Material Girls

12.02.2011 - 16.10.2011


The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture
830 E. Pratt Street
Baltimore, MD 21202
Tel: 443-263-1800


Maya Freelon Asante

Chakaia Booker

Sonya Clark

Torkwase Dyson

Maren Hassinger

Martha Jackson Jarvis

Joyce J. Scott

Renée Stout


Material Girls
Chakaia Booker, The Fatality of Hope, 2007, Rubber tire, wood

Among the artists in Material Girls are those who took early inspiration from seeing their mothers and other family members sewing, quilting, and shaping simple pieces of fabric into something rich and impressive.

Textile traditions are visible in works by Maya Freelon Asante, Sonya Clark, and Chakaia Booker. Freelon Asante unites fragments of tissue paper in sculptures reminiscent of her grandmother’s quilts. Clark, who learned to thread a needle from her maternal grandmother, creates sculptural works patterned to resemble West African kente cloth. Booker’s recycling of old tires also connects to traditions of sewing. She translates the experience of reconstructing store-bought garments to suit her body into a creative practice that mixes wearable art and re-purposed materials.

Beyond the artistic legacy from family members, ancestral connections to Africa fuel artists Joyce J. Scott, Renée Stout, and Martha Jackson Jarvis who create objects with spiritual and ritual functions. Incorporating seeds, stones, clay, and glass into sculptures and installations that reference rituals practiced in Central Africa and the American South, these three artists choose materials that reveal narratives about identity (who they are) and ancestry (who they come from).

For Maren Hassinger and Torkwase Dyson, materials serve as a critical language to explore concerns about the environment. Hassinger uses sculpture as a way to make physical what has been lost or is in danger. Dyson is concerned with hazards resulting from our material economy; she questions how the “disposable” items we buy, sell, use, and discard will affect the environment. Both are interested in the relationship between humans and the world we inhabit—as are the other artists in Material Girls.

Keenly attentive to the pleasures derived from the sense of touch, the eight artists in Material Girls embrace art forms that allow them to engage the tactile qualities of their media. They build monumental sculptures, shape richly textured surfaces, and apply intricate handiwork to both delicate and resilient materials. Fervently working at the intersection of art and material culture, these artists show us that when we choose to value the materials around us, we can shape our lives and livelihoods through our own making.

Material Girls - Contemporary Black Women Artists is curated by Michelle Joan Wilkinson, PhD.

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