Arts: “An explorer, a tracer of lost tribes, a seeker of clues to feelings” opens at PDS January 9

A new exhibit opens at Princeton Day School on January 9, 2023, with a public reception on January 19 from 3:30-5:30pm, featuring work by Carrie Hawks, Gabrielle Tesfaye, and Jordan Wong. The exhibit will run from January 9 – March 24, 2023.

The Anne Reid ’72 Gallery at Princeton Day School presents an explorer, a tracer of lost tribes, a seeker of clues to feelings, an exhibition of stop-motion animation by Carrie Hawks, Gabrielle Tesfaye and Jordan Wong. The show takes its title from the poem “A Remembrance of Ritual” by Betye Saar in Serious Moonlight, the accompanying catalogue to rarely seen installation work shown at ICA Miami in 2022. Akin to Saar, Hawks, Tesfaye and Wong incorporate a wide range of found and created materials into their artwork. This exhibition features films made with fabric, hair, drawn and painted puppets, and natural matter such as leaves and bark. Each film is sensitive, serious, intimate and personal – inviting us to witness and relate to themes of identity, ancestry, mythology and the body.

Carrie Hawks, Still from Origin of Hair, 2019.

Carrie Hawks’ film Origin of Hair (2019) explores legacies of self-love and Black identity through collage, remnants of human hair and handmade puppets. Hawks drew inspiration from the life and activism of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, a Black American musician responsible for popularizing the electric guitar and the invention of pop gospel in the mid-1900s. Inner Wound Real (2022) weaves together three stories about individuals dealing with self-harm and then finding alternative methods of coping. Hawks’ film centers the experiences of queer BIPOC folk who are often excluded from mainstream conversations about self-harm and healing. We hear from Vick, a 32-year-old cis-male of Southeast Asian descent from New York, Simone, a 36-year-old Black non-binary person from Queens, and Raychelle, a 29-year-old Filipinx femme from Seattle, WA. Each person speaks honestly about their experience with self-harm and their journey to recovery using three different styles of stop-motion animation.

Gabrielle Tesfaye, Still from Yene Ethiopia (My Love Ethiopia), 2019.

Gabrielle Tesfaye’s exquisitely hand-painted puppets guide us through historical, personal, spiritual and mythological realms of human knowledge, beauty and pain. Tesfaye opens her film The Water Will Carry Us Home (2018) with a ritual that engages her own body and elemental objects including bone and fire. At the culmination of the ceremony Tesfaye holds her hand up to the camera revealing a tattooed eye which envelops our gaze and offers us entry into her animated world. In Tesfaye’s words, The Water Will Carry Us Home tells “the story of stolen Africans being thrown off the slave ship whilst sailing through the Middle Passage. Upon crashing in the waves… the presence of Yoruba Orishas dwelling in the water saves these spirits.” The motif of the open eye repeats itself on the hands of the puppets in her film – connecting Tesfaye’s body, vision and soul intimately with each of her characters. Her second film, Ethiopia Yene Fikir (My Love Ethiopia) (2019), follows a young refugee separated from her family during the Red Terror in Ethiopia during the 1970s who finds super powers within herself under the protection of an ancient Goddess. Tesfaye uses stop-motion like alchemy – transforming loss and displacement into empowerment and connection.

Jordan Wong, Still from Mom’s Clothes, 2018.

Jordan Wong’s film Mom’s Clothes (2018) animates a range of textiles borrowed from his mother’s wardrobe. In his words the work is “a nonfiction reflection on being out of the closet” and a reminder that “you’re beautiful however you decide to present, including the choice of garments you decide to wear.” Each frame pulsates with color, texture and sound. Even though the viewer’s vantage point is static, the materials within each frame are restless and fluidly oscillate between microscopic views of thread and yarn and a variety of zoomed out patterns many of which seem to be hand-dyed. Wong’s film is both intimate and removed, fast and slow – a whirring, spiraling meditation on the fabric around our bodies and the many points at which our internal experiences of self meet external perception.

ARTIST BIOS:

Carrie Hawks (they/them) is a NY Emmy nominated director, animator, designer and artist. Their clients include Carnegie Hall, Wired Magazine, Al Jazeera America and Cartoon Network. They create motion graphics, multimedia design and animation. Their award-winning animated documentary black enuf* was funded in part by The Jerome Foundation, broadcast on American Public Television, and screened at over 40 events including the Ann Arbor Film Festival. Their art spans a variety of media including drawing, doll-making and performance. They have exhibited internationally in the Brooklyn Museum, The New Museum, the Nelson-Atkins Museum, The Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Cape Town, Toronto and Tokyo. They hold a BA in Art History and Visual Arts from Barnard College and a BFA in Graphic Design from Georgia State University. They have performed with Black Women Artist for Black Lives Matter and participated in the Jerome @ Carmargo Residency in Cassis, France. They were selected for the Leslie Lohman Queer Artist Fellowship in 2018 and as a Jerome Foundation Artist Fellow in 2019. They were selected for the 2021 Black Directors Grant with Brown Girls Doc Mafia.

Gabrielle Tesfaye is an interdisciplinary artist versed in painting, animation, film, puppetry and interactive installation. Her work is rooted in the African diaspora, ancient art traditions and cultural storytelling from her Jamaican and Tigrayan background. She is the founder of the Tigray Art Collective, an artist initiative using art to respond to the Tigray genocide. Tesfaye’s background in film started at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, and continued at Mahidol University International College in Bangkok, Thailand. Tesfaye obtained her BFA from the Peck School of the Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Tesfaye has been recognized in publications such as Vogue, AFROPUNK, and Majestic Disorder Magazine (print, UK), and has screened and exhibited internationally including London, New York, Ethiopia, Kenya, Zanzibar, India and Sweden. She is the recipient of a series of scholarships and awards, including the Milwaukee Film Brico Forward Fund and Mary Nohl Suitcase Export Fund. She directed the highly acclaimed film, The Water Will Carry Us Home, which was an official selection of Black Star Film Festival and won best experimental film at Reel Sisters of the Diaspora (NYC). Tesfaye is currently pursuing her MFA at VCU Arts in Doha, Qatar.

A collector of souvenir state spoons and overpriced Uni Alpha Gel lead pencils, Jordan Wong is a Chinese-American experimental animator and nonfiction filmmaker driven by emotional honesty and analog processes. He received a BFA in Film/Animation/Video at RISD, an MFA in Experimental Animation at CalArts, and was most recently a participant at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 2022. His films have screened internationally, including DOK Leipzig, NewFest, Animafest Zagreb, Japan Media Arts Festival, and the Ann Arbor Film Festival, where he was awarded the Tom Berman Award for Most Promising Filmmaker for the film Mom’s Clothes.

It is said

We can never go home again.

Yet, there persists a longing,

A longing to return

to our roots.

Geographically, my roots

diverge from Africa and Ireland

to blend with Native America.

My art has become an explorer,

a tracer of lost tribes,

a seeker of clues to feelings.

Feelings that emerged

When I saw Sacred Encounters

exhibition last summer.

When I experienced

            a haunting sadness,

            a vague yearning for ritual,

            and a strong reminder

            that in the ashes of time

            all bones are white.

A Remembrance of Ritual Betye Saar, 1997

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