There’s a lot of ways to deal with trauma. Bryana Bibbs weaves. Her work—thick chunks of paint and fiber—is commanding and colorful and comes from a personal place: the artist has been dealing with the devastating consequences of abuse. In an effort to process, reframe and move on, Bibbs found comfort in repetition. The rhythmic textile techniques of hand-carding, hand-spinning and handweaving provided a relaxing, meditative and ultimately cathartic experience. “Numb,” on view at Oliva Gallery is testament to that.
Posing large-scale works in conversation with one another and with the viewer, Bibbs alternates between traditional and unconventional materials and color schemes. “3:16am” (2020) is a pitch-black handwoven cotton and acrylic paint canvas. The monochrome, incredibly textured abstract work appears to be jumping out of the wall. “Why do we fall?” (2020) works with different shades of the color blue. “Did you ever find what you were looking for?” (2021) features handwoven acrylic paint, pipe cleaners, hand-carded, hand-spun wool and angelina fiber. Black is again the prominent color as red, yellow and purple hues pop through. “Alone Against It All” (2022) is created by needle-felting, handwoven hand-spun wool, alpaca fleece, angelina fiber, and recycled sari silk. In her work, recycled and natural materials and repurposed everyday items coexist.
The tactility of the paintings is astounding and, together with the weavings, reveal strength over vulnerability, determination over hesitation, transformation over stillness. Color is carefully chosen and serves to enhance the storytelling aspect of each piece. Bibbs considers her work to be journals of different chapters of her life. By bringing experiences with relationships, mental health and self-worth into a spotlight, she hopes the viewer will connect—maybe even see themselves in it while processing their own unique set of challenges.
On that front, the Chicago-based artist’s work extends beyond textiles and painting to include community-based practices: Bibbs founded the We Were Never Alone Project, a weaving workshop for victims and survivors of domestic violence—a safe space for people to share their stories that doubles as an opportunity to learn how to weave on a cardboard loom (one made by hand out of cardboard). She knows firsthand that there are others going through it all, too. She also understands that the importance of not feeling alone is immense. Looking at her practice as an outlet—a very intuitive and at the same time intentional pathway to healing—one realizes that “Numb” is an ode to figuring it out one step at a time.