Han Santana-Sayles is a curator and Director of Artist Collaboration for Meow Wolf, an immersive, collaborative arts exhibition based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Meow Wolf has the vast ambition to curate the best creatives across every medium throughout the world. They also offer exhibitions as a platform for diverse, emerging and underrepresented artists across the United States. Han’s artistic taste tends to gravitate towards futuristic sci-fi aesthetics and maximalism, often incorporating parody or humor. Today Han is sharing a selection of her favorite artists’ recent installations and immersive environments for Friday Five!
1. Ebony Patterson
Seeing one of Ebony Patterson’s installations in Miami completely captivated me, along with everyone else in the room. Patterson, Jamaican-born with a residence in Kentucky, creates mixed-media installations ranging from sculpture, to paintings, to full-sized environments, all composed of glitter, appliqués, pins, embellishments, fabric, tassels, brooches, acrylic, glass pearls, beads, hand-cast heliconias and more. Viewers are submerged into a lush world where everyday objects have become historic tapestries weaving a narrative centering Black lives. It’s not until closer inspection in some of these works that you come to realize the character may be a lifeless body, a victim of violence, hidden beneath dense layers of adornment. Or, in other instances, Black youth are glowing, smiling, surrounded by a loving level of sainted embellishments. It’s startling to realize what you’re seeing in both cases are active shrines, altars that beautifully tackle grief and question stereotypes.
2. Do Ho Suh
Do Ho Suh’s full-size installations are replicas of previous homes he has occupied, built entirely out of pastel translucent fabric. I recently walked through 348 West 22nd Street, his New York apartment – it was unnerving in the best way! From the details on the toilet bowls to the meticulous crafting of tiny fabric door hinges, the translucent architecture made me feel like I had entered a shared memory space that was both intimate and foreign.
3. Freddy Mamani
I’ll never forget seeing photos of Freddy Mamani’s buildings for the first time because I couldn’t believe they were real structures and not perfectly crafted sci-fi-esque renderings! I came to learn that he’s a prolific Bolivian engineer and architect, and his distinct style combines indigenous Aymara patterning with psychedelic colors and motifs – the result is nothing short of inspiring. With more than 100 buildings completed, his work alone has proliferated an era of “Neo-Andean” architecture in the city of El Alto, Bolivia. The aesthetic is my dream world – futuristic with a mix of elevated Las Vegas casino interiors.
4. Xu Bing
Xu Bing is a Chinese artist, MacArthur Fellow recipient and Cornell Professor-at-large. He created this Tiger “rug” out of 500,000 cigarettes as part of his Tobacco Project that explores the relationship between humans and their vices (in this case, tobacco). From afar, the rug is a luxurious throw, a giant prize possession; but moving closer to stare at a single cigarette, made from the cheapest quality Bing could find, you smell the overbearing stench of thousands of stale cigarettes. “It’s like lovers,” said Bing. “You cannot be too close to them or to each other, or too far away from each other. You need to maintain a very subtle distance in between, and this relationship reflects the weakness of human beings themselves.”
5. Lucy Sparrow
Imagine strolling into an empty convenience store for some gum only to realize that every item in the shop is hand-made from soft felt. This was my experience stumbling into Lucy Sparrow’s “store”, her delightful installations are fuzzy recreations of entire fully-stocked grocery stores. They usually pop up on a downtown street corner in a real convenience store setting and viewers can shop for cold cuts, booze, fresh produce and canned food and prizes ranging from $10 to $60. Sparrow customizes her installations to match the local cuisine of each city she visits, and during these pop-ups Sparrow sits unassumingly behind the counter as a cashier. Trust me – there is nothing more cheerful than happening upon a store with thousands of perfectly reconstructed felt goods. The sense of play and wonder to see hundreds of tiny vegetables smiling back at you is beyond words.
Work curated by Han Santana-Sayles: