Overflowing with lush textures, April Bey’s mixed-media tapestries imagine an Afrofuturistic world

Art

#acrylic #afrofuturism #graphite #portraits #tapestry #textiles #watercolor

May 5, 2022

Gabrielle Lawrence

“Your failure is not a victory for me” (2022), watercolor, graphite, acrylic paint, digitally printed/woven textiles, hand sewing, 110 x 72 inches. All images courtesy of April Bey and GAVLAK Los Angeles | Palm Beach, shared with permission

How can we get from where we are to where we want to be with all these constructions in our path? How do we move forward if we constantly have to fight back? The past rolls around like a fog and obstructs conversations about tomorrow with despair.

April Bey, black, queer and multimedia artist, reminds us that sometimes, to free yourself, you have to transcend. Positioning herself in the Afro-futurist tradition, she works with a fictional universe called Atlantic. Atlantic is inspired by the extraterrestrial stories her father told her as a child to explain racial oppression in the Bahamas and the United States Now, based in Los Angeles, Bey uses Atlantica to build the aesthetics of the future – a reality where black people are free from the confines of white supremacy, capitalism and colonialism.

Hailing from Nassau, Bahamas, Bey also incorporates the region’s tropical flora into his work. It positions the future of black people in direct relation to the environment, which can manifest as a physical landscape buzzing with harmonious texture, and draws on the legacy of black art and literature that demonstrates how the world natural has always been part of black liberation.

Its intricate stitching of blacks into grandeur also adds a layer of decadence to these stories reminiscent of African diaspora cuisine. Foods seasoned for long periods of time or cooked slowly absorb the depth of those flavors and, once tasted, envelop the palette. Process and attention to detail, along with historical and cultural knowledge, are the basis.

“Don’t Think We’re Soft Because We’re Gracious” (2022), watercolor printed sherpa and sequins on hand-stitched canvas in faux fur, 45.5 x 57 inches

This work, like the environment and the kitchen, is immersive. Sequins, eco-fur frames, wax fabric woven into large-scale blankets and colorful patterns seduce with their fun and vitality. The sensory appeal helps transport the viewer beyond the visual and into the spirit of the body, connecting generations across space and time and planting the seeds of the future. Alexis Pauline Gumbs demonstrates this connection in an essay on combat breathing, which our ancestors used to claim their freedom in a world that would not recognize it, and Bey evokes this guiding line in moving pieces such as “Don’t Think We ‘re Sweet because we are gracious.

Bey’s work adds to the long and transformative history of black and gay people subverting power structures through the future, love and hybridity. And how much? Because she knows that being queer is living in the future anyway.

You can attend the artist’s personal exhibition, Colonial lootat Tern Gallery until May 28 and follow her on Instagram for updates and to see close-ups of her works.

“Calathea Azul” (2022), woven textiles, sherpa textiles, resin, glitter on canvas, 24 x 24 inches

“I’m the One Selling the Records…They Comin to See ME” (2021), digitally woven tapestry, sherpa, canvas, metallic cord, sequins (currency), hand sewing, epoxy resin on wood panel, 36 x 48 inches

“Fear No Man” (2022), digitally printed and woven cover with hand-sewn Chinese “African” wax fabric, 80 x 60 inches

“Calathea Barrette” (2022), woven textiles, sherpa textiles, resin, glitter on canvas, 24 x 24 inches

“They Fine Pass Mami Wata” (2022), woven textiles, sherpa, metallic thread, resin, glitter on canvas, 24 x 24 inches

“You Toilet Paper Soft” (2022), woven textiles, sherpa, metallic thread, resin, glitter on canvas, 24 x 24 inches

#acrylic #afrofuturism #graphite #portraits #tapestry #textiles #watercolor

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