For the digital exhibition Home/Work, eight artists – Debora Cheyenne, Katrine Hildebrandt-Hussey, Jackson Joyce, Chad Kouri, Ohni Lisle, William Luz, Senem Oezdogan, and Gail Tarantino – created eight works each at the same 10” x 8” scale during a single week of quarantine. Based on the assignment, the works reflect scrappy and innovative solutions to working without access to familiar materials and engaging in art making during a period of global unrest and uncertainty.
Home/Work also references the ongoing effort to educate ourselves on the experience of others - in addition to their original artworks, each artist contributed to a syllabus of resources that have changed their perspectives, whether related to racial justice, the work of Black artists, or the role of police.
"Vessels is a series of eight pieces about exploitation of Black emotional trauma. Human figures were intentionally not portrayed, but instead are depicted sculptural vases, objects of the daily life, that acts as intimate containers of the emotional states of the artist, while outwardly expressing commemoration, remembrance, and hope."
"Home/Work presented itself to me as an assignment to experiment with reed as a secondary material to burning. I have used the material in past works, however, due to the nature of my current studio schedule, I am not often given the time to experiment and try new processes on a whim. In addition to this desire to continue to explore the material, it also made sense to me from a practical standpoint while I am working from home with my children around. Sewing the reed onto paper is something we can do while all in the same room, while burning presents more of a challenge in that regard.
"I often think about my work as being somewhat primitive, as a universal language that can hopefully speak across people and time, incorporating the use of burning as a ritualistic mark-making process. Basketry and the use of basket reed feels as though it’s a fold within the same cloth, it is very much a compulsive and meditative process that incorporates math and geometry. Baskets are one of humankind’s oldest art forms, they are part of the heritage of nearly every native people. I love that they can take on various different forms and purposes from a decorative object, to vessel and tool. They are filled with myth and motif as well as religious and symbolic iconography, but they are also a way of relating the maker back to the environment and belief in the spiritual world.
"In recent weeks, as stories of social injustice are at the forefront, and a movement has swept our nation, I have questioned everything from my own upbringing, to my engagement within my own community, as well as my art practice. I have built continual learning into my daily studio practice listening to interviews, books, and reports from a diverse group of artists, educators, political leaders to educate myself and reflect on my own white experience. As I absorbed experiences and information I created a list of words/actions, which I reflected upon for each piece created. The work helped me navigate through concerns and feelings; weaving layer upon layer. We are all woven together into a complex system of existence that hopefully will continue to grow stronger and stronger together."
"Early in quarantine, I was retreating into my sketchbook. I was drawing from observation to take in my surroundings, and drawing from my imagination as a form of escapism. I wanted this series to be a synthesis of all the observational drawings, day-dream doodles, and journaling I'd been doing in my sketchbook. I put borders around the moments to bring them into focus, like adjusting the aperture on a camera."
"True to my ongoing investigations in geometric abstraction, these artworks are intentionally ambiguous with infinite interpretations. To me, they act as symbols of support, power, and forward progress, and are meant to be a reminder of the things we have in our communities and within ourselves that help us overcome adversity. Each individual form represents different elements that are part of our collective emotional and physical support system, including meditation, nutrition, exercise, leisure, rest, curiosity, conversation, joy, physical affection, pleasure, trusted friends and allies, and more. Together, each totem of shapes can be read as a figure with open arms, a shelter or structure, or a general offering of support and goodwill. Therefore, I ask, what parts of your support system and self-care rituals do you see when viewing these works?"
"I've been pretty fixated on cut paper in quarantine. It's a process I find relaxing, and it's nice to be away from the computer more. I've been wanting to do hyper-stylized figures on color fields for a while now. I enjoy how they relate to each other and feel like color inversions. Paint spray is an effect I added to heighten texture, and because I love it so much in conjunction with color fields/simplified forms. Working smaller was a big help for me to realize that I'd love to continue in this style with some large format works in the future."
"This series of works was a more focused development of a process of making collaged drawings I have been working on. 'Focused', as I wanted to produce a set of images that hung together as a set, using some materials preexisting and collected specifically for this purpose. I normally collect materials over a period of time prior to making work, amassing a cache of forms, found images, papers and drawings. Due to the lockdown this needed to be both more and less directed. 'More', in that I couldn't rely on simply 'finding' materials, I ordered some paper samples to allow me to work with a fixed and preconceived palette. 'Less', in that I also had to work with what I had around me in my house, pillaging books and my archive of photocopies and printouts. This duality of both chance and intention helped produce a set of images that evolved into a collection that speaks of my home/studio work/life over these last few weeks."
"When I started with this series, I was interested in the informational aspect of a line. Through the character and direction of a line, we can communicate information and emotion. Its use is so universal that we are all profoundly sensitive to it, and even without artistic training, we can extract considerable meaning from the kind of line used in a drawing.
"The works created examine questions of 'solitude and autonomy' and take these original ideas further. Returning to classical compositional elements such as shape, line, and color, I wanted to focus on structural harmony and its disruption. How does the outside (negative space) relate to the inside (container)?
"In these works, each element affects the other - the negative space in relation to the color field, the line in relation to its container, and the picture field to create a system of interactions. The relationship between the line moving in and out of the container is an active one. None of the lines are floating - each line is anchored and seems to follow an intended direction. Relaxed curves change speed and direction and move beyond the boundaries of the color field, disrupting the flow of the original structure. This creates a visual conflict as if the curve is examining whether to proceed in a convex or concave motion - and with that, the curve becomes autonomous in itself. Is it a part of the container or a confined shape, trying to move beyond its given parameters?"
"Global pandemic aside, since mid March I have been working on a series entitled Lost & Found Again. Way, way back in December when the world was a very different place, I went mudlarking along the River Thames in London to discover pieces of history and find what might be the perfect treasure to honor my beautiful man Joel. I hadn’t intended to recreate compositional arrangements of my mudlarking collection before the pandemic, but having time to pour over all the tiny cracks in the glazes, examining the somewhat mini-abstracted nature of the fragments and thinking about life in past centuries provided the intrigue of imagined stories during this extended period of home/studio centric life. The gridded background is inspired by the sublime Tate Modern cafe napkin painted as a backdrop for the mostly blue and white porcelain fragments, creating visual love letters."
The below is a compilation of resources, videos, and readings that the eight artists have been engaging with.
Simone Yvette Leigh
Black writers, poets & other creatives
Octavia Butler, author
Ava DuVernay, director
bell hooks, author and professor
George the Poet, poet, writer, and podcaster
Claudia Rankine, essayist and poet
Layla Saad, author
Christina Sharpe, author and professor
Clint Smith, writer and poet
Baratunde Thurston, author and comedian
Kandis Williams, founder of Cassandra Press
Books & poetry
All About LoveNew Visions by bell hooks, book
Counting Descent by Clint Smith, poetry anthology
How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi, book
In the WakeOn Blackness and Being by Christina Sharpe, book
Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad, book
“Weather” by Claudia Rankine, poem
Xenogenisis, also published under the series title Lilith’s Brood, by Octavia Butler, novel series
Video, podcasts & other resources
13th directed by Ava DuVernay, documentary (available on Netflix)
Have you heard George’s Podcast? by George the Poet, podcast
The 1619 Project published by the New York Times, interactive collection
“How to deconstruct racism, one headline at a time” by Baratunde Thurston, TedTalk
“Resources for Black Liberation” published by Sixty Inches From Center, resource list
View the complete exhibition here