Sonya Clark: An Exhibition of New and Existing Work

The piece that you just saw us hang, which is the oldest piece in the show called triangle trade which just by its very name hopefully
reminds people of the transatlantic slave trade route. This piece is really
talking about the movement people of African descent, the movement of people, the movement of commodity, the movement of people as commodity so that brought
together the idea of cornrowing so that’s standing in for the African
presence but the material is cotton that’s standing in for this one of the
materials from materials that was moved along that route. I started as a textile artist, my roots are as a textile artist, as a fiber artists and so everything ties back to that in some way
or another and to be honest the simpler the material is, the more common it is, the
more basic it is, the more it potentially has that ability to connect to people, to
be a mirror or a sponge, for people to find themselves in it in some way. So that can
range from a pocket comb which is sort of ubiquitous plastic pocket comb. So that allows people to say well what’s my experience with a pocket comb, what’s my memory of it, what’s a collective memory about it, what’s the individual response to it? To a
strand of hair, which you know unless you have alopecia everybody grows hair and
so that’s one of the things that connects us not only because we all grow
hair but also because in our hair is contained our DNA so it’s actually a
substance in which we’re all connected in one way or another Everybody has a hair story. There’s a lot about agency like when you got to comb, cut, color, do your own hair. So owning your own body and your own space there’s a
lot about hair as being a collective thing how your hair is done how people
perceive you because of how your hair is done or not done and then there’s also
of course race implied in the kind of hair that you grow. So much of Sony’s work would fall into a category that she calls socially engaged practice and by
this she means work that’s involving members of the community in terms of
bringing in their ideas, their experiences, and even their craft so this
project that she’s working on with students is a really wonderful way of
expanding the work that she’s done for so many years with hair has a fiber
and as a vehicle of history I’ve been working with some of the
students here at the University of Michigan to write down their hair
stories to share with each other there hair stories. Those stories will be captured on pieces
of paper Those pieces of paper then will be dyed in colors that look like hair colors from blonde to brunette
and then the paper will be twisted into things that approximate hair and be
shown in mass and then I’m inviting people to come to the gallery pluck a hair and
leave a hair story. So the piece will age, it will go from the sort of deep rich colors from blonde
to brunette to dark hair and then aged by being turned into white hairs that are
placed there by whoever comes into the gallery and takes the story and leaves a story. My hair is like glitter sparkling in the eyes of young black brilliance, growing in the garden of bitter sweet dreams. My hair gives me life, brings joy to my existence. It is me on a good day and on a bad day. My hair is a genetic puzzle, that only i can unriddle, unlock, unravel, and untangle.

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