Black Lives Matter. We stand in solidarity with those affected by generations of structural violence. You can help »

The Brooklyn Rail

NOV 2021

All Issues
NOV 2021 Issue
The Miraculous The Miraculous: New York

79. (Brooklyn Navy Yard, Columbia County)

An artist in his mid-30s living in New York and working in a 300-square-foot studio in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, finds himself consumed by frustration and anger. Although he is having exhibitions, after the shows close his paintings inevitably return to his studio, unsold. He’s not sure he wants to go on being an artist. A psychiatrist he consults helps him to understand that his anger revolves around his feelings about race, class and entitlement. Eventually the psychiatrist recommends that he begin working with a physical trainer, who has him start boxing and working out with a punching bag. Around the same time the artist, who is half-Choctaw and half-Cherokee, has been meeting with traditional Native American artists who tell him how the practices of dancing, drumming and beading have saved their lives. These experiences lead him to make a breakthrough in his work. Instead of focusing on painting, he begins to adorn Everlast vinyl punching bags like those he has been using at the boxing gym in extravagant styles inspired by Native American beadwork, pop culture, and everyday life. Along with beads, he adds tassels, sequins, brass and steel studs, yarn, chains, and sundry items. Some of the bags feature beaded texts quoting everyone from Simone de Beauvoir to Public Enemy. Finally his work begins to find some success in the marketplace, but the city is still too expensive and busy to afford him the kind of space, physical and mental, he feels he needs. Soon, he and his husband move to a small town up the Hudson River where, he later tells an interviewer, “immediately it was like someone turned on the switch where you get to move into the rest of your life.”

(Jeffrey Gibson)

close

The Brooklyn Rail

NOV 2021

All Issues