Tag Archives: Interlocutor

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

ADIA MILLETT interviewed in Interlocutor

9 Apr


Apr 8


Visual Artists

“The Moon is Always   Full” exhibition view at Morton Fine Art in Washington DC - photo courtesy of Jarrett Hendrix
“The Moon is AlwaysFull” exhibition view at Morton Fine Art in Washington DC – photo courtesy of Jarrett Hendrix

Adia Millett, originally from Los Angeles, California received her MFA from the California Institute of the Arts. In 2001, she moved to New York City for the prestigious Whitney Museum Independent Study Program, followed by the Studio Museum in Harlem residency program. Millett has been a standout in numerous group exhibitions including the well-received “Greater New York” show at PS1 in Long Island City, New York and “Freestyle” at the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York. Her work has been featured in exhibitions at the Barbican Gallery in London; The Craft and Folk Museum in LA; The New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Atlanta; The Santa Monica Museum of Art; and The Contemporary Art Center, New Orleans. Millett has taught as an artist in residence at Columbia College in Chicago, UC Santa Cruz, Cooper Union in NY, and California College of the Arts. Millett currently lives and works in Oakland.

In this interview, she discusses the recent work currently on display for her solo show “The Moon is Always Full” up through April 22 at Morton Fine Art in Washington DC.

Interview by Isabel Hou

You currently have an exhibit at Morton Fine Art in Washington D.C. titled “The Moon is Always Full.” In particular, the titles of your textile works, Gold Moon and Black Moon, caught my eye. What is their significance relative to the exhibition?

Gold Moon and Black Moon were actually part of an older piece titled Beneath You. I cut that piece apart (something I often do). Structurally I wanted to take the square grid apart and construct something more organic. The process felt like I was channeling the moon as she gave birth to the embryo forms, Black Moon and Gold Moon.

Gold Moon , 2019 - 30.5 x 30.5 in - Cotton, upholstery fabric and silk
Gold Moon, 2019 – 30.5 x 30.5 in – Cotton, upholstery fabric and silk
Black Moon , 2019 - 30.5 x 30.5 in - Cotton, upholstery fabric and silk
Black Moon, 2019 – 30.5 x 30.5 in – Cotton, upholstery fabric and silk

The pieces in your exhibition are constructed with fragments “to fashion a meaning greater than its individual elements.” (Morton Fine Art, 2021) Quilt-making may be considered an act of fragmentation and construction. Was this textile medium the source of your interest in identity and collective history? Or rather, did your interest lead you to the medium?

I think our cultural histories are imbued with a foundation of craft, of distilling who we are in handmade creative objects. Here, quilting pays homage to that process while redefining how it’s used.  Identity, psychology, spirituality, nature are all reflected in my choices to challenge our visual understanding of who we are.

Your past exhibitions have been named “Infinite Edges” (Traywick Contemporary, 2019), “Breaking Patterns” (California African American Museum, 2019), and “A Matter of Time” (Galerie du Monde, 2020-21). Where does “The Moon is Always Full” fit in with them?

I write poetry and all my titles have or will eventually become the title of something I write. What all of these titles attempt to do is be broad enough that they can refer to a collective societal expansion, while simultaneously asking the viewer to examine how the title can apply to their own personal life.

There is this bright, geometric overlap and underlap in both Portal and Reflection. How do these pieces and their layered compositions contribute to the theme of your exhibition?

It’s a recognition of literal and metaphorical perspectives. We perceive shapes and colors as an indication of 3-dimensional space. The work is examining our desire to make meaning out of abstraction.

Portal,  2018 - 24 x 24 in - Acrylic on wood
Portal, 2018 – 24 x 24 in – Acrylic on wood
Reflection , 2020 - 48 x 60 in - Acrylic on wood
Reflection, 2020 – 48 x 60 in – Acrylic on wood

In the past, you have engaged with concepts of perception, perspective, and time, and have stated that your work “pays homage to the past,” but is “informed by the future.” (Morton Fine Art, 2021). Is this a concept that you find present in your own life? Or is it a commentary on something larger?

I think every artist’s work is a reflection of their lives, so our cultural pasts, our relationship to beauty, resilience, death, community, and so many other topics find their way into my work and hopefully into the minds of anyone interested in art.

You have attributed African American experiences as a source of inspiration. Can you expound on what aspects of your work pay homage to these experiences? And what do you hope to convey through these manifestations?

I am an African American. My work is inspired by my lived experience. What I hope to convey is the value of self-reflection.

Gold Roof,  2019 - 40 x 30 in - Acrylic, gold leaf and plastic on wood panel
Gold Roof, 2019 – 40 x 30 in – Acrylic, gold leaf and plastic on wood panel

What really stands out to me within your work is the dichotomy between geometry and fluidity. The bold colors and patterns in your pieces seem so free and fluid. Yet, much of your work includes neat, geometric lines and shapes. What do you hope to convey between this contrast? Or rather, do you view these elements as complementary?

It’s really great to hear that you see the patterns and colors as free and fluid. Part of my process when I am making anything is to embrace contradictions. The places where we believe things or people don’t belong together are where beauty resides.

XY Shield,  2019 - 42 x 42 in - Indigo dyed cotton, upholstery fabric, cotton and silk
XY Shield, 2019 – 42 x 42 in – Indigo dyed cotton, upholstery fabric, cotton and silk

On your site, you write that your work aims to remind viewers of the “importance of renewal and rebuilding […] through the possibility of transformative change.” Has the ever-evolving nature of identity and the human experience always been so important to you?

I don’t know. I do know that many creative people like myself grow up feeling like aliens, different than the people around them. I think that experience as a child has the ability to spark the drive to fight convention and redefine the identities that have been projected on us.

Who, or what inspires you?

Everything inspires me. Humans, nature, science fiction, music, grief, love, history, emotions, color, moments when we take risks.

OWF,  2019 - 37 x 74 in - Found fabric, wool, cotton and batton
OWF, 2019 – 37 x 74 in – Found fabric, wool, cotton and batton

As we live through a pandemic, have you thought about how the art world will change in the years to come? Do you foresee your work changing in response to this crisis?

Yes, the art world is definitely changing. Amongst other things, the pandemic has certainly woken us up. It has impacted my work, but more importantly, it has raised my desire to support other artists, to collaborate, to bring awareness to social justice issues around racism, patriarchy, prison incarceration, and the growing homeless population. I am more driven than ever to make work that is built around empathy and respect for each other and our collective consciousness. 

“The Moon is Always Full” is on display through April 22 at Morton Fine Art in Washington DC.

Click HERE to read the Interlocutor article in full.

Available Artwork by ADIA MILLETT