Welcome to ArtsGazing

Alternative Mediums Edition

BILLIE ZANGEWA, Everyday Miracle, 2020. Hand-stitched silk collage, 44.5 x 49.5 inches, 113 x 126 cm. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul, and London

It’s a sad thing to admit, but most people who love art are terrible snobs about it. They’ll say things like ‘I can’t believe that anyone would want to see abstract/figurative/neo-this-that-and-the-other when everybody knows that abstract/figurative/neo-this-that-and-the-other is the only thing worth their time.’. And don’t get them started on the mediums used to produce the art they’re looking at: in their exalted opinion either humans should have never stopped using charcoal and ochre to draw on stone walls or everything should be electricity and pixels. It’s depressing, to put it mildly, and not an attitude we encourage at ArtsGazing.

For us, anything could be art, especially if it’s something we don’t know much about. And if it’s in an unfamiliar medium, so much the better. We’re here to learn, after all, and then transmit our knowledge to you.

Take textile art for instance. It’s one of those mediums whose practitioners love it and they have to, because anyone who works in it gets a hell of a lot of criticism about it. Making material tell a story or create a mood is incredibly challenging, getting the work shown anywhere is difficult, and making a living from it is problematic. On the positive side (at least from an audience’s point of view) any artist who can do those three things is going to make work that is interesting and memorable.

A fine example of the form can be seen at Lehmann Maupin’s show of Billie Zangewa: Wings of Change. Zangewa embraces the use of textile because it represents so many points of view, giving her figurative images a level of meaning that paint or sculpture could never offer. These new pieces emphasize the valuable but often unacknowledged labor of women in society as well as private life. This has a particular resonance in 2020, where so many women have taken on more responsibilities of keeping their families to a daily routine during the global shutdown due to the pandemic while trying to hold on to their paid work. Making her patchwork collages in a so-called feminine identified medium highlights the gulf between the ideal of prettified labor and the real-world effort to maintain an even keel while the world seems to be falling apart. It’s a powerful statement of our time and one that can only make sense in the textile medium.