Phantom Haptics

October 17 – November 21, 2021 

Jordan Craig, Molly Haynes, Aaron McIntosh, John Paul Morabito, James Mullane, Aaron Storm, Stephanie Robison, & Hope Wang 

As one of the oldest art forms in the memory of our species, textiles are specters of artistic, social, and cultural pasts. This omnipresent history of fibers and fabrics in art causes contemporary works that utilize these mediums to occupy deliciously muddied and multifarious conceptual territories. For lack of better words, textiles are cause for art historians and artists to have philosophical field days. However, one facet of their nature remains starkly clear and is most often returned to by art writers and thinkers.
Amidst the many investigations the unique ways in which textiles occupy (or suggest ) physical form continues to fascinate and perplex.

Phantom Haptics looks to the future of textiles, asking what the art form has become at a time when their innately somatic qualities are estranged from our hyper-digitized perceptions. The selected artists use textiles to either distance or ground themselves firmly within three modes of usage. Textiles are first and foremost sensory objects that require a great deal of manual manipulation in their production and are activated through touch. Textiles also function more metaphorically as connectors – works that are communally made and pay credence to a specific group, “touching” many through
existing as singular objects. Finally, textiles have increasingly been used in contemporary work to offset other physical mediums and confuse the distinctions between them, encouraging new ways of making and furthering the definitions of the multidimensional form. This scope for an exhibition is admittedly broad and complex, Works presented in Phantom Haptics, are appropriately rich and layered, both physically and metaphorically.

Stephanie Robinson’s unusual sculptures confound interpretation and definition, evading our attempts to identify what materials they are made of and how they are visually balanced and structurally sound. The respective material qualities of felt and stone seem to switch back and forth and blend with one another. Her Instagram handle, Squishy Stone, hints at the material humor embedded in their creation.

Aaron McIntosh’s quilted silhouettes of lovers betray their assumed purpose in display. Rather than being flat, utilitarian objects, his quilts become sculptural forms that cheekily cascade over gay erotica and tumble down from a hooked, fleshy finger. In presenting them to viewers in this way, McIntosh also partially obscures what exactly his works portray to an unassuming eye.

Jordan Craig’s painting enlivens geometric patterns used in Cherokee beadwork
and saddle blankets. Re-purposing the horizontal repetitions commonly found on a flexible, tanned hide material for the canvas, Craig nods simultaneously to a larger cultural tradition and a singular person, and also disjoints and warps conventional conceptions of what a textile is and can be. Though existing outside of the technical definition of a textile, Craig’s work very much reads as one.The work took shape in part as a kind of portrait of her sister, who often experiences “head in the sky” moments.

Painting and weaving may seem to have a paradoxical relationship, though curiously another artist in Phantom Haptics marries the two mediums. John Paul Morabito has taken an image of the Madonna and Child, from a well-known Italian Renaissance work by Sandro Botticelli. As detailed by the artist, works from his Magnificat series seek to enliven approaches the Madonna through queer sensibility, offering a kind of queer grace. Morabito takes inspiration from T’ai Smith, who has situated weaving as a tangent of art. Moribito uses the tangent as a queer methodology to craft an ontology on the tapestry. Employing camp sensibilities, the artist considers the fallen glory of tapestry to re-orient holy images within a queer cosmology. Appropriation, mutation, and decadence are manifested in the weaving, at once joyful and sobering. Viewers are invited to consider the ongoing relationship of control and persecution imparted by the Catholic church upon queer bodies and communities for over 2000 years. Moribito’s textiles become queer bodies themselves in a way, displayed in florid, unashamed humanity.

The queering of textile traditions seen often in this exhibition, which were often very strictly gendered historically, is overtly presented in wonderfully explicit works by James Mullane. Again referencing an art historical theme seen in colloquial western artists like Georgia O’Keefe and Robert Mapplethorpe, Mullane substitutes various flora for images of the anus and penis. Selections from his Immoral Garden series are decadent celebrations of gay sex. Many of the images were inspired by pornographic scenes.

Image appropriation seen in Mullane and Morabito’s works is echoed in the use of discarded plastic by Molly Haynes. Lobster line, a New York Times plastic bag, and netting are seamlessly incorporated into her intimately scaled weaving. Haynes creates intimate moments to consider new material explorations. By integrating plastic with more natural fibers, Haynes creates an odd juxtaposition between materials that are fleeting and easily degrade with time (an age-old problem for textiles) and a material that stands against it.

The usage of a temporal medium to address themes of waste is something artist Hope Wang is also interested in. Wang digitally manipulates imagery from desolate sites of industrial detritus – like construction sites and empty parking lots. The stark ugliness of urban ruins and abandoned sites become poignant reminders of human civilizations and human stains.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Aaron Storm’s works are meditations on the ultimately fragile and temporary nature of most textile-based works by investigating the medium through raw source materials. Engaging with an instructional lineage of Japanese and Appalachian artisans, these explorations of non-traditional pigment application on silk mawata function as meditations on the impossibility, inevitability, and tension of death, dying, and grief. Each layer of unspun silk is a single, unbound cocoon of a silkworm allowed to survive for use as breeding stock; rather than being boiled and reeled, these imperfect cocoons are stretched over a frame and used for ‘raw silk’ pro-
duction, leaving a physio-temporal record of transformation, and a brief glint of life in defiance of death. This tension between the desperate compulsion to clutch life against the chest, and the inevitable stilling of a body in death is further embodied through the application of chlorophyll, and the spinning of the silk. Resulting from the inherent instability of the pigment, the image will fade quickly upon exposure to light, changing the object over the course of the exhibition.

About the Artists

Jordan Ann Craig is a Northern Cheyenne artist born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. She received her B.A. from Dartmouth College. Her work includes painting, prints, collages, textile prints, and artist books. In 2017, Jordan was awarded the H. Allen Brooks Traveling Fellowship as well as the Eric and Barbara Dobkin Fellowship at the School for Advanced Research. In 2019, Jordan was an artist in residence at Institute for American Indian Arts as well as the Roswell Artist-in-Residence Program. Currently, she is painting and printing in Roswell, NM.

Molly Haynes is a Los Angeles-based weaver working at the intersection of art, craft and design. Her tactile sculptures explore structure and materiality—echoing tensions between humans and the natural world. She utilizes unconventional materials such as salvaged marine ropes, sisal twine, and deadstock yarns to construct undulating forms which blur the line between natural and manmade. Haynes earned her B.F.A. in Textiles at the Rhode Island School of Design and went on to design for the interior textiles industry, where she gained a deep understanding of fibers and the construction of cloth. After several years, she decided to delve into her personal practice to focus solely on hand-made works that are free of utilitarian constraints.

Transdisciplinary weaver John Paul Morabito engages queerness, ethnicity, and the sacred through the medium of tapestry reimagined in the digital age. They have exhibited internationally including the Zhejiang Art Museum (Hangzhou City, China); CULT Aimee Friberg Exhibitions (San Francisco, CA); Dorsky Gallery Curatorial Projects (Long Island City, NY); Document (Chicago, IL); the Des Moines Art Center (Des Moines, IA); the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art (Overland Park, KS); the Center for Craft (Asheville, NC); and the John Michael Kohler Arts Center (Sheboygan, WI). Collections include the Musée des maîtres et artisans du Québec (Montréal, Canada) and the Textile Resource Center at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, IL). Morabito holds a BFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art and an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where they serve on the faculty as Assistant Professor, Adj of Fiber and Material Studies.

Aaron McIntosh (b. 1984, Kingsport, TN) is a cross-disciplinary artist whose work mines the intersections of material culture, family tradition, sexual desire, and identity politics in a range of works including quilts, sculpture, collage, drawing and writing. As a fourth-generation quilt maker whose grandparents were noted quilters in their Appalachian communities, this tradition of working with scraps is a primary platform from which he explores the patch-worked nature of identity. Since 2015, McIntosh has managed Invasive Queer Kudzu, a community storytelling and archive project across the LGBTQ
South. His work has been exhibited at the Toledo Museum of Art, Hangaram Art Museum in Seoul, the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, Yale University’s Green Art Gallery, the International Quilt Study Center, the Los Angeles Craft & Folk Art Museum, and the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay & Lesbian Art in New York City. His current research-creation project, Hot House/Maison Chaude, is supported by a 2020-2022 SSHRC Insight Development grant. Additionally, McIntosh is a recipient of the 2020 United States Artist Fellowship in Craft, a 2018 Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Fellowship, a 2017 Virginia Culture Works Grant, and two Center for Craft Windgate Fellowships in 2006 and 2015.

James Mullane is a multi-media artist working out of Denver, CO. James was originally born on Fort Carson Army Base in Colorado Springs. His unique experience as a child of Army parents formed the way he looks at the world. His work focuses on queer issues, queer acceptance, gender identity, intersectionalities, hybridity, gender fluidity, and the performative acts that create gender. James’ work features multiple media and overlapping imagery to note the many layers of a person’s identity. His work explores how the intersecting labels create an individual’s unique life experience. James graduated with his Bachelor of Fine Arts with a concentration in drawing from the Metropolitan State University of Denver.

Originally from Oregon, Stephanie Robison currently resides in California teaching sculpture at the City College of San Francisco. Robison holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Marylhurst University and a Master of Fine Arts in Sculpture from the University of Oregon. Robison’s work has been exhibited at Whatcom Museum and Tacoma Art Museum in Washington, Marrow Gallery, Marin Museum of Contemporary Art and Orange County Center for Contemporary Art in California, Peter Robertson Gallery in Alberta Canada, Yeiser Art Center in Kentucky, Joseph A Cain Memorial Art Gallery and Greater Denton Arts Council inTexas and Site: Brooklyn Gallery in New York.

Raised in central Indiana and having spent his adult life in Kentucky, Aaron Storm makes work that exists outside the dominant coastal narrative of “queer art.” Having trained as a photographer for a number of years, he now makes objects from silk, plastic and wax, that through physical leakage and the transmission of light, subvert their own boundaries and ontology, occupying an indeterminate sense of quiet spacelessness.

Hope Wang is a Chicago-based artist, arts facilitator, and poet. Contending with sloppy traces of human activity around sites of industrial labor, her work considers the ways architectural spaces become artifacts of memory. She likes to joke that she creates geo-caches of public places she has cried in. She hosts and operates LMRM, a floor loom rental resource for Chicago fiber artists. She received her BFA (2018) from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is a 2021 recipient of the gener8tor Art Accelerator Program Grant. She has attended the Digital Weaving Lab Residency at
Praxis Fiber Workshop; The Weaving Mill WARP Residency; and Spudnik Press Cooperative Fellowship. Her work has been exhibited at Ignition Project Space (Chicago, IL); Gallery No One (Chicago, IL); Chicago Art Department (Chicago, IL); Sullivan Galleries (Chicago, IL); and Zhou B Art Center (Chicago, IL), amongst others.

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