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This guide serves as a companion to the exhibition in the 1st floor galleries of McColl Center for Visual Art. The exhibition is designed to begin along the left wall and through the corridor that leads to the rear entrance of Gallery 115. Quisqueya Henríquez Personal Ecstasy, 2011 In this work, Henríquez reinvents Dan Flavin’s Diagonal of Personal Ecstasy, (Diagonal of May 25, 1963) (1963), a ground-breaking installation in which he introduced fluorescent light as an art form. Taking a photograph she captured from the Internet, Henríquez appropriates the image of the iconic sculpture into a collage involving three-dimensional elements, such as folded paper and balsa wood. In the center of her colorful, grid-like composition, she cuts out the shape of Flavin’s diagonal bulb before twisting the attached strip underneath. The balsa wood counterbalances the diagonal thrusts of the re-worked paper, not to mention it recreates the principles of movement and depth essential to Flavin’s original installation.



Quisqueya Henríquez Flaws and Impurities, 2011


This collage incorporates Irving Penn’s photograph entitled Summer Sleep (1949), which features a woman sleeping behind a net crawling with flies. Henríquez considered the flies as the photograph’s punctum, and wished to recreate it by adding plastic flies to the surface of her work. In his short novel entitled Camera Lucida (1980), Roland Barthes describes the punctum as the poignant and personally touching detail that establishes a direct relationship with the object or person within it. Henríquez captured the image from her computer screen to induce the moiré effect, yet her key approach to appropriate the original was achieved by photographing it at an angle. The new perspective not only adds more dimension; it differentiates her piece from Penn’s and makes it her own.

Quisqueya Henríquez Novembergruppe, 2011

Henríquez pays homage to German artist Hannah Höch, through appropriating her photomontage entitled Strange Beauty (1929). The title, Novembergruppe (November Group), refers to a group of sixty artists and architects, of which Höch was one of two female participants, who took their name from the month of the 1918 German Revolution. By photographing the image directly from her computer screen, Henríquez achieves the appearance of colorful grids that compose the work. More pronounced here, as opposed to her other work is the moiré pattern, the optical effect produced by grids overlapping at an angle. The descending movement of these lines, as well as


After shooting the original, Henríquez realized the cursor was placed over the model’s mouth. Deciding that this element of chance further enhanced her idea, she left it.


those cut out behind the figure’s torso, refer to Adam’s rib as the source of women’s creation in the Catholic tradition. It also symbolizes Höch’s emergence as the only woman to work in the Dadaist movement, which, like the context of the title, evokes memories of radical events in history.  

Quisqueya Henríquez Partial Vision, 2011 The title refers to a description of Louise Lawler’s art, making reference to the way she photographs the work of other artists. She is known to capture images of artwork already exhibited in a gallery or home, in order to incorporate the environmental aspects surrounding it. Taking the concept of “partial vision” to the next level, Henríquez cuts a portrait of Marcel Duchamp five times in different sizes, making it nearly impossible to identify the iconic artist. By overlapping his portraits, Henríquez creates a radiating effect that underscores the surrounding space in a rhythmic and optical vision, thus working in contrast to Lawler’s documentary approach. The colorful grid that Henríquez gains from photographing Duchamp’s portrait

Quisqueya Henríquez America’s Decadence, 2011 In America’s Decadence, Henríquez combines two images: Gordon MattaClark’s Splitting (1974), which features a house he sawed in half that was about to be demolished in Englewood, New Jersey, with an anonymous photograph of an abandoned house in a Santo Domingo neighborhood. Influenced by Alejo Carpentier’s book entitled La Ciudad de las Columnas (The City of Columns), in which he discusses the blend of architectural styles in Havana, Henríquez began observing her surroundings more carefully. She recognized the inspiration of European and North American styles in her own neighborhood, as well as the decadence displayed in the city’s growing preference to demolish architecture instead of choosing to restore it. By inserting the image of the Dominican home in between


from her computer screen not only accentuates this outward movement, but becomes intensified by her additional layer of drawing.  


Matta-Clark’s halved house, Henríquez unites the two structures to represent the similar thought processes leading to their destructions: progress. The colorful gridlike areas surrounding the black-andwhite images emphasize this movement of development and symbolically help to echo the meaning of the title.


Quisqueya Henríquez The Breuer Building, 2011


This collage presents an image of the lobby of the Whitney Museum of American Art, a building designed by Bauhaus instructor and modernist architect, Marcel Breuer, whom Henríquez attributes the title of her piece. The triangles incised across the bottom of the image indicate that her work is not the Museum, but an image of it. Similarly, the moiré pattern underscores the work as an image of an image. This appropriation questions the relationship between an art institution and herself as an artist, not to mention the process of legitimization.

Henríquez continues to reinvent the image by inserting a drawing by Louise Bourgeois on the opposite wall. While subtle, this inclusion alludes to a Whitney Biennial that once excluded Bourgeois, an incident that deeply angered her.

Quisqueya Henríquez From the Collection, MoMA Works Online, 2011 This installation comprises several images that Henríquez procured from the Museum of Modern Art online collection, each printed in the same size and resolution determined by the Internet. The major goal of the work is to conceptualize the artist’ process, which Henríquez indicates by introducing situations that relate to the different methods of production used by the artists featured on the plank. Some situations appear subtle, such as the image of Jackie Winsor’s Laminated Plywood (1973), which Henríquez supplements with sawdust to simulate her artistic production. She also exposes the contextual similarities between the images displayed and the installation itself.


According to Henríquez, this particular reference “reflects the perfect combination of humor and frustration, while contrasting with the magnificent beauty of the Breuer design.”  


By merging the work of different artists of different genres, Henríquez creates a postmodern pastiche of modern and contemporary artwork featured in MoMA’s online collection.

Quisqueya Henríquez 33, 140 Views, 2011


The title refers to the number of hits collected by Richard Serra’s Hand Catching Lead (1968) on YouTube; that is, after Henríquez filmed the internet video. After recording her appropriation, she transforms the original version by eliminating the moments where the hand catches the lead; thus eliminating the context of Serra’s original work. The hand moves back and forth, creating an illusion of interaction with the moiré effect, a signature of Henríquez’s work.

Sonya Clark Counting Change II, 2011


This animation exhibits an abacus that counts the years 1863 to 2013, signifying the 150th anniversary that the Emancipation Proclamation was issued. Dating as far back as 600 BC, the abacus continues to be the primary arithmetic device in some cultures. While a number of historical societies across the globe have fashioned their own versions of the tool, this abacus holds personal meaning to Clark, as she substitutes the beads with her own hairballs. Through establishing a relationship with the dates being measured, the artist merges symbols of history and individuality.


Sonya Clark Braille Proclamation, 2011 This work depicts a Braille translation of the Emancipation Proclamation, a document that Lincoln issued in 1863, to abolish slavery in the United States. In recognition of its 150th anniversary, Clark remarks “if I were alive in the USA at that time, it would be illegal for me to read the words written here or be able to write them.” While the pattern of the dots is available to our eyes, we cannot decipher their meaning, thus we too become illiterate. The text dots are made from images of hairballs, essentially removing the tactile purpose of Braille, and denying viewers the ability to touch the raised dots. The hairballs themselves could be interpreted as form of hairballs. The surrogate untouchable content of thebodies. work also refers to the artist’s personal expeBlack


unpaid labor in the United none of this tension or conten parent on the surface of Bra cipation. Artwork with such s

or white supremacist unde in the Emancipation Proclam commonly marginalized in th many scholars, collectors and subjective, angry or ‘politic produced at the expense of pecially when produced by a African descent.

Work of this nature, howev political, but social. Con ‘politics’ of the artist who u

rience with random white people who without permission touch or attempt to touch her own hair, a behavior that has become all too common for African-American women with untreated The choice aschoice theof graphic motif for hair—styles at-once regarded as ravishingof and Braille repulsive. The Braille as the graphic motif for this work could be read as a reference the nation’s blindnessblindness in the matter of what work refers to tothe nation’s in what law professor Patricia Williams has termed “the alchemy of race and rights.”3

this law professor Patricia Williams has coined “the alchemy of race and rights,” to describe the naiveté we have in the overwhelmingly disadvantaged dark-skinned descendants of nineteenth and twentieth pretending to live in a color-blind society when century chattel slavery, and the overwhelmingly advantaged white-skinned benefactors of that wounds of racial conflict have not yet healed.

Braille Emancipation Sonya Clark 2011, digital print, 60” x 120”


Sonya Clark Iterations, 2011 A Yoruba proverb states “you don’t know who you are unless you can trace your heritage back ten generations.” This piece is a visualization of ten generations of combs; that is, the ancestry of a comb. The artist remarks that she can “trace [her] European lineage back to the Highlands of Scotland more than ten generations, but [her] more obvious African heritage cannot be traced nearly that far.”


Afro Abe II Sonya Clark 2011, $5 bill and embroidery, 4” x 6”



through an exclusive networ tized power and appraisal m market and investor-driven Conversely, to be social as a to pursue a courageous, cre loquial and public engageme the artist, the work and the but at the expense of neith cal, conceptual or formal professional achievement or prosperity. In works such as Afro Abe

Iterations Sonya Clark 2011, combs, 120” x 60” x 96”

Sonya Clark Rooted and Uprooted, 2011 Rooted refers to the artist’s ability to trace her European ancestry back several generations, while Uprooted signifies her inability to do the same with her African ancestry, due to the disruption of lineage caused by the slave trade.

Sonya Clark Kente Comb Cloth, 2011

Rooted and Uprooted (diptych) Sonya Clark 2011, canvas and thread, 30” x 12” x 12”


In this work, Clark takes

combs intended for straight European hair and fashions them into a cloth reminiscent of the royal cloth of the Asante people of West Africa. A dichotomous relationship is formed between the medium and the design, as the combs employ a material culture perspective that emphasizes beauty. Although the pattern is intended for beauty, it also bears symbolic significance; the Kente cloth is not merely a textile, but a visual representation of history, philosophy, ethics, oral literature, religion, and political thought. While the combs represent issues of hair culture and race politics in western society, the syncretic design of the textile reflects Clark’s desire “to strengthen the tether to [her] African heritage.” Through combining these distinct cultural symbols, she presents a double-coded view of beauty, as well as an image of cultural legacy.


Sonya Clark Triangle Trade, 2011 As the title suggests, this work symbolically refers to the transatlantic slave trade that transported slaves, cash crops and manufactured goods between West Africa, the Americas and Europe. Clark’s application of thread stems from her investigation of timelines, finding them better understood as knotted or braided portrayals of history rather than the rigid lines commonly associated with them. Through stitching the braided thread here, she weaves the past and present into one unified history. The repetition of triangles may invoke the larger number of connections made between the three continents, just as each braided row can be read as a branch of history affected by one partial voyage. Additionally, the pattern of “cane rows,” or what we would call “corn rows,” a hairstyle named by enslaved African women in the Anglophone Caribbean that refers to their cultivation of sugar cane.

While minimalistic, the centralized composition as well as the striking contrast of black thread on white canvas confronts the viewer in an unapologetic way that demands contemplation.  


Sonya Clark Stubble, 2011 In this work, Clark transforms the teeth of combs into individual strands of hair; essentially converting a common object into primordial fibers. The collection of strands visualized on the pedestal is organized to convey identity in a naturally untamed state, in contrast to the feigned impressions we often force upon our hair in order to look “presentable.” Clark’s preoccupation with hair not only emphasizes the importance of this trait as a carrier of DNA, but also highlights the significance of the head and body on which it grows.


Sonya Clark Madam Walker Hair, 2011 Madam C.J. Walker (b. 1867 – 1919) was one of the first self-made women millionaires. Born as Sarah Breedlove, she is more commonly known by the same name that she titled her hair care company. Like many women in her era, Walker struggled with scalp disease due to the inability to wash it frequently. After testing a number of home remedies and store-bought products, she concocted her own recipes for shampoo and ointment. Her inventiveness and entrepreneurship resulted in a beauty and hair care empire focused on the needs of African Americans. By composing her portrait in hairballs, Clark monumentalizes Walker in the medium that best commemorates her role in American history.

Penny Portrait Sonya Clark 2011, digital print, 42” x 67”

Madam Walker Hair Sonya Clark 2011, digital print, 42” x 67”


Sonya Clark Interaction of Color, 2011


In this work, Clark reinvents the cover of Josef Albers’ celebrated book on color theory, entitled Interaction of Color. Published in 1963, the text conveys the fundamental notion that all colors are relative depending on their context. In Clark’s hands, the title of the piece refers to the complexity of race relations.

nd embroidery, 4” x 6”

Iterations Sonya Clark 2011, combs, 120” x 60” x 96”

While the image exemplifies Albers’ artistic vision, the medium chosen proves emblematic of his wife’s oeuvre. Anni Albers was a renowned textile artist, who experimented with raw and innovative materials in her weaving process. So, while this piece may be read as a unified homage to both artists, the medium possesses a meaning special to Clark. By transforming combs into a textile, Clark merges her passions for hairdressing and textile making.

Interaction of Color Sonya Clark 2011, combs and thread, 15” x 20” 25


the disruption of cultural legacies of the forced migration and enslavement of Africans (Rooted and Uprooted and Iterations.) Still others entwine threads of race and cultural legacy. Kente Comb Cloth takes combs intended for straight European hair and fashions them into a cloth reminiscent of the royal cloth of the Asante people of West Africa. And then there are pieces

Sonya Clark Cubes: Hair and Sugar, Balls: Cotton and Hair, American women self-made millionaires, a Black woman who was born a few years after the

the boardroom in the business of hair care. Her portrait is comprised of hairballs to acknowledge her place in our complicated American history. Through these objects our histories are entwined.



This work juxtaposes the Black body as manifested in hair with the cash crops that sustained the Triangle Slave Trade between Africa, the Americas and Europe. Using simple geometric forms (cubes and spheres), Clark contrasts light with dark and hair with sugar and cotton, to extract the essence of the Transatlantic slave trade. I was born in Washington, DC, to a psychiatrist from Trinidad and a nurse from Jamaica. I gained an appreciation for craft and the value of the handmade primarily from my maternal grandmother who was a professional tailor. Many of my family members taught me the value of a well-told story and so it is that I value the stories held in objects.

Currently, I chair the Department of Craft/Material Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. Formerly, I was a Baldwin-Bascom Professor of Creative Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I hold an MFA (Cranbrook Academy of Art,) a BFA (Art Institute of Chicago,) and a BA in psychology (Amherst College) and a high school diploma from the Sidwell Friends School. I have had the privilege of learning the craft of thinking through making from many talented artists and makers in Indonesia, Brazil, India, Australia, China, Ghana, and Ivory Coast. My work has been exhibited in over 250 museums and galleries in Europe, Africa, Asia, South America, Australia, and throughout the USA. I have been able to pursue my studio practice because of generous honors and opportunities including a Pollock-Krasner Award, a Rockefeller Foundation Residency in Italy, a Red Gate Residency in China, a Wisconsin Arts Board Fellowship, a Virginia Commission for the Arts Fellowship, a Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship, a Civitella Ranieri Fellowship in Italy, a Knight Artist-in-Residence at the McColl Center for Visual Art, and a 2011 US Artist Fellowship. Balls and Cubes: hair, cotton, and sugar Sonya Clark 2011, photograph, 12” x 28”

Sonya Clark Mom’s Wisdom or Cotton Candy,



2011 Like the process of separating cotton balls from the plant, Clark meticulously divided the white from dark strands collected from her Jamaican mother’s grey hair. Among the Yoruba in Nigeria, white is associated with wisdom because our elders’ hair turns white. Clark’s hands protectively cradle her mother’s wisdom. The second part of the title connotes the hair’s resemblance to cotton candy. It implicitly refers to sugar as a cash crop of the Caribbean. According to Clark, “the piece makes reference to the wisdom that slips away from our elders as they age, just as cotton candy melts in the mouth.

Sonya Clark

Afro Abe II, 2011


In this work, Clark cleverly honors Abraham Lincoln by giving him an Afro, a hairstyle popularly sported by African Americans during the Black Power movement of the 1960s and 1970s. She uses the $5 bill to indicate Lincoln’s role in liberating slaves in 1865, which, combined with the afro adorning his head, commemorates the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation. In a light-hearted and witty approach, Clark merges two historical references that have shaped the way we live today.



Afro Abe II Sonya Clark 2011, $5 bill and embroidery, 4” x 6”

Iterations Sonya Clark 2011, combs, 120” x 60” x 96”

Converge Gallery Guide  

A guide to accompany the Converge exhibition at McColl Center for Visual Art.