Boxing gloves typically evoke associations with masculinity, competition, and aggression, but Zoë Buckman punches back with her series of mixed-media sculptures and embroidered textile pieces. Sometimes draped like bunches of dried flowers and other times balanced delicately on top of one another, they “question whether they are holding each other up or tearing each other down,” says a statement. Taking a feminist and activist approach to challenging preconceptions about gender, trauma, and safety, she became interested in the symbolic dualities of the gloves, both in the way they are made and used.
For the last few years, the glove sculptures have formed a focal point for a number of bodies of work that explore the relationship between strength and vulnerability. Buckman encases each form in fabrics like tablecloths, dish rags, or dresses, then suspends them in groups from ribbons affixed to metal chains. Installed at the height of a punching bag, they provoke tension between feelings of hostility and support, highlighting connections and contrasts between places where people exert intense energy and force, such as gyms, and places associated with calm and security, like home.
Constructed of cotton batting or polyurethane foam and covered in leather, traditional boxing gloves are malleable, yet the finished form is a solid instrument for force and protection. By wrapping each piece in fabric associated with womenswear or domestic settings, the artist challenges the notion of gendered spaces, such as the home being feminine or the boxing ring masculine. Through her use of materials, she also dissects gendered associations of fabric and textile.
Buckman has strongly advocated for women’s rights to abortion and bodily autonomy. In her most recent series Bloodwork, vintage handkerchiefs, doilies, and upholstery remnants provide the canvas for embroidered statements conveying responses to experiences of domestic abuse, illness, and hardship. As a revolt against negativity or oppression, figures of women—many of whom she knows personally—are portrayed in scenes of celebration or repose. The text and figures sewn into the fabric also appear unfinished with dangling threads and raw, asymmetrical edges in an ongoing state of transformation and becoming.
Buckman is exhibiting in We Flew Over the Wild Winds of Wild Fires at MOTHER Gallery in Beacon, New York, until September 18. She will also be presenting a solo show at London’s Pippy Houldsworth Gallery opening on September 2. You can find more information on the artist’s website and on Instagram.
Share this story
Japanese artist and designer Mariko Kusumoto (previously) shapes gossamer coral and sea creatures from soft fibers like polyester, nylon, and cotton. Embedded with tiny ripples or airy pockets, the standalone sculptures and wearables are translucent renditions of lifeforms, and their delicate compositions correspond with the fragility of the subject matter. The Boston-based artist tends to cluster the individual pieces into larger works, creating sprawling reefs and diverse ecosystems brimming with color and texture.
Kusumoto is currently preparing for a solo exhibition next November at Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach, Florida, and until then, you can find more of her ethereal works on Instagram.
Share this story
Vibrant Textiles and Repurposed Eyewear Camouflage the Subjects of Thandiwe Muriu’s Celebratory Portraiture
From chunky hair beads and rollers to sink strainers and brake pedals, Nairobi-based photographer Thandiwe Muriu (previously) finds fashionable use for ordinary objects. Worn as glasses that obscure a subject’s identity, the repurposed items add cultural flair to Muriu’s vibrant portraits and are connected to both her background and Kenyan life, more broadly. Red fringe evokes the tassel that hung from her uncle’s Toyota Corolla, which transported the artist home from school each day, while the orange plastic drain catcher references the joy found in sharing chores. She explains:
In Kenya, when a group of friends meet, the women usually gather in the kitchen to clean up after the meal is done, and as is part of Kenyan culture, wash the piles of dishes by hand. This routine task suddenly becomes a moment of laughter and stories as the women mingle and bonds are reinforced…(The portrait) celebrates the African spirit of community as it turns humble sink strainers into bright circles of joy.
Shot against bold fabric backdrops printed with dizzying patterns, Muriu’s works conceal her subjects’ bodies under perfectly aligned garments, leaving only their heads and hands visible. The photographs are part of her ongoing CAMO series, which explores how culture both creates and consumes individual identities. Incorporating rich color palettes and traditional architectural hairstyles, Muriu celebrates her African heritage while questioning beauty standards and self-perception.
Some of the photographer’s portraits are on view this month at Photo London 2022 and at 1-54 Fair in New York. In July, she’ll have a solo show with 193 Gallery at the new Maison Kitsuné Gallery in New York, as well. You can explore the full CAMO series on her site and Instagram.
Share this story
Ebony G. Patterson’s multi-layered works are willfully superficial. The Jamaican artist weaves together a mélange of torn papers, tassels, appliqués, and feathered butterflies to create striking gardens replete with glitter and vibrant hues. “In many ways, I think of the work as the flower and the audience as the bees,” Patterson told Nasher Museum. “The bee is first attracted to the flower because of its color, but it’s not until you start peeling back the layers that you understand what’s happening with the nectar.”
Often set against wallpaper of her own design, Patterson’s mixed-media tapestries and smaller works are immersive and captivating, inviting study of both individual elements and how they interact. Hidden beneath the obvious allure of flora and fauna, though, are more complex, sinister messages of identity, violence, and death. Likened to “secret poisons,” these inferences relate to the anguish and perpetual mourning many women feel, and in her sprawling tapestry titled “the wailing…guides us home…and there is a bellying on the land…,” for example, feminine hands and limbs attempt to grasp for something beyond the entangled mass of jacquard and beads. “Each form bravely assumes a posture of distress, the onerous emotional and physical labor required to conduct acts of devotion, the soul care that grants permission to confront historic and inherited traumas,” a statement says.
Patterson lives and works between Kingston, Jamaica, and Chicago, and she’s included in multiple upcoming shows: What is Left Unspoken, Love opening on March 25 at the High Museum in Atlanta, a solo exhibition at Hales Gallery running from May 5 to June 18, and this November, at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. Until then, you can explore more of her elaborate works at moniquemeloche, where she’s represented.
Share this story
What began as an early pandemic project designed to use up scrap fabric has resulted in an ingeniously designed field of color and geometries. “Tiny Bubbles” is a kaleidoscopic work by Marla Varner of Penny Lane Quilts in Sequim, Washington, that’s comprised of hundreds of curved pieces stitched into an abstract, variegated pattern of tiny rounds nestling into larger forms.
In total, the sewn work utilizes 1,320 individual pieces and took more than a year to complete. “Quilted during the pandemic, these tiny bubbles kept me occupied while isolated in my own small bubble. All of the quarter circles were traced from templates, cut with scissors, and pieced by hand. The curved units were then assembled by machine,” she says.
Varner will show “Tiny Bubbles” and the colorfully meandering patchwork titled “Crevices” at QuiltCon 2022 in Phoenix next month. In addition to those pieces, she’s also been working on a temperature quilt and smaller functional goods like potholders, which you can see below. For more on her meticulous process, head to Instagram and her site. (via Kottke)
Share this story
What began as a simple appreciation of fabrics printed with vibrant geometries and hypnotic motifs has morphed into a stunning celebration of African culture. Thandiwe Muriu’s ongoing Camo series cloaks models in arresting garments that disguise them in textile surroundings, leaving just their hands and faces visible. “When I source fabrics, I look for something that I can look at and it almost feels alive,” she says. “Something bold, slightly confusing on the eyes, and less traditional. In my images, the fabric acts as the backdrop that I can celebrate my culture on. It is a bright, welcoming canvas that I can highlight what I love about my fellow Kenyan people.”
From the printed clothing to the subject’s accessories and hairstyles, each image is layered with references to the Nairobi-based photographer’s daily life and a sense of resourcefulness that permeates the local culture. Common items like bottle tops, mosquito coils, bicycle gears, straws, and cleaning brushes become elaborate eyewear or decorative additions to historical “architectural hairstyles that are being forgotten,” she tells Colossal. “Our natural hairstyles as Africans/Kenyans are one of the unique things about our beauty culture that I wouldn’t want to see lost, so I incorporate it into my work to spark conversation around traditional hairstyles and how we can wear them today.”
Muriu, who works in commercial advertising by day, shares that Camo is an ironic exploration into the relationship between personal and collective identities. The visually striking portraits are “commentary on how as individuals, we can lose ourselves to the expectations culture has on us, yet there are such unique and beautiful things about every individual,” Muriu says. “I wanted to celebrate everything I had struggled with in my own beauty journey—my hair, my skin, and my identity as a modern woman in a traditional culture.”
Share this story
Editor's Picks: Craft
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.