘well this could be neat as a mixed medium, so I started playing around with it.’.

Even now, I’ll try to go back and work with some fill stitches, but it’s too slow… I’m so jealous, there are many other artists out there who do incredibly beautiful work with fill stitches.  It’s like, dammit. How do you do that so well?  I know it’s just practice, but I can’t… I got to get the ideas out of my head now.

I think it’s more than just ‘practice’.  Especially after talking to the other artists participating in Stitched.  It has a lot to do with the way the artists sees things and how they translate that.  A perfect stitch is pretty to look at, but perfection can be wearying.

That’s true.  I saw your post on Michelle Kingdom. There’s a great example of someone using fill stitches, but not in this clean, overly perfect way.  It’s got a movement and a romanticism to it.  Her stitching is more painterly.

I always feel like my work is more illustrative versus that painter technique.  Its’ more about clean lines and movement in that sense of after the thread versus following brush strokes.

It’s just another way of expression.

meghan-willis-tsurubride-embroidery

Fun Facts:

Victoria Crayhon’s Photography Exhibit ‘It Says We’re Not Real’ @ Cade Tompkins

 

Victoria Crayhon‘s exhibition It Says We’re Not Real, an ongoing body of photographs and video entitled Thoughts on Romance from the Road 2001-2017. The images are a series of text interactions with historic and abandoned movie marquee and motel signs conceived while the artist traversed the roadways and interstates of New England, Michigan and other locales during long commutes and trips. These blank slates punctuated the path, causing her to recede into memory and ultimately display fragments of thoughts that might easily disappear but now exist purely as photographs.  Crayhon’s most recent work in the series further complicates the scenario and enriches the experience. This time she interacts with digital theater signs, transferring her message, filming the playback and photographing it simultaneously.*

When:  It Says We’re Not Real runs until April 8th, 2017

Where: Cade Tompkins Projects | 198 Hope Street | Providence Rhode Island

*via Cade Tompkins press release

The Stitch Acquiesces To The Dream – The Embroidery of Michelle Kingdom

“Drawing with thread,” is one way LA-based artist Michelle Kingdom describes her intricately embroidered small-scale worlds – threaded dreams and inner voices that cause her needle to meander away from technical techniques in favor of following her vision.

“There is truth to these compressed moments; there’s fear, hope, and gut instincts. It’s more about those moments when you are lying in bed, looking up at the ceiling, thinking – not subconsciously – not moments you can’t remember or access. It’s the chatter that you can’t shut off or shut out… My work is about snagging these vignettes. What I’m not stitching is just as important as what I am.”

Her commitment to capture the imagery makes conventional stitches acquiesce to a more expressive turn. Each thread has a different intention than the colored stitch you see at first glance. Even the names of her pieces are well thought out, “It takes a couple of days sometimes.  I compile/collect quotes and passages from books, and verses for inspiration.  It has to feel right.”

The art-craft aesthetics of the traditional vs. modern values being assigned to embroidery is sometimes still debated with a look into the artists’ process.

Traditional embroiderers’ tend to flip the embroidery over and check out its bones – so to speak.  Michelle and I talked about that inclination to read a piece by checking the backside to see if the stitches are tidy. “Mine are often a war zone of stitches and knots. When it’s too tidy back there it often means I’ve lost something.”

Spontaneity in embroidery is an irregularity –if a ‘read’ is betrayed by the threads in the back of her pieces, then Kingdom’s organic arrival to the end of her journey is a fantastic maelstrom of threads exposing the depth and the complexity of their layered emotions.

The Embroidery of Michelle Kingdom_Tending Mislaid Burdens

Tending Mislaid Burdens

You can see Michelle’s work during the upcoming show “Stitched”, an exhibition focusing on artwork that makes use of embroidery and stitching techniques. The group show will be in two parts, the first opening Friday, March 24th and the second opening Friday, June 23rd at Paradigm Gallery + Studio.

Enjoy these great links to more information on Kingdom:

  • Two of her favorite inspirations? Henry Darger  & Darrel Morris – “Both made great works based on snippets of their childhood. Very dark imagery.”
  • bG Gallery published a book on works compiled from Kingdom’s latest show.

 [Website] [Instagram]

The Embroidery of Michelle Kingdom_Duties of Gossamer

Duties of Gossamer

The Embroidery of Michelle Kingdom

The Embroidery of Michelle Kingdom_Roots became Skeletons

Roots became Skeletons

The Embroidery of Michelle Kingdom_Headlong over Precipices

Headlong over Precipices

The Embroidery of Michelle Kingdom_The depths of the sea are the only water after all

The depths of the sea are the only water after all

 

Michelle Kingdom: Facebook, Instagram

All images via Michelle Kingdom.

Our Favorite Rooms at the 2017 Spring Break Art Show

Spring/Break is one of the Armory Week attractions I try not to miss, it unapologetically has fun with art – blocking out the cynical in favor of its dialogue driven exhibits.  This year it moved out of the Moynihan Station Post Office and into swankier digs in Times Square.  What didn’t change – is the integrity of the show, the feeling of being sent off to the races into the all encompassing line of rooms. The rooms can be a showdown of hit-or-miss aesthetics, but it affords the artist space to create a story, and that discovery is always worth the price of admission.

This year, the annual curator-driven art show, Spring/Break chose Black Mirror as its theme.   Here’s a list of the rooms we loved walking thru.

 

Hometown Hero (Chink) /Thinly Worn | Valery Jung Estabrook

I shudder to think that I almost walked past this room without meeting Valery Jung Estabrook 

Hometown Hero (Chink) featured an installation of three parts: a single channel video, a custom upholstered recliner, and a fabric-covered room furnished with other upholstered items that immediately transport you to a version of the American South. The items reveal hidden personal histories that cling to Jung’s experiences growing up a mixed-race Korean American who was taught to revere a past to which she felt no connection.

The recliner – with its looming imagery of the Confederate flag, dominates the space. It sits facing the television, acting as a physical stand-in for the [cheap] desire to return to an idealized fictional version of America – the wish to “Make America Great Again.”  Everything in that room is in direct opposition of Jung Estabrook’s honest conversations regarding race, alienation, and assimilation playing on the television with a repeating video clip featuring segments called Twinkie, Wasp and assimilation that features Jung Estabrook lip syncing while dressed as Tammi Wynette.

 

“Thinking about everything, but then again, I was thinking about nothing” | Tamara Santibanez

Tamara Santibanez recreates her adolescent bedroom in shades of white symbolizing the purity of memories we wish to retain. Her pen drawings of rock band posters and t-shirts hang among the other trappings of a certain youth – cassettes, AM/FM radio, vinyl’s, studded leather wrist bands and jeans tossed casually on the carpet make for a trip I didn’t want to end.

Sophiya Khwaja | Cade Tompkins Projects

Sophiya Khawaja‘s hoops sans the cloth and thread that traditionally sit between the two wooden circles, showcase images of herself, a solitary female figure trapped – possessing – raging and navigating the landscapes she inhabits. Each become a symbol of the female encased in the intricate bindings of the world around her.

“Melissa Godoy-Nieto: Dream Journal,” curated by Ambre and Andrew Gori

Visitors were invited to share their dreams with Godoy-Nieto so she could translate them into drawings.  If you took part in the project, I hear you might be able to find your dreams roaming wild & free on Melissa’s website.

Sisyphus | Light Sculpture | Valerie Sullivan Fuchs

Sisyphus, 2009, is a palm sized video projection where the viewers capture the video onto their open hands. The video is of a woman who appears to climb up the viewer’s hand but slides back down repeatedly. Each time she slides back down, she draws a line of chalk which appears to mix with the lines of the view’s palm.

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Further Explanations into Contemporary Blackness : New Work From Azikiwe Mohammed 
Azikwe Mohammad travels from last year’s Jimmy Thrift Store, a project based around New Davonhaime, a fictional town whose name is a make up of the five cities with the highest African-American populations (Detroit, Savannah,  Jackson, Birmingham, and New Orleans).  Mohammad filled the room with thrift shops finds (elaborate chintzy lamps, old albums, neon signs and ceramic figurines) cast offs ready to breathe new life into old lives.  Assuming the personality of Jimmy, Mohammad told us colorful stories of the non-existent town until it felt relevant, until we felt like we’d benefit from visiting.
This year Mohammad was back in a less structured space with more stories to tell, a memorial to those we lost this past year in violence, a closer look into the lives of those from Davonhaime. Names and faces were memorialized on airbrushed t-shirts and iconic jewelry found in nearly every African-American home. Photographs from his visit to the cities were rolled up and placed in containers for those who felt like delving a bit deeper.
It was as if last years’ search for stories was a mere beginning into the insight into the crux of the stories he evokes through memory and representation. I remember when Mohammed had a seat out in the hallway of the first Spring Break Fair, patiently explaining his hip-hop tapestries to us.  Each year his exploration into African American iconography gets deeper and more creatively explorative.

Your Art Fair Guide for Armory Week 2017

It’s Armory Week and that means gaggles of art fairs will be taking place across New York City.  It’s going to be a whirlwind of amazing art from all over the world, informative talks and lots of Art Star Selfies.  We don’t suggest you try to tackle every fair, choose the ones that interest you the most and pace yourself. Fair fatigue is real–trying to see more art than your brain can process at one time will just ruin the whole experience. Trust us on this… Oh, and by all means, wear comfortable shoes.

1. Armory Show

The Armory Show is the daddy of all the fairs.  It’s the big Kahuna with over 200 galleries showing on Piers 92 & 94 for four days of incredible art, engaging talks and daring projects. Walking through both piers can be exhausting, take breaks, and check your coat.  The coat line is so long – one would think they were giving out free drinks – but it’s worth the hands-free next few hours.

Your Art Fair Guide for Armory Week 2017

Photograph by Teddy Wolff | Courtesy of The Armory Show

March 2–5, 2017
Thursday, March 2, 12–8pm
Friday, March 3, 12–8pm
Saturday, March 4, 12–7pm
Sunday, March 5, 12–6pm
Pier 94 and Pier 92, 711 12th Avenue between West 55th Street and West 52nd Street
$47 general admission, or $60 with VOLTA admission

 

2. Volta NY

Volta is Armory’s sister fair – one that keeps getting better in terms of curation.  Its’ art boutique feel is a refreshing change from the chaos that will be happening at Pier 92 & 94 with the Armory crowd. By spotlighting artists through primarily solo projects, VOLTA NY refocuses the art fair experience back to its most fundamental point: the artists and their works.

The Volta fair takes place at Pier 90. Photo: David Williams, courtesy Volta.

The Volta fair takes place at Pier 90.
Photo: David Williams, courtesy Volta.

 

MARCH 2–5, 2017

THURSDAY – SATURDAY, MARCH 2 – 4, 12 – 8 pm | SUNDAY, MARCH 5, 12 – 5 pm

Pier 90, 711 12th Avenue at West 48th Street
$22.96 general admission, or $55.11 with Armory Show admission

 

3. Spring Break Art Show

Spring/Break is one of the Armory Week attractions I try not to miss, it unapologetically has fun with art – blocking out the cynical in favor of its ‘Look at what I did Ma’ art school vibe.  This years curatorial theme is BLACK MIRROR – exhibiting  autobiographical artworks that engage, defy or uphold the idea that art should ‘hide the artist’.  The fair has moved from Moynihan Station to a their New Location, 4 Times Square, NYC (entrance on 43rd Street). Hopefully, the new space retains that feeling of being sent off to the races – with a familiar three-floor execution of exhibits – room after room of romping and art browsing. The rooms can be a showdown of hit-or-miss aesthetics, but I continue to enjoy the discovery beyond each door.

 

March 2–7
Skylight at Moynihan Station, 421 8th Avenue at West 31st Street
Wednesday–Sunday 11:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m.; Monday 11:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m.
$15 general admission

 

4. Scope

SCOPE NY brings an array of contemporary art from the hottest new artists on the scene. SCOPE used to be close to Armory – there was nothing like being able to stroll, and not UBER to the main fair. The 17th edition of SCOPE returns to a new Chelsea location at Metropolitan Pavilion, the venue will host 60 international galleries and a focused schedule of special events, performances and talks.

Erik Jones, Joseph Gross Gallery

Erik Jones, Joseph Gross Gallery

March 3–5, 2017
Friday-Saturday 11:00 a.m.–8:00 p.m.; Sunday 11:00 a.m.–7:00 p.m.
Metropolitan Pavilion West 60 galleries, 639 W 46th Street
$25 general admission

 

5. Art on Paper

Art on Paper returns to Manhattan’s Lower East Side in March 2016, building on the success of the fair’s inaugural 2015 edition. It may be further away from the main fair, but it’s well worth the trip to see how artists are transforming paper into extraordinary works of art.  We’re especially looking forward to the lineup from exhibitors Paradigm Gallery + Studio, representing our home base, Philadelphia, PA.

Courtesy of Art on Paper

Courtesy of Art on Paper

March 2–5
Opening Night – Thursday 6:00 p.m.–10:00 p.m.; Friday–Saturday, 11:00 a.m.–7:00 p.m.; Sunday 12:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m.
Pier 36, 299 South Street on the East River
$25 general admission

 

6. ADAA Art Show

29th edition, of the Art Dealers Association of America’s annual fair, is back at that glorious Park Avenue Armory space.  With 72 exhibitors of fine art.  The 2017 show will include a number of first-time exhibitors, including Fergus McCaffrey, who will present works by Viennese artist Birgit Jürgenssen; James Fuentes, who will juxtapose works by Tamuna Sirbiladze and Noam Rappaport; Hosfelt Gallery, who will highlight four decades of work by Argentinian artist Liliana Porter; and Casey Kaplan, who will present paintings by American artist Sarah Crowner.

Courtesy of the ADAA

Courtesy of the ADAA

March 1–6
Wednesday–Friday 12:00 p.m.–8:00 p.m.; Saturday 12:00 p.m.–7:00 p.m.; Sunday 12:00 p.m.–5:00 p.m.
Park Avenue Armory, Park Avenue at East 67th Street
$25 general admission

 

7. Independent

Don’t’ go looking for the Independent in Chelsea, the fair has taken up residence in Tribeca’s Spring Studios.  The popular fair’s niche market is international galleries and non-profit institutions.

March 3–5, 2017
Thursday 6:00 p.m.–8:00 p.m (VIP); Friday and Saturday 12:00 p.m.–7:00 p.m.; Sunday 12:00 p.m.–6:00p.m.
Spring Street Studios, 50 Varick Street
$25 general admission/$15 for students

 

8. Clio Art Fair

CLIO ART FAIR is a curated fair created with the idea of discovering independent artists and showcasing the careers and achievements of already affirmed creative minds. Labeled the “anti-fair for independent artists,” Clio provides a showcase for artists without gallery representation, selected for inclusion in the fair by a panel of judges.
March 3–6
Thursday 6:00 p.m.–9:00 p.m., Friday and Saturday 10:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m.; Sunday 12:00 p.m.–6:00 p.m.
508–526 West 26th St.
Free

 

Erin M. Riley Opens Solo Show “Simple” at Hashimoto Contemporary

Erin M. Riley Opens at Hashimoto Contemporary

Artist, Erin M. Riley’s meticulous hand-woven tapestries are intimate portraits into past experience, of both personal and communal memory. The large-scale work confronts viewers to contemplate subjects often considered socially taboo.  Frequently autobiographical, her work addresses the innate trauma of womanhood and the objectification of the sexualized body.  This Saturday, March 4th, Riley will show a solo exhibition of brand new, hand sewn tapestries entitled “Simple” at Hashimoto Contemporary in San Francisco, California.

Simple” is a culmination of her previous bodies of work and serves as an investigation into the complexity of the feminine identity. The artist explains that because of the Internet’s infiltration into our personal lives, “Intimacy is blurred, bodies exist in this surreal way, sexuality is abstract. A few specific pieces in the show are of experiences I have had throughout my life… These are the moments we prepare ourselves for with self-defense mechanisms and paranoia. I am trying to evolve from these moments but also want to acknowledge them so as not to live in denial or make people feel like they are alone.” The work physically memorializes moments of our fleeting digital life by depicting selfies, text messages, and screenshots of pornography.

The exhibition also features weavings of car wrecks and images of abuse, often accompanied with lines of text. One piece entitled “Portrait of a Father” portrays a crashed semi-truck, with the interwoven caption “you don’t deserve my forgiveness.” Riley utilizes the truck as a metaphor for “how sexual violence knocks us off our axis” and challenges the viewer to consider the inherent aggression women face in our contemporary society.

*information via Erin Riley press release

SPOTLIGHT: Visual Artist Clifford Owens

SPOTLIGHT: Visual Artist Clifford Owens_hahamag

We’re continuing our Black History Month Series with a profile on the always controversial, Visual Artist, Clifford Owens.

Preferring the term Visual Artist over Performance Artist; Owen’s work is never dull, usually centering on the body and often including spontaneous interactions with the audience.  His performances push the envelope with heavy issues of race, gender relationships, and auto-eroticism – often leaving you to deal with/question his purposeful lack of emotional and physical control.

Like when I found myself confronted with his video work that dealt with different forms of objection and how we deal or don’t deal with it for that matter. That’s all well and good – I was down to explore that until I was confronted with Owens gutting, fingering and doing all sorts of things to fruit that one couldn’t imagine unless one saw.  He takes you to the precipice… it gets uncomfortable. He’s transforming a meaning, and part of the journey is trying to hold out and watch it unfold.

Owens claims no interest in the art world, “because the art world is not interesting,” but there’s no denying his work has spurned newfound interest in performance art.  I could keep rambling on, but truly you need to see it for yourself.

Enjoy these links to more information on Owens

  • Here’s a link to a great ArtInfo article – 27 Questions with Clifford Owens.
  • This quick documentary on Clifford Owens, 2004 by Kristen Spillane will give take you through several of his performance pieces.
  • Take on his audio pieces here.
  • Want to see the anthology of work that made me squirm? Well ok…ready, set, go!

Spotlight: Thelma Golden

As a black woman curator in an overwhelming white male art world, Golden has long fostered art that burns with racial and gender issues.” Joyce Corrigan, Artnet

Born in 1965 in Queens, New York, Golden is one of today’s most notable museum curator’s.

Golden’s childhood love of museums put her on the fast track to becoming a driving force in the art world. Her first hands-on training came as a senior in high school, when she trained as a curatorial apprentice at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She went on to earn a BA in Art History and African-American Studies from Smith College in 1987. Golden’s first curatorial position was at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 1987. Then, in 1991, Thelma took a position at the Whitney Museum of American Art where she remained until 1999.

Her most heralded contributions have been her 1993 Whitney Biennial collaboration. The Biennial took controversial look at America and tough social issues such as race, gender, sexuality, AIDS, and gay rights. Just a few years later there was Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary American Art, where 29 minority artists displayed works that illustrated the current conceptions of black masculinity. The artists were black men, such as Gary Simmons, and Lyle Ashton Harris; black women, such as Adrian Piper, Lorna Simpson, and Renee Cox; and a few Asian, Hispanic, and white artists to provide a multitude of perspectives. The exhibition also incorporated film, video, and media and was accompanied by an extensive catalogue.

Currently, Golden is the director and chief curator at the Studio Museum in Harlem. And on the boards of Creative Time in New York and the Institute of International Visual Arts in London.

Thelma Golden, you rock!

Learn more about Thelma Golden at these great resources:
The Black List Project
TED (Ideas worth sharing) Thelma speaks on How Art gives shape to cultural change.

photo by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

SPOTLIGHT: Conceptual Artist Yinka Shonibare, MBE

Yinka Shonibare, MBE — the MBE stands for Most Excellent Order of the British Empire —is a British-Nigerian artist living in London. His work explores cultural identity, colonialism and post-colonialism within the contemporary context of globalization. Shonibare, is best known for his whimsical life-sized mannequins dressed in vivid Dutch-wax (African prints and patterns) fabrics.  The costumes are usually Victorian, the Victorian era being the period of British history when Africa was colonized.  The Dutch-wax period costumes are really an Indonesian-designed fabric called, batik that has become popularly assimilated into West African culture. As his work continues to take on the authenticity of historical moments, the fabrics that were originally to be used to connote African identity, not really being originally from Africa are a constant ironic coincidence – working to his advantage as a conceptual artist.

The sculptures add a lightness to addressing weighty themes including race, enlightenment, capitalism, authenticity and least of all identity.  You’ll notice that the mannequins are headless, it’s so the figures aren’t racially identifiable. The fiberglass bodies are mixed race, “kind of coffee colored,” Mr. Shonibare said that he conceived of the headlessness as a joke related to the revenge killings of aristocrats in the French Revolution. “The idea of bringing back the guillotine was very funny to me,” he said.*

Throughout the past decade, Shonibare has shown his distinctive pieces extensively from the United States to Hong Kong, with notable exhibitions including mid-career retrospective at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art.

–>Take a look below at some of the pieces from Shonibare, MBE’s exhibitions as we offer quotes from the artist himself about his inspiration:

 

SPOTLIGHT: Conceptual Artist Yinka Shonibare, MBE Sculpture, Cakeman II

Called Cake Man (II), it features a lifesize mannequin dressed in African print, with a huge pile of cakes balanced precariously on his back. “It’s my tribute to bankers,” said Shonibare. “There’s been a lot of talk about bonuses to bankers and the top 1% literally taking all the cake. So this piece, I guess, is about greed. It has more cakes than anyone could ever eat or manage.”

 

Yinka Shonibare MBE, The Swing (After Fragonard), 2001 (Tate, London) © Yinka Shonibare. The Swing (After Fragonard) is a three-dimensional recreation of the Rococo painting after which it was titled, which itself offers testimony to the opulence and frivolity of pre-Revolutionary France. Painted in 1767, Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s The Swing depicts a coquettish young girl swinging in a lush and fertile forest and, of course, playfully kicking up her shoe. “Living in England, with my colonial relationship to this country, one cannot escape all these Victorian things, because they are everywhere: in architecture, culture, attitude…” – Yinka Shonibare

 

“Gallantry and Criminal Conversation (Parasol),” 2002 Two life-size fiberglass mannequins, two metal and wood cases, Dutch wax printed cotton, leather, wood, and steel, 64 1/5 x 44 1/10 x 75 4/5 inches Collection of Beth Rudin DeWoody, New York Photo by Werner Maschmann © Yinka Shonibare MBE

 
“Being able to indulge in your fantasies really belongs to the privileged and the wealthy. I was fascinated with the fashion that comes with that luxury and excess, and I wanted to produce a piece that would be slightly surreal and also a bit of satire as well—poking fun at the whole thing, but also loving it at the same time. It’s not sexually explicit. Really it’s about people having a sense of humor.” -Yinka Shonibare MBE

SPOTLIGHT: Conceptual Artist Yinka Shonibare, MBE

“How to Blow Up Two Heads at Once (Ladies),” a 2006 work by Yinka Shonibare with mannequins, guns, Dutch wax-printed cotton textile, shoes, boots and plinth. Credit Steve White/Museum Purchase, Wellesley College Friends of Art

SPOTLIGHT: Conceptual Artist Yinka Shonibare, MBE

SPOTLIGHT: Conceptual Artist Yinka Shonibare, MBE

“He reminds us that every action has ramifications. A girl sprouting butterfly wings, and a male figure outfitted in a spacesuit with his worldly possessions strapped to his back. They are poised for takeoff to  escape the mess we have made on Earth and begin anew elsewhere—hopefully having learned from history, so as not to repeat our mistakes.” – —Karen Kedmey via Artsy Editoral, “Yinka Shonibare’s Haunting New Sculptures and Installations Present a Link Between Climate Change and Our Dark History”

Yinka Shonibare MBE’s The Last Supper Exploded is based on a sculpture of the same name first on view at the artist’s solo show Pop! at Stephen Friedman Gallery, London, 2013. The exhibition’s main themes explored corruption, excess and debauchery in contemporary society, with particular reference to the most recent on-going economic crisis. In The Last Supper Exploded, Shonibare investigates the worship of luxury goods and the reckless behaviour of in particular the financial industry by paying art historical homage to one of humanity’s best known artworks: Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper.

 

Yinka Shonibare [Website] [Twitter]

*quote taken from, Headless Bodies From a Bottomless Imagination – The New York Times

 

SEE IT NOW:

  • Until June 2017 a commission by artist Yinka Shonibare, produced by Up Projects for the Royal Opera House. Titled ‘Globe Head Ballerina’, on display on the exterior of the building overlooking Russell Street.  The work is inspired by a famous photograph of ballerina Margot Fonteyn. Shonibare’s sculpture depicts a life-size ballerina, modelled on Melissa Hamilton, a soloist with the Royal Ballet. Encased in a giant ‘snow globe’, the figure, whose head is a replica Victorian globe, rotates slowly.

    Spotlight: Yinka Shonibare MBE

    photo:Sim Canetty-Clarke, courtesy UP Projects ROH
    ‘Globe Head Ballerina’ by Yinka Shonibare

The More You Know: