Each a part of fiber artist Sonya Clark’s exhibition on the Excessive Museum of Artwork drips with intention.
The homage to Black girls. The struggle in opposition to hate. The reminders of the power in neighborhood.
We Are Every Different (by way of February 18, 2024) is a multisensory assortment of Clark’s large-scale participatory tasks over the past 25 years. It’s an introspection-inducing journey by way of the truth of unceasing oppression, the collective accountability of society to dismantle it and the equally unceasing spirit of a individuals who have been by no means anticipated to outlive.
The artist makes use of fibers and located objects to inform tales about historical past, racial injustice, cultural endurance and reclamation, typically inviting individuals to cross the road from observer to participant.
“When individuals are working collectively or engaged in making the art work itself, they transcend the way it connects to their story — they turn out to be part of the story,” Clark stated not too long ago throughout a telephone chat with ArtsATL.
Interplay helps individuals bear in mind, she stated. And reminiscences, photos and poetry can by no means be taken away by oppressors.
The exhibition additionally contains brief movies, pictures and efficiency items.
The Beaded Prayers Undertaking welcomes viewers with panels of colourful, beaded pouches. Since 1998, hundreds of individuals world wide have positioned their prayers, needs and intentions into the pouches, which inspires individuals to consider shared humanity: how many individuals, throughout race, gender and sophistication need the identical issues, Clark stated. (The Excessive is providing free Beaded Prayers workshops December 2, January 6 and February 3.)
The Unraveled collection brings heaviness to that temporary second of hope. Collective deconstruction of the Accomplice flag — since 2015, individuals have helped unravel it by hand — represents the crawling tempo of progress and the various arms wanted to maintain it. The piles of fallen threads are reminders of the tragedy of timelessness — that the centuries-old forces of white supremacy die onerous.
“The wrestle and demand for liberation should not new,” Clark stated. “And as a lot as Black individuals are systemically oppressed, Blackness can be in regards to the fixed push to reclaim our rightful freedoms.”
She does so flawlessly in her give attention to one of the sacred features of Black expression: hair.
“As Black girls in America, there’s nothing about our existence that’s not political,” she stated. “So I’m purposeful in regards to the work that I do. I’m celebrating our Blackness, honoring who we’re and our ancestors, making area for us and alluring wider communities into that area.”
Black hair — kinky, coily, gravity-defying because it stands up in its pure state — has a fraught and complicated historical past, from Motherland crops that traveled to the Americas as seeds that enslaved individuals hid of their braids, to the afro turning into a political declaration in the course of the Black Energy motion of the Sixties and ’70s, to the necessity for laws just like the 2019 CROWN Act, which protects Black individuals from hair discrimination at work or college.
Museum-goer Seyi Amouso contemplated the artist’s method to Black hair as she walked by way of the exhibit. “Any illustration of Black hair is gorgeous,” she stated, “however her pondering of our hair as an artwork type resonated.” Amouso stated she used to make use of a chemical relaxer to straighten her hair.
“If I had come to this exhibit 9 years in the past, I believe my expertise would’ve been completely different as a result of how I wore my hair was completely different,” she stated.
In line with Clark, hairdressing is the primary artwork fabricated from fiber. It’s a part of what she calls “the ancestral archive.”
The Hair Craft Undertaking, a celebration of Bantu knots, plaits, cornrows and different signatures, options Clark modeling braided types by 12 hairstylists.
“It’s about me acknowledging the craft, the ability, the art work that they do each day,” Clark stated. “How they manipulate the fiber we develop into a fancy type.”
Kinky hair is a continuing all through the exhibit, whether or not it’s balls of Clark’s hair organized within the form of america, works made with fine-toothed combs, a video of Black males reciting poetry in a barbershop or layers of hair that act as mortar between bricks stamped with the phrases of the Declaration of Independence.
The immeasurable affect of Black of us on this nation can’t be denied, she illustrates.
She takes that affect additional with Twist, an endearing font she created with graphic designer Bo Peng. The curly letters “problem the cultural supremacy of the Roman alphabet and resist the European dominance inherent in its widespread use,” the exhibit explains. Poetry by Black girls, written within the font, is framed, with the choice to name a quantity to listen to them recite it.
It’s a love letter for viewers who can see their very own delicate tendrils on every web page, written in a language that for thus lengthy was condemned by colonization.
“Deciding that I wasn’t gonna struggle with my hair anymore was actually useful,” says Amouso. “Now I settle for that it’s gonna do what it desires to do. And I adore it.”
Angela Oliver is a proud native of previous Atlanta who grew up within the West Finish. A Western Kentucky College journalism and Black research grad, each day information survivor and member of Delta Sigma Theta, she works within the grassroots nonprofit world whereas daydreaming about seeing her scripts come alive on the large display screen.