Opened on September 13, 2022, the first exhibition of the new academic year – “What Our Bodies Taught Us” – is also the first formal collaboration between visiting artists Angela Drakeford and Samantha Fields. Using embroidery, crochet, personal ephemera, live plant material, and assemblage, their works examine the distinction between art and craft, at the same time questioning similar hierarchies associated with the many elements that inform identity, such as class, race, and gender.
During a morning assembly on the day of the opening, both artists reflected on the ideas, materials, and processes that inspire their art. “Craft is a philosophy for me,” Ms. Fields stated, adding that her slow process of making art is “a personal act of resistance against the fast-paced, multitasking, product-driven life today.” In her studio packed with materials collected over the last 20 years, she “lets things spill over each other” as she works on three to six pieces at the same time. “I never want them to be solid,” she observed. “I want my work to be an invitation.”
In fact, one piece located just outside the gallery is exactly that. “The Blue of Distance” is a large embroidery stand draped with cloth on which anyone can add stitches of their own using the needles and thread provided nearby. Calling it “an offering to you to be slow,” Ms. Fields advised her Middlesex audience, “Just stitch and let your mind open.”
Creating inviting spaces “where people can transform themselves” is an important objective of Ms. Drakeford’s process, one that she discovered gradually in her own life. “As an artist,” she said at the outset, “I say I have a grief practice. I spend time thinking about the things we don’t want to talk about.” Not wanting to be consumed by negative feelings, she explained, “I gave myself a garden,” and filled her apartment with lush, leafy plants. In the peace and safety of her changed surroundings, she found, “Life is transformed when you face the enormity of your grief, sorrow, and rage.” Through her work, she endeavors to share that lesson, making places where people can acknowledge the past and present and find “an opening to another world” – hopefully, a different future.
In this way, the artists’ exhibition aims to provide a space of joy and belonging, offering “hospitality, guidance, care, and gestures of love.”
The Ishibashi Gallery is open during the academic day and by appointment. “What Our Bodies Taught Us” will be on view through October 28, 2022.