Sew What: Jessie Dunahoo, Elana Herzog, Ben Venom

Mar 16 2021 to Jul 10 2021
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This exhibition brings together three distinct artists who share a love of common materials (fabric, clothing, rugs, plastic bags) and an urge to investigate their potential as component parts of larger objects and installations. Their completed works offer meditations on the history of assemblage, especially aspects of recycling, labor, and time.

Jessie Dunahoo was a Lexington artist who was born deaf and additionally lost his vision at a young age. That didn’t prevent him from making elaborate art and environments with found materials around his home. As an adult, he worked five days a week at Latitude Artist Community, a local studio facility that provides are and creative outlets for individuals with disabilities. His sewn-together works present shifting areas of color, texture, language, and transparency.

Elana Herzog consistently makes and unmakes objects, ripping and cutting textiles and carpets and situating them in and against specific gallery and museum architecture. For the last two decades, she has reveled in creating immersive situations that obliterate distinctions between old and new, common and precious, in process and completed. She states, "Speed, labor, progress, obsolescence, loss, kitsch, camp, nostalgia, sentimentality, taste…there are too many clichés out there for what I and other women artists do.”

Ben Venom combines the processes and aesthetics of quilt making with the robust graphics of heavy metal and punk music, tattoo culture, and heraldry. His large wall hangings utilize fragments of t-shirts from bands like Iron Maiden, AC/DC, and Poison, along with swatches of denim and other fabrics. Together, these form a complicated code switching between gendered traditions and unique sub-cultures.

“Jessie Dunahoo’s reality as a deaf and blind man, did not stop him from creating sculptures by touch, sewing together plastic shopping bags, scraps of fabric, and other items that were collected for him. Elana Herzog makes reference to the history of art, industry, and domestic traditions by cutting, stacking, and splicing distinct rugs and carpets from around the world into unique arrangements. Ben Venom has been called a ‘punk rock quilter’ because of the band-related T-shirts he uses, as well as the rebellious attitude he brings to this traditional sewing activity,” UK Art Museum Director Stuart Horodner said. “The exhibition examines the use of recycled and referential materials, and the different ways that artists orient their own physical, emotional and cultural situations.” 

image: Jessie Dunahoo, Untitled, circa 2010-15, plastic bags, fabric samples, and thread. Courtesy of the Estate of Jessie Dunahoo and Institute 193.

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