This is the last week to catch Brides of Anansi: Fiber and Contemporary Art at Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, Atlanta.
Much like Anansi, the popular West African spirit who often takes the shape of a spider, the artists in the latest exhibition at the Atlanta museum spin, weave and twist material to great effect. Brides of Anansi: Fiber and Contemporary Art explores how fibre has become a popular medium of choice for women artists of the African Diaspora addressing matters of identity, representation and history. Symbolising the eight legs of the trickster folk hero are Xenobia Bailey, Sonya Clark, Januwa Moja, Senga Nengudi, Nnenna Okore, Joyce J. Scott, Adejoke Tugbiyele and Saya Woolfalk.
Fiber and textile arts have often been derided in the name of good taste and for reasons of gender and race. “One of the things that we wanted to do was take a closer look at women’s work. Oftentimes, when we think about women’s work we think of things that are at home, that are done in a leisurely way but these eight women that are featured in this exhibition defy expectations”, says Andrea Barnwell Brownlee, Director of Spelman College Museum of Fine Art.
Featuring a variety of fibre, including yarn, glass, metal, synthetics, paper and textiles, the connotative power of the material drives the exhibition where medium and message are often intertwined. Sonya Clark’s Aqua Allure investigates black female identity through binding together plastic combs with brightly coloured thread, creating a carpet. Senga Nengudi uses black and brown tights, often activated as performance works, to conjure up concepts like physicality and sex, placing them in direct relation to the female body.
The life-size installation Paradise Under Reconstruction in the Aesthetic of Funk is part of Xenobia Bailey’s ongoing project of the same name. Since learning to crochet under needle artist Bernadette Sonona, Bailey’s practice has centred on brightly coloured crocheted works, employing African and African-American patterns, prints and themes, with a psychedelic 1970’s twist.
The Spelman College Museum of Fine Art has a reputation for breaking new ground, and Brides of Anansi is no different, bringing many of the artists to the Southeast of America for the first time. In the words of Andrea Barnwell Brownlee: “The Museum has an established track-record for presenting original, mission-focused, and thought provoking exhibitions that invite audiences to stretch their assumptions about the work that Black women artists create.”
Brides of Anansi: Fiber and Contemporary Art, Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, Atlanta, 4 September-6 December 2014