I M(O)THER: Threads of the Maternal Figure
May 22 - October 2, 2022
I M(O)ther is a reference to several deliberately ambiguous maternal personalities that have been a part of Jamaica-based textile and fiber artist, Katrina Coombs’ understanding of her experiences, desires, passions, and role as a woman, and the relation of the maternal figure as an Other.
Shari and John Hicks
ABOUT THE ARTIST
An Afro-Caribbean Aesthetic Approach of Motherhood
by Alix Pierre
Jamaican Katrina Coombs is part of an established tradition of female fiber artists. She follows in the footsteps of precursors Sheila Hicks, Xenobia Bailey, and Magdalena Abakanowicz. But her work also resonates with that of contemporary artists Tau Lewis and Nnenna Okore who are also leaving their mark. Multimedia journalist Marcia Veiga and contributor to the digital platform The Spaces aptly states:
Access to Coombs universe is circuitous. The spherical figure is omnipresent. Whether in the form of a cylindric cone, oval seashell, glass beads, or baskets, it grounds the artist’s writing. The circularity is symbolic of the womb or breast, metaphors for femininity. Circularity is also characteristic of the structure of oral narratives. Coombs taps into the African-based folklore of storytelling. Usually, stories are told to an audience formed in a circle around the storyteller, or the role of storyteller alternates from person to person around a story circle. Like African folk narratives, the exhibit follows the pattern of repetition. The same conic form appears in Oshun’s Glory, Seed II, Armour of the Other, and Gathering. For their part, the installation pieces As It Breathes Life, Life is Taken, Beauty Between Her Thighs, Cornucopia, Inward Soul, and Golden Flow offer variations of the elongated oval form of the vulva.
The circular motif allows Coombs to consider important phases in a woman’s (reproductive) cycle. We will concentrate on three: (in)fertility, maternity, and infant mortality. Coombs anchors the show in the spiritual realm. She introduces the subject of (in)fecundity by referencing the Yoruba deity Oshun, the river Orisha. Oshun’s Glory obliquely alludes to the female deity’s preeminence over her sixteen fellow male counterparts sent with her to earth by the supreme god Olodumare. Incapable of executing Olodumare’s charge to populate the earth they call on her. Using her sweet and powerful waters she brings life to humanity and other species. In Coombs’ work, Oshun’s attributes as protector, savior, and nurturer of humanity are on full display.
Jamaican fiber artist Katrina Coombs is the first Black Caribbean woman living in the Caribbean to be invited to exhibit at Sarasota Art Museum. Coombs is affiliated with the Miami-based Diaspora Vibe Cultural Arts Incubator (DVCAI). Founded in 1996 by its current president, Rosie Gordon-Wallace, DVCAI is committed to supporting and promoting emerging artists from the Caribbean Diaspora, Caribbean and Latin American Diaspora, and African American artists.
1 Marcia Vega, “12 Female Fiber Artists Transforming Space Through Textiles,” https://thespaces.com/12-female-fibre-artists-transforming-space-through-textiles/, 1.
2 Andrea O’Reily, Mother Outlaws: Theories and Practices of Empowered Mothering (Women’s Press, 2004).
3 Simone James Alexander, Mother Imagery in the Novels of Afro-Caribbean Women Writers (University of Missouri, 2001).
4 Helen Cousins, Rites of Passage in Postcolonial Women’s Writing (Rodopi, 2019).
5 Abigail Moffett and Simon Hall, “Divining Values: Cowries, the Ancestral Realm and the Global in South Africa,” Cambridge Archeological Journal, 2019, 4.
7 Amir Golani, “Cowrie Shells and their Imitations as Ornamental Amulets in Egypt and the Near East,” Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean 23/2, 71-83, 76.
9 David Westerlund, African Indigenous Religions and Disease Causation: from Spiritual Beings to Living Humans, (Brill, 2005), 103.
Saturday, May 21
1 PM – 2 PM
Sarasota High School Alumni Auditorium
FREE for ALL
Katrina Coombs will speak with Rosie Gordon-Wallace, exhibition guest curator, about her unique use of the fiber medium and the Museum’s new exhibition, I M(O)ther: Threads of the Maternal Figure.
Join us for a free hands-on weaving activity following Katrina Coombs’ Artist Talk from 2pm-4pm where local teaching artist Elizabeth Goodwill will demonstrate finger weaving and fiber exploration.
Be one of the first visitors to experience I M(O)ther: Threads of the Maternal Figure. Members receive early access before the program.
I M(O)ther: Threads of the Maternal Figure opens to the public on May 22, 2022.