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KESHA BRUCE | Interlocutor Magazine | Interview

30 Sep


Sep 29

Exhibition Feature – TAKE ME TO THE WATER by Kesha Bruce at Morton Fine Art

Visual ArtistsMultidisciplinary ArtistsExhibition Features

Installation View of Kesha Bruce’s solo Take Me to the Water at Morton Fine Art in Washington, DC. Photo credit: Jarrett Hendrix

Morton Fine Art is pleased to announce Take Me to the Water, a solo exhibition of mixed-media paintings by the artist Kesha Bruce. An intuitive combination of painting, collage and textile art, Bruce’s work represents the culmination of a holistic creative practice developed by the artist over several decades. Her eighth exhibition with the gallery, Take Me to the Water will be on view through October 11, 2022, at Morton’s Washington, D.C. space.

The wall works of Kesha Bruce are less discrete executions of a concerted vision than the steady accumulation of a long creative process. Referred to by the artist simply as paintings, these mixed-media compositions are in fact patchworks of painted fabric, individually selected from Bruce’s vast archive and pasted directly onto the canvas in a textile collage that can sometimes resemble a quilt. The result of a slow and perpetual artistic method, each work represents hours of treatment, selection and juxtaposition until the whole becomes manifestly greater than its parts. Bruce’s process ends with her titling of each work: a poetic articulation of what the work is at this point capable of expressing for itself. 

Much like water, the routine behind Bruce’s artmaking is cyclical and in service to a greater equilibrium – a pointed contrast to many of the epitomic works that make up much of the traditional art histories of the past several centuries, and which tend to aggressively emphasize rupture, madness and unsustainability as the most fruitful mothers of invention. Bruce’s process is distinctly different, and points to more a promising alternative for artmaking, in which creativity and lived experience are inseparably intertwined. For Bruce, this means that art can be not only a form of self-care but an act of self-discovery. Noting that her color palette has become markedly warmer since she moved to Arizona (where she currently serves as the Director of Artist’s Programs for the state’s Commission on the Arts), the artist delineates her method as a form of strategic openness – making room and taking time to allow the materials to guide her toward their final form, rather than the other way around. 

The show’s title, Take Me to the Water, alludes to a 1969 rendition of the traditional gospel song by Nina Simone at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Bruce locates something transcendent in the recording of Simone’s performance that encapsulates what any form of artmaking, at its best, can be: a conversation between oneself and the divine. Deftly aware of the elemental power of water as a force that follows its own paths and forms its own shapes, Bruce identifies her artistic process closely with this element, and notes how the transcendental effects which result from it can be as overwhelming and rhythmic as the ocean waves of Big Sur. 

La Sirene, 2022, 48 x 36 in. Mixed-media on canvas
Florida Water, 2022, 36 x 36 in. Mixed-media on canvas

Amy Morton/Morton Fine Art – Curatorial Statement

What moves me about Kesha’s work is the way one can sense her holistic process within every finished piece. We have worked together for 12 years, and, through our relationship, I have gained rich insight into her intuitive method. She works at her own pace, and an individual work may take years to reach completion, yet it becomes so ingrained in her daily life that its momentum is almost perpetual. Her paintings gradually accrue over time, organically ebbing and flowing between her unconscious and conscious mind. She also embraces her life in the present tense, oftentimes visible in the relationship between her palette and surroundings. I can feel the level of care, attention and vitality in her creations and sense her sustained presence emanating out of each of her remarkable compositions.

Let the Current Take You, 2022, 36 x 36 in. Mixed-media on canvas
Memory of Matala, 2022, 60 x 48 in. Mixed-media Textile Collage on canvas

Kesha Bruce – thoughts on Take Me to the Water

I believe art is a conversation between the artist and the Divine. For me, this belief finds its way into every part of my practice, from painting and writing to creating a strong connection to my community.

I believe art objects are imbued with the intention and Spiritual power of the maker. Each individually dyed and painted piece of fabric in my work comes from an archive that stretches back years. Creating these fabric pieces is a meditative process at the very foundation of both my Creative and Spiritual practice.

The works I’ve created for Take me to the Water are unique in that they are so deeply rooted in my personal stories of my experiences with water. I am very influenced by the elemental forces of nature, but I am especially moved by the Ocean every time I have the chance to see it. Ultimately, these works are about my experiences of the ocean as a place for healing and transformation.

Her Reflection in the Moonlight, 2022, 60 x 48 in. Mixed-media on canvas
Your Eyes are the Night Sky, 2022, 36 x 36 in. Mixed-media on canvas
Teach Me to Dance, 2022. 36 x 36 in. Mixed-media on canvas
Lagoon, 2022, 48 x 36 in. Mixed-media on canvas

Take Me to the Water will be on view through October 11, 2022, at Morton’s Washington, D.C. space.

Check out our coverage of other current and recent art exhibitions

All images courtesy Morton Fine Art and the artist