Fiber news

Dawn Williams Boyd’s ‘Woe’ exhibition transforms fiber art into timeless historical depictions

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Dawn Williams Boyd loves collecting things.

“I’m trying to find a polite way to say it,” Boyd said with a laugh. “My husband and I… like to collect other people’s stuff.”

This includes going to Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity, second-hand bookstores and garage sales and combing through leftovers from previous generations. At a yard sale, Boyd came across a little black book. The book was about Harry Tyson Moore, an early leader of the civil rights movement, and contained photos of Moore and his family.

One of those photos was of his two daughters, Annie “Peaches” Rosalea and Juanita Evangeline, Boyd said. The photograph, like others from 1942, was taken in black and white. Boyd saw the photo as an opportunity to both create work that showcased 1940s fashion and to have the freedom to be creative with the colors and fabrics used in the two girls’ clothes.



What followed was Boyd’s 2004 work “Peaches and Evangeline: Bibbs County, FL 1942,” a fabric painting made by layering multiple fabrics on top of each other and also painting over those fabrics, the same medium as many works on display at the Everson Museum of Art exhibition of works by Boyd, “Woe”.

Boyd’s use of fabric stems from a family tradition of seamstresses, as her grandmother, mother and aunt are all seamstresses and she has worked with fabric all her life. After working with more traditional mediums early in her artistic career, she said the transition to fabric paintings was simple.

“Anyway, since I was drawing as a preliminary for my painting, the only thing that really changed was that I changed the acrylic paints for the fabric, and I changed a brush to apply it, to a palette knife to apply it,” Boyd said. . “It was just a different way of thinking about it.”

“Peaches and Evangeline” was originally conceived as part of Boyd’s “The Sins of Our Fathers” series, a series about racial injustice and violence against black Americans in the United States. Boyd added the artwork due to Harry T Moore’s extensive civil rights activism as well as the violence of his death – a bomb was placed under his bed, killing Moore and leading to the death of his wife, Harriette.

Originally curated by Daniel Fuller for the University of Georgia’s Lamar Dodd School of Art, the exhibit features pieces of his work, including an abstract depiction of the slave trade in “The Middle Passage” at a portrait in “Abebe, Chinwe’s Daughter”. The theme of criticism of social injustices in the United States is the motif of Boyd’s exhibit, he said.

Fiber art, in general, is kind of a hot topic now. It has certainly gained popularity in recent years.

Steffi Chappell, assistant curator at the Everson Museum

Steffi Chappell, assistant curator at the Everson Museum, said it was important to exhibit Boyd’s work because of the level of Boyd’s work as well as the growing interest in fiber art in the art community.

“(Boyd) is absolutely the caliber of an artist that deserves a solo exhibition in a museum,” Chappell said. “Fiber art, in general, is a hot topic now. It’s definitely grown in popularity over the past few years.

In “The Middle Passage,” Boyd said she dabbled in the form and material of her subjects, because the central characters, two black men on a boat, are two whole pieces of cloth. Next to them is half of a skeleton, whose ribs are made of silk, standing in front of an abstract ocean that was made to be juxtaposed against the brown of the boat.

Boyd said this experimentation with form and material is consistent with his creative process. In order to keep herself and her audience interested, she said she tries to experiment and innovate to stay ahead of others working in fabrics.

Fuller said he hopes “Woe,” which will be on display at the Everson until April 10, will inspire viewers to take a close look at Boyd’s artwork and become immersed in it.

“I encourage people to figuratively, not literally, pull the thread of the artwork,” Fuller said. “She had a story to tell for a long time and now she has the chance to spread it to a wider audience.”

The story Boyd tells, however, can be difficult to hear, Fuller said. She said she hoped to tell an unchanging story that tells the honest truth about what happened in the past, especially the history of violence and injustice against black Americans.

Boyd hopes viewers of her work will look more closely at the history of music and art around them, she said, and she thinks looking to the past for guidance is the only way to ensure that certain mistakes and atrocities are never committed again.

“We’ve seen over the last five or ten years black Americans being murdered on YouTube,” Boyd said. “It’s no different than what’s been going on for four or five hundred years. We just didn’t have YouTube. That’s the only difference.