Fiber is a medium of enormous complexity, versatility, tenacity, and longevity that has been mastered by women from the earliest beginnings of human history. Brides of Anansi: Fiber and Contemporary Art will explore how fiber has become a distinctive voice of women of the African Diaspora to articulate identity, relationships, history, experiences, and artistry about the world(s) in which they live. This exhibition spins, weaves, twists, and loops through the ancient lens of the popular Ghanian folk hero Kweku Anansi who also traveled during the Middle passage to the Caribbean and southern regions of the United States. Anansi is the Akan word for spider, however this is no ordinary spider as the women in this exhibition are no ordinary fiber artists. Anansi is a spider who uses his silk/skill to orchestrate wisdom and speech. He is known to teach agriculture to mankind and is also the god of all stories who created the sun, moon, and stars. These stories are known and revered throughout the African Diaspora and provide an abundance of opportunity for the artistic imagination and intellect to express revelatory world views.
In the works of Xenobia Bailey, Sonya Clark, Januwa Moja, Senga Nengudi, Nnenna Okore, Joyce J. Scott, Adejoke Tugbiyele, and Saya Woolfalk one finds the symbolic representation of the spider’s eight legs. Each artist defines an artistic language and vocabulary that also recalls the role of Madam DeFarge in Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities as her encoded knitted subversive stitchery defined a tumultuous period of history through the use of a fiber medium. The exhibiting artists manipulate a diverse range of fiber media that display vibrant and inventive techniques in yarn, paper, glass, metal, synthetics, and textiles. These artists express an artistry and aesthetic that has been for too long dismissed often for reasons of gender, race, media, and mainstream preferences. Fiber requires a very intellectual, intimate, and complex knowledge of the relationship between the nature of materials, process, and conceptual design and symbolic meaning to the real and spiritual world. Brides of Anansi will open new windows of wonder to the interlaced webs in the nature of our Universe and the real and imaging worlds of these artists. Brides of Anansi: Fiber and Contemporary Art is organized by Lowery Stokes Sims, Ph.D., Curator Museum of Arts and Design (New York) and Leslie King-Hammond, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Maryland Institute College of Art (Baltimore).