Work by Henry Obeng and Nora Renick Rinehart
May 8-May 22, 2021
Featuring handmade paper and quilted flannel, Design Studies MFA students Henry Obeng and Nora Renick Rinehart present new works for the Design Studies Second Year MFA Exhibition. Both virtual exhibits will be available at the links below by May 8, 2021, and are supported by the Design Studies Department and the Center for Design and Material Culture.
Produced during the heightened isolation of the COVID pandemic, Henry Obeng considers his identity as an African (Ghanaian) in Wisconsin. In this position as a non-citizen, his personal life has been surveilled. Juxtaposing the documentation and personal data on Obeng collected by the U.S. government for his international student paperwork with imagery of plant specimens that have been collected outside the United States and are now housed in the UW-Madison Herbarium, The Trail aims to build a connection between the natural world and Obeng through hundreds of cyanotype images presented on handmade paper using pulp produced from recycled Wisconsin Badger cotton T-shirts. Inspired by the botanical history, land use, and plant ecologies that relate to us as citizens and noncitizens, this project imbeds personal details that are shared with the U.S. immigration and customs enforcement – information that enables a precise surveillance of movement – with evidence of plants that have been carried far from their natural home and held in UW-Madison collections.
Flannel Futures features textile and printmaking work that operate within the fields of queer abstraction and queer futurism to explore the reflections and refractions between the past, present and future. By combining traditional quilting techniques with the language of queer fashion, Rinehart’s works engage the contradiction between the mundanity of the iconic lesbian flannel shirt and the gay bravado of fringe and piping. These elements evoke memories of the bodies, both real and imagined, the materials were intended for. While using recycled materials to make quilts is not new, Rinehart’s fabric pieces break as many rules as they follow: inviting motion, glitter, glam, and shapes that not only break the rectangular mold but push away from the wall in increasingly dimensional acts of defiance. Flannel Futures inquires into the making of memory, questions the perseverance of tradition versus the conjuring of new normals, and wonders how we will commemorate that which we have used to commemorate our own past from the vantage point of the future.