Renwick Gallery exhibition explores the concept of ‘home’

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Alicia Eggert, This Present Moment. Photo by Calen Barnum

Inspired by the COVID pandemic which has put us in mandatory and sometimes self-imposed confinement, the current exhibition at Renwick Gallery, titled ‘The Present Moment: Creating a Better World’, explores the concept of ‘home’.

“I came up with the idea for the exhibit for the idea of ​​home during the pandemic, when I was home all the time,” said Mary Savig, one of the exhibit’s curators. . “I thought of creating shelter ladders to help discover what home can mean.”

The first floor of the gallery uses the five themes – egg, nest, home, country and universe as a starting point, Savig said. “The exhibit is filled with sculptures that look like eggs, baskets (or nests), crafts that represent useful household objects, crafts that illustrate the history of the United States and planetary objects that resemble the universe,” she said.

The second floor explores time scales, which includes responding to the present, past and future.

“This includes art that depicts life in an anxious time for many reasons and includes handcrafted face masks and pieces that capture struggle and resilience,” Savig said.

One such example is a handcrafted quilt by Sherry Kerry Haran, titled “Portrait of Resilience”, which features an African American woman and is made from fabric she designed herself which she cuts and sews to create quilts. layers. She stitches this fabric with African kente fabric that appears in the girl’s blouse; she uses an American flag for her lips and nose; a 2020 faux leather gold necklace; and images of the Coronavirus in the bows of her braids, as COVID has had a disproportionate impact on blacks, Indigenous peoples and other people of color at a higher rate than whites across the United States

Sharon Kerry-Harlan, Portrait of Resilience. Photo by Lee Stalsworth – Fine art through photography

Kerry-Harlan writes, “Despite these dire situations, resilience remains among African Americans and their allies to achieve a better future.”

“The piece reflects his sense of current events … the pandemic and the cascade of events that have affirmed the structures of racism in American society,” Savig said. “The quilt stitches carry stories of pain and there are stitches that mend.”

“Quilts evoke the feeling of home, starting with the crib,” says Carolyn Mazloomi, founder of the Women of Color Quilters Network. “Cloth is the first thing we are wrapped in at birth and the last thing that touches the body when we die.”

Another work, by furniture maker Katie Hudnall, is a walnut case. Hudnall was going through a difficult time and during her long contemplative walks she collected 178 acorns and a special shelter, which took the form of a curvilinear suitcase with a square – a house – for each one.

“The walks became a way to get my mind and body back and really be present,” Hudnall said.

The piece communicates that “life is about all the little failures we make, and one acorn can grow into a giant oak tree,” Savig said.

Kerry Haran and Hudnall’s works are among 135 recently acquired works by a broadly representative and diverse group of American artists, according to Renwick press spokeswoman Rebekah Mejorado.

Savig adds, “These pieces push the boundaries of the relevance of craftsmanship in our lives. They tell a story, show someone’s point of view, teach empathy and expand our view of craft and how it can work in our daily lives.

The exhibition marks the 50e anniversary of SAAM’s Renwick Gallery as the nation’s first museum dedicated to American craftsmanship. The anniversary acquisition campaign, launched in 2020, focused on artworks, increased the number of Black, Latinx, Asian American, LGBTQ+, Indigenous and women artists.

“These objects delve into the history of the studio craft movement while introducing contemporary works of art that push the boundaries of what is considered handmade in the 21st century,” writes Mejorado.

“The exhibition highlights the role artists play in our world in sparking essential conversations, stories of resilience and methods of activism…it recognizes the often overlooked stories and contributions of women, people of color and other marginalized communities,” a Renwick press said. Release.

The exhibition includes a verbal description of 16 key works of art which are available for public use online via personal screen readers, via Aira, a visual interpretation service, and in large print at Renwick Gallery. The verbal descriptions are part of the museum’s initiative to increase the accessibility of artworks for blind and visually impaired visitors.

This Present Moment: Crafting a Better World, is curated by Mary Savig, Lloyd Herman Curator of Crafts, with support from Nora Atkinson, curator in charge of Fleur and Charles Bresler for Renwick Gallery; Anya Montiel, curator at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian; and Elana Hain, Head of Collections.

The exhibition opened on May 13, 2022; and will run until April 2, 2023.

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