Dee Clements: The Future has an Ancient HeartJune 1st - July 29th, 2023
Nina Johnson is pleased to present The Future has an Ancient Heart, a solo exhibition of all new works by artist Dee Clements opening June 1st in the Exhibition Library. The show centers around years of research on paleolithic weaving traditions, specifically shedding light on women’s roles in craft and their historically neglected, unseen labor through the lenses of feminism, ethnography, and patriarchy
Interested in the connections between history, culture, and contemporary art, Clements’ practice visually examines the societal roles women have been relegated to, and recontextualizes crafts deemed as “women’s work,” which historically include needle work, sewing, and weaving.
The title of the exhibition, The Future has an Ancient Heart, is a line borrowed from writer, painter, and activist Carlo Levi. Similar to the quote, Clements’ work charges forward while reflecting on the past, tracing the lineage of craft and patriarchy to their earliest origins.
The Future has an Ancient Heart features a new body of the artist’s signature large-scale woven baskets and sculptural works, all realized within the last 3 years. A plug-in pendant light woven with hand-dyed reed is interlaced over a powder-coated steel armature; delicate woven bowls sit atop two large-scale woven sculptures with painted and dyed surfaces.
Clements considers quotidian objects that are often overlooked—such as the baskets holding fruit, a pair of keys, spare change—to create a work of art in its place. To accompany the works in the Library, Clements will also stage her first outdoor installation in the gallery’s courtyard featuring a woven floor rug with attached planter pots created from waterproof multifilament polypropylene rope.
“My work celebrates and honors what is large, unique, and amazing about women’s work and about weaving. My pieces are brightly colored and loud, they unapologetically take up space, while other times are soft, solemn, and quiet,” said Dee Clements. “I think that these works are pivotal for me in that I have really allowed myself to work uninhibited for the first time ever. I’m expressing a point of view that is both personal and historical. I want my work to contribute to a larger cultural conversation and I am really excited to have this opportunity to do that through Nina’s gallery.”
The Future has an Ancient Heart is on view through July 29, 2023.
Dee Clements (b. 1980) is an artist based in Chicago. She has a deep love of and interest in craft and ethnography. She holds an MFA in 3D Design from Cranbrook Academy of Art and BFA in Fiber/Materials Studies and Sculpture from The School of The Art Institute of Chicago. "Craft reveals rich connections between people, materials, objects and culture. I am endlessly interested in the ethnography of objects, feminism and the origins of patriarchy. These are social lenses that drive my practice. The lineage of weaving is one that every culture in the world has a relationship with. It is undeniably one of the most ubiquitous crafts known worldwide. The first interlacements of fibers date back to 34,000 years ago, used as vessel like-structures to hold foraged food. Weaving is a coded language of ingenuity, tactility, utility. It is a craft that defines the human impetus to innovate and create." "I use basketry to combine all the elements of my 25-year practice; painting, sculpture, ceramics, furniture making and weaving to create three-dimensional forms that reference female bodies and experiences. I work with materials like reed, cane, clay, rope, and wood to create corporeal-like vessels that are bulbous or oblong, droopy, saggy, leaning, bent, have folds, rolls, and lumps. I dye and paint the pieces intuitively and improvisationally in often bold and vibrant color combinations to highlight or exaggerate parts of the forms."