textiles

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Photography

Vibrant Textiles and Repurposed Eyewear Camouflage the Subjects of Thandiwe Muriu's Celebratory Portraiture

May 22, 2022

Grace Ebert

All images © Thandiwe Muriu, shared with permission

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.

 

Image © Thandiwe Muriu

Image © Thandiwe Muriu

Image © Thandiwe Muriu

Image © Thandiwe Muriu

Image © Thandiwe Muriu

Image © Thandiwe Muriu

Image © Thandiwe Muriu

 

 



Art

Interview: Trevon Latin Questions His Impulse to Solve Problems, Navigating Loneliness, and the Idea That Everything is Drag

May 19, 2022

Paulette Beete

“Untitled (Michael)” (2021), oil on canvas and fabric stretched on panel. 36 inches. Photo by Jason Mandella, courtesy of the artist and Perrotin

For Trevon Latin, the best use of questions is to breed more questions, a tenet of his practice that he speaks to in a new interview supported by Colossal Members. Each quilt remnant, each barrette, each string of beads he incorporates into the work asks, What does masculinity look like? What does it mean to present yourself as a Black person? What does intimacy look like? What does it mean to exist as a corporeal, analog self versus a digital self or a self mediated through a work of art? For Latin, there are no static answers to these questions.

I think my art is about regular folks. I mean not regular people but people that are just existing in these ways that I’m discussing. I’m talking about queerness, performance, body, Blackness. People out in the real world doing (stuff) and really trying to survive and exist. Those are the people I’m talking to.

In this conversation with Colossal contributor Paulette Beete, Latin explains why he’s only recently started referring to himself as an artist, his approach to fully feeling every emotion he encounters, and his whole-hearted belief that, to quote RuPaul, “we are all born naked, and the rest is drag.”

 

“Purple Love” (2020), oil on canvas, fabric, barrettes, pony beads, 5 x 4 feet. Image courtesy of the artist and Perrotin

 

 



Art Craft

Six Years In the Making, the Elaborate 'Grand Jardin' by Lisa Nilsson Pushes the Boundaries of Paper

May 16, 2022

Kate Mothes

“Grand Jardin” detail (2016-2022). Image © Lisa Nilsson. All images courtesy of the artist, shared with permission

Lisa Nilsson (previously) has spent years perfecting a technique known as quilling in which thin strips of paper are rolled into coils and then pinched and nudged into shape in a process she likens to completing a puzzle. With a history thought to extend back to Ancient Egypt, the practice rose to more recent popularity in 18th century Europe. Narrow edges of gilt book pages were a popular material, creating metallic surfaces when rolled into place. In her most recent work, “Grand Jardin,” Nilsson has expanded upon this traditional method by building up more dense applications of the medium and assembling on a much bigger scale. Combining shimmering gold pieces with vivid hues of Japanese mulberry paper across the surface, the ubiquitous material transforms into a remarkable topography.

Taking several years to complete, she paid painstaking attention to the complexities and details of the design, balancing intricate organic shapes with precise geometric patterns, all while preserving the composition’s overall symmetry. “The phases of my creative process—as it progressed from the initial spark of inspiration to settling in to work, to decision-making and problem solving, to finding flow, losing flow and finding it again, to commitment and renewal of commitment—were repeated many times over the six years and within the context of widely varying moods,” she tells Colossal.

Brimming with floral motifs and butterflies and contained within an ornate border, the lush details of “Grand Jardin” emerge in the textures of each group of coils and in the intricate shapes of the flowers and foliage. Inspired by the patterns and process of making Persian rugs, Nilsson sees parallels between weaving and quilling, and is amused by the nature of improvisation in a process that is so slow-moving and meticulous. “Having a working relationship with one piece for such a long period of time brought novel thoughts and emotions and required new things of me as an artist and as a person,” she says.

You can find more information on Nilsson’s website.

 

“Grand Jardin” (2016-2022), quilled Japanese mulberry paper and gilt-edged paper, 38″ x 50″ x 1/4″. Image © Matthew Hamilton

Image © Lisa Nilsson

Image © Lisa Nilsson

Image © Lisa Nilsson

Image © Matthew Hamilton

Image © Matthew Hamilton

 

 



Art

Traditional Portraits Are Reimagined in an Exploration of Concealment and Identity by Shawn Huckins

May 5, 2022

Kate Mothes

“The Artist’s Wardrobe, Mary Greene (after Copley)” (2022). All images © Shawn Huckins, shared with permission

A new series of paintings by New Hampshire-based artist Shawn Huckins (previously) proposes thinking about how we wear clothing and textiles in a fresh light. Dirty Laundry continues the artist’s interest in re-interpreting 18th- and 19th-Century European portraiture, an artistic tradition steeped in symbolism and subtle commentary about wealth and class. The garments donned by the subjects of painters like John Singleton Copley or Adriaen van der Werff reflected their status and sense of self through apparel and accessories. Jean-Léon Gérôme’s depiction of a Bashi-Bazouk, a soldier of the Ottoman Empire, is a prescient comment on the nature of clothes and uniform, as those enlisted were often unpaid and dressed in a haphazard mix of pieces they acquired while on the march.

Huckins puts a playful, contemporary twist on the notion of expressing one’s identity through fabric by obscuring his subjects’ faces almost entirely, prompting the viewer to consider what it means to be cloaked or exposed. The artist recreated the compositions in the studio by draping a model with a variety of garments, mimicking the direction and temperature of the light in the original works in acrylic paint.

With their faces covered completely, the sitters are identified only through objects such as a string of pearls, a beloved dog, or a handful of fruit. Huckins says in a statement that “anything more that might be known about these people remains hidden beneath piles of cloth and clothing so ubiquitous it could be our own.” Utilizing modern fabrics like buffalo plaid or gingham, the artist considers how we all dress to convey information about ourselves.

Dirty Laundry is also the title of the artist’s upcoming solo exhibition with Duran Mashaal Gallery in Montréal, which opens on June 2. You can find more of his work on his website and Instagram. (via Creative Boom)

 

“Various Fabrics, Bashi-Bazouk (after Gerome)” (2022)

“Red and Black, Mrs. Freeman Flower (after Highmore)” (2022)

“Pattern No. 4, Winslow Warren (after Copley)” (2022)

“Yellow and Blue, Portrait of A Lady (after Hudson)” (2022)

“Various Fabrics, Margareta Rees (after van der Werff)” (2022)

“Various Fabrics, John Park with Dog (after Stuart)” (2022)

“American Portrait, Elizabeth Murray (after Copley)” (2022)

 

 



Art

Brimming with Lush Texture, Mixed-Media Tapestries by April Bey Envision an Afrofuturist World

May 5, 2022

Gabrielle Lawrence

“Your Failure is Not a Victory for Me” (2022), watercolor, graphite, acrylic paint, digitally printed/woven textiles, hand sewing, 110 x 72 inches. Image courtesy of April Bey and GAVLAK Los Angeles | Palm Beach. All images shared with permission

How do we get from where we are to where we want to be with all of these constructs in the way? How do we move forward if we are constantly having to fight back? The past rolls in like a fog and clogs conversations about tomorrow with despair.

April Bey, a Black, queer, mixed-media artist, reminds us that sometimes, in order to get free, we must transcend. Positioning herself within the Afro-futurist tradition, she works with a fictional universe called Atlantica. Atlantica is inspired by the alien stories her father used to tell her as a child to explain racial oppression in the Bahamas and the U.S. Now, based in Los Angeles, Bey uses Atlantica to construct the aesthetics of the future—a reality where Black people are free from the confines of white supremacy, capitalism, and colonialism.

As a Nassau, Bahamas native, Bey also incorporates the region’s tropical flora in her work. She positions the futurity of Black people in direct relationship to the environment, which can manifest as a physical landscape buzzing with harmonious texture, and draws on the legacy of Black art and literature that demonstrates how the natural world has always been part of Black liberation.

Her intricate stitching of Black people in grandeur also adds a layer of decadence to these stories that is reminiscent of African diasporic cuisine. Food seasoned over long periods of time or slow-cooked absorbs the depths of those flavors, and when tasted, envelops the palette. The process and attention to detail, alongside the historical and cultural knowledge, are the foundation.

 

“Don’t Think We’re Soft Because We’re Gracious” (2022), watercolor printed sherpa and sequins on canvas hand-sewn into faux fur, 45.5 x 57 inches. Image courtesy of April Bey and GAVLAK Los Angeles | Palm Beach

This work, like the environment and cuisine, is immersive. Sequins, eco-fur frames, wax fabric woven into large-scale blankets, and colorful patterns are enticing in their pleasure and vitality. The sense-heavy appeal helps transport the viewer beyond the visual and into the spirit of the body, connecting generations across space and time and planting the seeds of the future. Alexis Pauline Gumbs demonstrates this connection in an essay on combat breathing, which our ancestors used to claim their freedom in a world that would not acknowledge it, and Bey conjures this through-line in stirring pieces such as “Don’t Think We’re Soft Because We’re Gracious.”

Bey’s work adds to the long and transformative history of Black and queer people who have subverted power structures through futurity, love, and hybridity. And how fitting? For she knows that to be queer is to live in the future anyway.

You can catch the artist’s solo exhibition, Colonial Swag, at TERN Gallery until May 28 and follow her on Instagram for updates and to see close-ups of her works.

 

“Calathea Azul” (2022), woven textiles, sherpa textiles, resin, glitter on canvas, 24 x 24 inches. Image courtesy of April Bey and GAVLAK Los Angeles | Palm Beach

“I’m the One Selling the Records…They Comin to See ME” (2021), digitally woven tapestry, sherpa, canvas, metallic cord, glitter (currency), hand-sewing, epoxy resin on wood panel, 36 x 48 inches. Image courtesy of April Bey and GAVLAK Los Angeles | Palm Beach

“Fear No Man” (2022), digitally printed and woven blanket with hand-sewn “African” Chinese knockoff wax fabric, 80 x 60 inches. Image courtesy of April Bey and GAVLAK Los Angeles | Palm Beach

“Calathea Barrette” (2022), woven textiles, sherpa textiles, resin, glitter on canvas, 24 x 24 inches. Image courtesy of April Bey and GAVLAK Los Angeles | Palm Beach

“They Fine Pass Mami Wata” (2022), woven textiles, sherpa, metallic thread, resin, glitter on canvas, 24 x 24 inches. Image courtesy of April Bey and TERN Gallery

“You Toilet Paper Soft” (2022), woven textiles, sherpa, metallic thread, resin, glitter on canvas, 24 x 24 inches. Image courtesy of April Bey and TERN Gallery

 

 



Art Craft

Patchwork Coats with Frayed Fur Add Shaggy Texture to Barbara Franc's Dog Sculptures

May 2, 2022

Grace Ebert

Left: “Scottish Deerhound,” 66 x 80 x 20 centimeters. Right: “The Haberdasher’s Dog,” 55 x 78 x 24 centimeters All images © Barbara Franc, shared with permission

Alongside an eccentric metallic menagerie, artist Barbara Franc stitches shaggy hounds with frayed fur and coats layered with assorted patches of prints. The fabric creatures are part of Franc’s collection of animals constructed with repurposed materials that range from buttons and vintage tapestries to windshield wipers and cutlery. To create these soft sculptures, she wraps scraps of worn trousers, curtains, and scarves around a padded, wire armature, defining a muscular hind leg with tweed or a stomach with an embroidered fairytale scene. The tattered edges mimic a tousled tail and the fringe sticking up from an ear, adding lifelike texture to the canines.

If you’re near Towersey, Oxfordshire, this August, Franc is offering a five-day workshop on crafting the textile forms at The Phoenix Studio. The West London-based artist will also have pieces this week at the Affordable Art Fair in Hampstead Heath and with Rockwood Group at Bucks Art Weeks slated for June. You can find more of her upcycled characters on her site and Instagram.

 

Detail of “The Haberdasher’s Dog,” 55 x 78 x 24 centimeters

“The Haberdasher’s Dog,” 55 x 78 x 24 centimeters

“Entre le Chien et le Loup,” or “Twilight Hound,” 58 x 67 x 21 centimeters

“Shaggy Dog Tale”

Detail of “Shaggy Dog Tale”

“Entre le Chien et le Loup,” or “Twilight Hound,” 58 x 67 x 21 centimeters