In the ever-changing contemporary art landscape, few mediums resonate with the tactile intimacy of textiles. Bryana Bibbs, with her evocative “Journal Series,” invites the viewer into a world where every thread tells a story, every color evokes an emotion and every texture captures a moment in time. Her latest exhibition, “Places (Edition I)” at Tiger Strikes Asteroid (TSA) chronicles the artist’s travels, residencies and personal experiences, at the same time offering a window into her journey—both literal and metaphorical—from the roads of Chicago to the scenic landscapes of Maine and Tennessee. Through meticulous hand-carding, hand-spinning and hand-weaving techniques, she has woven her narrative, embedding it with found objects (fungi, shells, pine needles and more), gifts and memories. Complementing these textile tales is a first-ever-shown archive of Polaroids that provides an unfiltered glimpse into her adventures and creative process.
In the conversation that follows, Bibbs dives deeper into the inspirations, challenges and aspirations that shaped “Places (Edition I).” From her early days of journaling to her evolving relationship with traditional textile techniques and her serendipitous initiation into Polaroid documentation, she shares the tapestry of experiences that culminate in this exhibition. Through her words, we are reminded of the beauty of slow processes, the authenticity of intuitive creation, and the profound connections that art can foster between artist and viewer.
Can you talk about your journey (literal and figurative) leading up to this exhibition?
Journaling has always been a constant in my life—much like creating. However, after I graduated from SAIC in 2014, I took a hiatus for several reasons until I left my job to become a full-time artist in late 2019. During the shelter-in-place of spring 2020, I started the “Quarantine Series” and the “Natural Series.” Those projects let me delve into intuitive material experimentation and revisit techniques I loved in school, like hand-spinning and hand-carding. Upon my return to teaching at a local art center in late summer 2020, I shifted focus to the “Journal Series” as I enjoyed a daily intuitive art practice.
In what ways has the “Journal Series” evolved over the years?
Since its inception with the first journal in July 2020, titled “7.20.20,” the “Journal Series” has undergone significant evolution in materials, colors and textures. The colors I had in my inventory changed very often—one can see colors I started to run out of, new materials I started to experiment with, and various textures and forms being introduced. Finally, in “Places (Edition I),” the viewer will notice found objects, objects given to me, and fibers I didn’t utilize back in 2020 or 2021.
But aside from the materiality, the evolution of the journals continues to show which days, months and years were better or worse for me mentally and emotionally. Although I don’t explicitly convey these feelings through writing, the viewer might perceive them through the weaving patterns and techniques.
Material, color and texture are of utmost importance in your work. Where do you see the synergy between traditional textile techniques like hand-carding, hand-spinning, and hand-weaving, photographs and found objects?
Most of the “Journal Series” is created using fiber from a grab bag (fiber that is extra or considered waste) with the occasional sourcing of materials from local wool shops and farmers. Grab bags appeal to me because I have no control over the colors, textures or fiber given to me—everything is random. And because I have the hand-carder, I can experiment with those fibers however I choose to by creating different color blends or textures.
But what continue to excite me about the series from the moment it started are that it has remained intuitive and the fact that I will never know what a weaving will look like until it’s finished. These slow processes of hand-carding, hand-spinning and weaving are parallel to the slow navigation of my experiences, which is why the “Journal Series” makes so much sense to me. It reminds me of a handwritten journal. These textile processes slow me down. I’m always taking things in and observing as much as I can. If I make a “mistake” in the work, I never take those out because it shows that my mind is on something other than the weaving.
Polaroids are challenging in the same ways weaving can be. It’s another slow process, waiting for an image to develop. But I like those slow and challenging processes in film, just as I do in weaving.
What motivated you to start building an archive of Polaroids documenting your process and travels?
The Polaroid archive started when I asked artist and curator Cristobal Alday to capture Fujifilm Instax wide shots of me working in my studio at the Bridgeport Art Center for an exhibition. This idea came to be as I noticed that while people were intrigued by textiles, they were unfamiliar with the textile-making process. I believed these photographs would serve as insightful documentation. But I was unsure if I would ever show them.
Cris and I talked about how inspired I am by artist Lenore Tawney and the intimate images of her in her workspace. Those images laid bare everything, even Tawney’s moments of frustration, which I found profoundly authentic. So after Cris took those images, I immediately went to a downtown camera store and found an old One-Step 600 film Polaroid camera. This began my journey of chronicling my creative process, which later expanded into capturing my travels.
What are you hoping the viewer will take away from this exhibition?
I named the exhibition “Places (Edition I)” hoping there will be other editions highlighting these travel-centric journals and polaroids. This exhibition will spotlight my residencies, vacations and work travels from 2022 to 2023 in Maine and Tennessee. I hope it creates a space for the viewer to connect with the work on a more intimate level in comparison to my larger pieces—to resonate with the works, be it through color, texture, imagery, form or material.
When Debra Kayes approached me to curate an exhibition of my work at TSA, I was very excited especially because she was open to the idea of me trying something new. While my previous exhibitions have primarily revolved around past experiences with trauma, this one pivots to present moments.
The viewer will still notice where I am emotionally and mentally. Yet, this exhibition distinctively radiates joy reflected through the great memories from my travels. I am so grateful for that—I made lifelong friends, saw new places, gained phenomenal opportunities, ate incredible food and expanded on my work. It’s more than I could have ever hoped for.
“Bryana Bibbs: Places (Edition I)” opens October 14 at Tiger Strikes Asteroid, Mana Contemporary, 2233 South Throop, #419 and runs through November 18.