Limitations and Whimsy: Marginalized Bodies in Entwined at MCMA
By Camryn King, spring 2023 curatorial intern
An exciting exhibition is on display until June 4th at the Marietta Cobb Museum of Art entitled Entwined: A Group Exhibition of Textile and Fiber Art. This group exhibition features fifteen artists from around the country whose work with textiles and fiber art incorporates a variety of topics from myth and folklore to technology and memory. Of these topics, many of the artists focus on marginalized bodies, subjects that have historically or currently been limited or discriminated against in American society due to gender/sex, race, class, background, ability, and more. Often, these artists work with traditional cultural techniques to reclaim their heritage and argue for their central, rather than marginal, status. Zipporah Camille Thompson, Richard-Jonathan Nelson, and Nicole Benner are a few of the exhibiting artists who incorporate marginalized bodies in their artwork.
Blue Magic by Zipporah Camille Thompson
Zipporah Camille Thompson is a ceramist, weaver, sculptor, and activist based in Atlanta, but she was raised in North Carolina where she got her Bachelor of Fine Art from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Her work on display at the MCMA, Blue Magic, is sculptural, but rather than depicting a single subject, it captures the essence of multiple bodies and personalities… a “sculpted [shapeshifter] and hybrid [landscape that] investigate[s] otherness.” Thompson used multiple materials for this piece, including found pennant flags, hair weave and beads, and antlers, capturing each object’s memory and meaning while giving them new life as part of this sculpture. Thompson used several techniques, including netting, braiding, and hand weaving, to attach materials to each other and the supportive wooden rod from which the piece hangs. Vibrant and endlessly mesmerizing, Blue Magic is whimsical yet serious, commenting on the artistry of Black bodies. Historically, the Black community has been told that they are less worthy because of the color of their skin. With this piece, Thompson firmly places the Black body in a position of beauty and power, staunchly refusing to give in to hate.
Avoiding lowski and explain by Richard-Jonathan Nelson
Similar in subject to Thompson’s is the work of Richard-Jonathan Nelson who has three pieces on display in Entwined: Got me ouchea trying to refrain, Go move out of reach to the unusual, and Avoiding lowski and explain. Each of these pieces is a Jacquard, a woven piece of fabric with intricate designs. The term comes from the loom on which it is made, named after its inventor Joseph Marie Jacquard. Nelson grew up in Savannah and learned how to sew from his mother and grandmother. Within his works on display, Nelson explores space, place, and identity, creating fantasy environments for his queer Black subjects who are doubly marginalized in American and global Western societies. Instead of reclaiming spaces for these marginalized bodies, Nelson imagines and concocts safe, imaginative spaces of luscious greenery, placing his subjects within this setting and allowing them the subjectivity they have been historically and currently denied.
Comfort/Confine II by Nicole Benner
Another artist who incorporates marginalized bodies into their body of work is Nicole Benner, whose piece Comfort/Confine II is currently on display. Benner quilts, sews, crochets, and knits and is based in Kansas City, Missouri. Her exhibiting work is comprised of a crocheted textile, a wearable artwork presented upon a mannequin that conforms to the body and spreads out in a circle at the form’s feet. This piece is part of Benner’s Comfort/Confine series that addresses chronic pain. The artist herself deals with chronic pain from her spine; the copper-colored yarn of this piece is a reference to the nervous system as copper connotes the wiry energy of our nerves that allow us to perceive and experience the world. Exhibiting alongside the textile piece is a video of someone wearing it, demonstrating how the crocheted piece is at once constricting and reassuring as it stretches against and limits the wearer. The wearable works as a metaphor for chronic pain, as those who deal with it are restricted not just by their body but also by a society that often relegates or marginalizes less-abled bodies. Benner states of the artwork, “Here, the body has defined mobility, only capable of reaching where the textile allows.” This conjures ideas of how society has defined mobility for those that deal with chronic pain, limiting and undervaluing their efforts.
Thompson, Nelson, and Benner are just a few of the artists in Entwined that use marginalized bodies as the subject of their work. All of the works in this exhibition that incorporate this subject have something to teach about intolerance and hate, but each also offers solutions that lead to acceptance and love.
ALL IMAGES COURTESY OF THE ARTISTS
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