“Don’t worry about holding back” – How Quailisha Wood was poisoned and turned into a wild tapestry | Art

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WWhen New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art came knocking, Quaysha Wood almost said no. In mid-2021, the young Philadelphia-based textile artist and photographer was experiencing one of her biggest waves of attention in her career to date. of [Black] Madonna/whore complexA large tapestry inspired by Freud and Kanye alike recently graced the cover of Art in America, edited by esteemed young curator Antoine Sargent. Then the Metropolitan Museum of Art contacted me and said that Wood’s surreal mashup of his own self-portraits, lofty religious imagery, and glitched-out web art would be perfect for their next show. Alter Egos | Projected Self. But Wood felt he could have done more. “At first I was like, ‘No, you guys can’t do this,’ but I think that’s insane,” she says over Zoom from her Brooklyn studio. “Most people wouldn’t say no to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but at the time I was like, ‘This is good, but it’s not my best work.’ There’s gotta be something better than that.” It’s too good otherwise, too soon! ‘”

Ultimately, Wood rebelled. She says, “My mother and the gallerist were like, ‘Just give it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.’” But her initial rejection says a lot about how Wood navigates the world. Throughout our conversation, the 26-year-old, dressed in a Super Bowl T-shirt and denim jacket, has recently shaved her head and looks much better than the ornate gown-clad priestesses she portrays in her work. He looked casual — talking about himself. “Bold,” “sassy,” “likes a challenge,” etc. She’s still picky about where her art goes, and if she feels like her collectors want her art just because of “her controversial,” I would refuse to sell her.

“I developed that attitude even before I started selling my work, and it’s a bit backwards,” she says. “When I was an undergrad, I was aware that black artists and artists of color were expected to have some kind of trauma, and that made me uncomfortable. I thought, “If I have to follow a system, how can I feel okay about it?” Now I think, if you’re embarrassed if someone finds out, then you don’t need to take the money. ”

Powerful…Qualisha Wood’s timeout! Photo: Courtesy of the artist, Pippy Holdsworth Gallery and Gallery Kendra Jayne Patrick, London.

Growing up in Long Branch, New Jersey, a town that “didn’t value the arts at all,” Wood never thought a career in the arts was even possible. While visiting her galleries and museums, she realized that: “If you see a black artist, there’s a good chance they’re dead. And there’s a good chance there’s a slave in the painting or it’s art stolen from an African country.” When she was accepted to Island School of Design (RISD), she decided she wanted to “put myself in a position to uplift others and bring more awareness” to working Black artists. .

It was at RISD that Wood began making tapestries, inspired by a blanket with a photo printed on it that her grandmother owned. Even before she enrolled in college, she was already a “social media diva,” running a Facebook group and posting frequently on Instagram. Once there, she took charge of the class’s social media forum and used her platform to “talk a lot of trash.” At times, she said, there was talk about RISD, but at the time, RISD had low retention rates for Black students and students with disabilities, who made up only a small percentage of the student body. To tell. But ultimately, she realized that “people were so afraid of me” because of her discussions of racism and accountability on social media, and her classmates used her as an outlet to discuss politics. I realized that I was only looking at it. Tired of being seen as a divine figure, she began to put herself at the center of her work, first launching a virtual gallery where she posted photos of herself collaged with images of current events, and then literally created the sanctified tapestry. She depicts herself with stigmata in her religious iconography. “I was always trying to listen to people, say the right thing, and be a good person. That took up all my time,” she says. She said, “I had to incorporate it into my schoolwork in some way.”

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“What is important to me?” …Qualisha Wood. Photo: Darryl DeAngelo Terrell

Then, in 2017, Wood was arrested. She and her friends hacked into right-wing commentator Tomi Lahren’s Facebook fan page and changed the group’s photo to one of Michelle Obama. Conservative trolls retaliated by exposing personal information about Ms. Wood’s family and a series of semi-nude photos she had been collecting for her next project. “I was totally scared. When art is taken out of context and placed in the world in a completely different way, I was like, ‘Now I understand why people don’t put themselves in their work.’ ” she says. “I didn’t leave my dorm room. It was scary because Providence, even though it’s a pseudo-liberal bubble, is a very conservative space. My friends were like, ‘This is going to make you regress or back off.’ I was like, ‘I can’t do that.’

Despite how traumatic it was at first, Wood eventually came to realize that her doxxing was “this weird liberating thing.” “I was really worried that her family and friends would see me semi-nude, and I was worried that she would get mad at me for doing that,” she says. “one time [I was doxed]I thought, “Now I don’t have to hold back on so many aspects of my art.”

Wood’s next show at London’s Pippy Holdsworth Gallery will feature a tapestry of Doxxing screenshots for the first time. She was inspired to use these after reading a critique of her own work that said her art featured “pretended screenshots.” Although her work includes some digital elements, the use of the word stung as “an erasure of experience that happens not just to me, but to literally every woman who has an opinion on the internet.” At first I lived in fear, but creating a tapestry that reconstructs that experience feels powerful. “As opposed to people who really hate my work, there are also a lot of people who really love my work and think it’s really important,” she says. “I had to think – what’s important to me? Living the life I want to live, the life I advocate for in my work, and keep doing it boldly.”

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