Stories woven in fiber.
*Photo above: Sonya Clark, Woven Comb Carpet, 2013. Courtesy the artist.
September 14, 2017 to January 7, 2018
Sonya Clark's fastidiously crafted and narratively rich artworks reclaim the cultural power of hair and reimagine the possibilities of weaving as a contemporary and trans-historical art form with deep roots both on the North American and African continents. Clark is obsessed with hair and combs and uses these as materials to bind the styling and weaving of the hair of people of color to cosmological themes of Blackness and infinity. As well, she uses these materials to untangle the snarled knots of race, culture, gender and class. Self-identifying as an artist of African American, Caribbean, and Scottish ancestry, Clark is deeply invested in the intimacy and tradition of craft as well as the visual narratives that situate us historically. As Clark says: "In this country, hair is still used to negotiate race."
Entanglements surveys Sonya Clark's career as a visual storyteller using textile, craft and design, with works that are beaded, woven, piled and plied. The exhibition features sculptures, installations and photographs made of hair and of combs. The exhibit also debuts two new sculptures: Passing and No passing. In these works, Clark ruminates on difference, physical borders and the tendency to divide that rings in geopolitical rhetoric across the world.
Hair has long been used around the world as fiber, as adornment and as signifier of identity. Hair -- braided, plaited, knotted, combed or natural -- is a language. It can also be used to create potent metaphors loaded with cultural knowledge and inscribed with ancestral DNA. To extend the metaphorical power of this material, Clark uses titles encoded with multiple meanings: Tendril, Crown, Roots and Branches and others. In a number of works using combs, Clark similarly stages questions of identity, history, labor and culture embedded in these objects, while considering their generative potential in design.
Clark's artwork affirms and celebrates the prolific creativity of Black culture, while upbraiding racially oppressive narratives. Her work defies our expectations of common and kindred materials to ask questions and tell stories. Through her chosen materials, Clark claims her place in an ongoing global conversation.
About the Artist
A native of Washington, DC, Sonya Clark is the Chair of Craft and Material Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, School of the Arts. Previously, she was Baldwin-Bascom Professor of Creative Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She received an MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, MI, in 1995; and a BFA from the Art Institute of Chicago in 1993. Clark also holds a BA from Amherst College in Amherst, MA. Clark has earned a Pollock-Krasner Award, Virginia Commission of the Arts Fellowship, and Rockefeller Residency in Bellagio, Italy. Her work has been exhibited and collected by more than 150 institutions including the Museu de Arte de Brasilia in Brazil, Natal Society for Art in South Africa, Montreal Museum of Decorative Art, Goetlicher Gallery in Austria, Maxwell Gallery in Australia, Musees d'Angers in France. In the United States, she has exhibited at the Baltimore, Indianapolis, and Newark Museums; Fowler Museum at the University of California at Los Angeles; National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution; and the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City.