Multidisciplinary artist Ashley M. Freeby explores sites of trauma and challenges our perceptions of memory in “Plots & Hems,” her exhibition at the Hyde Park Art Center.
“Plots & Hems” explores the artistic lineage of her family with influences from her multiracial background, quilting and landscaping. The Chicago-based artist constructs fabric works in schematic drawings, made in collaboration with members of her family. The quilts in the exhibition are based on her grandmother’s earth-toned quilt and four garden plots. Her quilts can be described as minimalist with muted colors, each square different than the next, yet the vibrancy of the contrasting pigment evokes an intricate story. She is implementing the muted color scheme of her home and the structured process of quilting, which is a skill in her family.
By rooting her practice in both historical events and our time, the viewer develops an understanding of how injustices against people of color throughout history inform our understanding of American society. While Freeby’s work can be viewed as simple in form, her works speak volumes about American traditions and the history of culture.
Quilts have been used throughout history to represent family history, yet the patchwork in Freeby’s quilts has two meanings. African-American women often made patchwork quilts because they didn’t have access to fabrics that their white counterparts did. Yet patchwork quilts also represent a moment in time and heritage. Freeby creates a narrative of the black and white experience that is juxtaposed with her own identity throughout her patchwork of muted colors.
This method of grounding her craftsmanship in this historical context, while displaying these traditional quilts in a contemporary art space, speaks not to the future or the past, but to the current state of America. The majority of the quilts convey Freeby’s interpretation of exploring how time-sensitive items like quilts can be used to spark a memory.
“Plots & Hems” anchors Freeby’s interdisciplinary, labor-intensive practice, one that explores her family history, and on a broader spectrum, the history of American civil rights and daily life. (Caira Moreira-Brown)
Ashley M. Freeby: Plots & Hems,” Hyde Park Art Center, 5020 South Cornell, through November 24.