Now on view in the Clare Boothe Luce Gallery of Contemporary Art is 21st Century Women, a thought-provoking selection of work from the collection by superstars such as Julie Mehretu, Kiki Smith and Nancy Grossman.

Included in the lineup is a textile piece by California-based artist Karen Hampton. In 2017, the museum presented Hampton’s solo exhibition The Journey North, which fostered great community engagement, especially striking a chord with students. From that show, the museum acquired Hampton’s Spirits Cry—on view for the first time in 21st Century Women.

In the wake of the news that there will be no federal charges in the Eric Garner case, and the “go home” issue, Spirits Cry magnifies our daily sorrows.

About the work:
While researching the history of weaving in African American culture, Hampton encountered deep-seated racial tensions and became attuned to powerful spiritual energies on the grounds of former cotton plantations. Spirits Cry is Hampton’s homage to the slave children in the Carolinas and Virginia where she did her early fieldwork. The small faces peeking out with trepidation from behind the seated figure embody the fears and anxieties of the enslaved men, women and children who longed for freedom. In this piece, Hampton employs a technique known as devoré, or burnout. The process begins with weaving together a cellulose fiber such as Amoco. The fabric is then treated with a chemical agent and heated until the sugar molecules of the cellulose dissolve.

Karen Hampton (American, born 1958)
Spirits Cry, 2000
Image transfer on handwoven linen, Amoco non woven géotextile thread, indigo dye
Purchased with funds from the Docent Council in honor of Jay Jensen, 2017 (2017-17-01)