Katrina Coombs, Nnenna Okore, Chason Yeboah
Please be advised this exhibition contains depictions of nudity throughout.
French translation to follow
Curated by Sarah-Tai Black
To Build What We Become When We Dream brings together Black women artists working across and amongst geocultural multitudes. Taking its name from activist and writer Nikki Giovanni’s poem Word Poem (Perhaps Worth Considering), this exhibition acknowledges Black feminine artistic creation as a radical means for shaping worlds imagined otherwise. Their fibre-based works and techniques explore both abstracted and figurative forms, offering a model of Black women’s aesthetic practices as diasporic devices of communion, repair, and intervention.
The artistic practices shared here refuse the expectation of self-abandonment and the conditions of the world as it is, centering instead an embodied dedication to one’s self and one’s kin as realized through space, form, colour, and tactility. A continuation of the freedom work of those who came before us, the artists offer a reclarification of what abundance and care might look like in an otherwise inhospitable climate. Together, they are a prescient reminder that dreaming is a form of knowledge production and that the practice of liberation is inextricable from envisioning worlds with an unconditional capacity for love.
To Build What We Become When We Dream is a collaboration between McMaster Museum of Art and Cambridge Art Galleries as part of the McMaster Museum of Art's BIPOC Mentorship program. The program is generously supported by funds from the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Office of the Provost, McMaster University
About the McMaster Museum of Art’s BIPOC Curatorial Mentorship Program
Since 2020, the McMaster Museum of Art annually hosts a BIPOC Curatorial Mentorship Program wherein two mentees per year are employed at the Museum with the intention of building capacity for transformation in the cultural sector. This diversity-focused and networking program for emerging Black and Indigenous curators is meant to amplify and elevate their shared perspectives in the Canadian visual arts sector and accelerate their transition into arts leadership positions in this country. The Program has been supported by McMaster University and the Canada Council for the Arts. In its 2022 iteration, the Program is supported by funds from the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Office of the Provost, McMaster University.
Sarah-Tai Black is a curator and critic who lives in Treaty 3 Territory/Toronto, ON. Their work centers on the liberatory and affective capacities of art-making with an emphasis on embodied Black, queer, trans, and crip futures.
Katrina Coombs was born in St Andrew, Jamaica. She holds a MFA in Creative Practice from Transart Institute via the University of Plymouth. Coombs’ passion for fibre and an uncanny understanding of the sensitivity of threads and fabric are used to formulate designs and sculptural forms that relate to the human body, and especially that of the maternal figure, both physically and conceptually. Ever the consistent creator, Coombs has been awarded grants from the National Performance Network (New Orleans) and the CATAPULT initiative (Jamaica), as well as fellowships with the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute (New York) and The Jamaica Art Society (New York). She has also participated in several residencies globally, such as the Fountainhead Residency with Diaspora Vibe Cultural Incubator (Miami), the Gilbertsville Expressive Movement Artist Residency (New York), and the Davidoff Artist Residency (Bogota, Colombia). Her work has been featured in numerous exhibitions in Kingston, Manila, Berlin, New York, Bogota, Miami, Sarasota, Kentucky, Chicago, Washington, Carolina, and Ontario. In 2022, Coombs had her first solo museum exhibition at the Sarasota Art Museum in Florida entitled “I M(O)ther: Threads of the Maternal Figure”. Apart from her work as an artist, Coombs also works as a mentor and independent curator through the art initiative Blaqmango Consultants. Through Blaqmango she organizes exhibitions and residencies in Jamaica as stepping stones for artist development. She believes that all artists should be true to their creative vision as they pursue their artistic practice and as such encourages and guides artist on the best ways to follow their dreams while providing them with opportunities to advance their careers. She lives and works in St. Andrew, Jamaica.
Nnenna Okore was born in Australia, raised in Nigeria and works in the United States. Throughout her long career as an artist-researcher-teacher, she has focused on ecological issues steeped in artistic practice, pedagogy, and social engagements. In her most recent art projects, she uses bioplastics and environmentally friendly materials to create her artworks. Nnenna Okore is a Professor of Art at Chicago’s North Park University. She has a B.A degree from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka [N-su-ka), an MFA from the University of Iowa, and a PhD from Monash University, Australia. Added to numerous national and international awards, Okore is a recipient of the 2012 Fulbright Scholar Award and the 2021 Creative Victoria Award from Australia. Her works have been featured in major exhibitions at the Museum of Art and Design, NY; Museum of Contemporary African Diasporic Art, New York; Spelman Museum of Fine Art, Atlanta; Museu Afro Brasil, Sao Paulo, Brazil; Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, and the Cleveland Museum of Art, among others. Okore’s recent exhibitions include the Bruges Triennial Exhibition, Belgium, and the Chengdu International Biennial in China.
Chason Adjoa Nana Yeboah-Brown (she/her b. 1991, Toronto) is a self-taught textile sculptor, doll maker and story-teller, exploring the oscillation of ancestral ritual through reconstructed, (un)woven and crocheted structures. Many of her works directly focus on themes of shame, loss of identity, sexuality, the notion and practice of “self-love”, hybridity, energy transference, and acknowledgement of the human form, with a primary focus on marginalized humans. Her desire is to traverse the interconnectivity of these themes, and from those travels - be it through her inclusive dolls, personification soft sculptures or “safe space” creations, provoke more conversation and thought on communal awareness. “Born to a Trinidadian mother and Ghanaian father who met in Toronto where I was born, I like to think of myself and my practice as a direct product of the innate rituals of the diaspora. A new world conduit, here to continue the artistic generational movement of craft and story-telling through feeling and meditative thought.”
To Build What We Become When We Dream présente le travail de femmes artistes noires issues de divers environnements géoculturels. Tirant son titre du poème « Word Poem (Perhaps Worth Considering) » de la poétesse et activiste Nikki Giovanni, cette exposition aborde la création artistique des femmes noires comme un moyen radical de façonner des mondes réinventés. Leurs œuvres réalisées à base de fibres explorent des formes abstraites et figuratives et présentent les pratiques esthétiques des femmes noires comme des formes de communion, de réparation et d’intervention diasporiques.
Les artistes réunies ici rejettent l’attente de l’abandon de soi et les conditions du monde tel qu’il est ; elles se concentrent plutôt sur un engagement incarné envers soi-même et envers ses proches au moyen de l’espace, de la forme, de la couleur et du toucher. Dans le prolongement de ceux et celles qui ont œuvré pour la liberté avant elles, ces artistes jettent un nouvel éclairage sur ce que pourraient être l’abondance et la sollicitude dans un environnement par ailleurs inhospitalier. Leurs œuvres sont un rappel prémonitoire que le rêve est une forme de production du savoir et que la pratique de la libération est indissociable de la capacité d’envisager le monde avec un amour inconditionnel.
To Build What We Become When We Dream est une collaboration entre le McMaster Museum of Art et Cambridge Art Galleries dans le cadre du programme de mentorat PANDC du McMaster Museum of Art. Le programme bénéficie du généreux soutien financier du ministère du Patrimoine canadien et du bureau du recteur de l’Université McMaster.