Personal Alchemy: Terri Friedman, Maria Paz, Muzae Sesay
TBD – January 17, 2021
This exhibition brings together woven textiles by Terri Friedman, ceramic sculpture by Maria Paz, and paintings by Muzae Sesay.
Alchemy, the ancient philosophy focused on the purification and transformation of materials into gold, has a long history with the arts.The Italian scholar and curator Arturo Schwarz said, “The alchemist and the artist share the same ambition: that of doing to understand, and of understanding to transform, both themselves and the world.” In Personal Alchemy three Bay Area artists transform personal memories, concerns, and pain into work that inspires positivity and empathy. This exhibition brings together woven textiles by Terri Friedman, ceramic sculpture by Maria Paz, and paintings by Muzae Sesay. Each artist uses art as a catalyst for healing and combatting anxieties, both personal and political.
For Terri Friedman, making art is a method of healing by taking action against despair. Friedman relates the act of weaving to the connections of neurons in the brain. She’s interested in the brain’s capacity to create new neural pathways to work out negative thinking. Many of Friedman’s textiles in Personal Alchemy contain text that reflect both her anxiety about the state of the world and optimism towards its future, weaving the words “Awake,” “Now,” “SOS,” and “Wrong Way” through her panels. She uses color, abstraction, and text as “memorials of light coming through loss…all through a filter of optimism.”
Maria Paz’s ceramics are vessels for storytelling, illustrated with a cacophony of personal iconography, vignettes of memories, and intimate experiences. Her imagery shares her experience growing up undocumented in the United States and her recent trip back to Chile where she was born. Art is a way for Paz to heal her familial trauma while honoring her Chilean ancestors. For this exhibition, Paz is experimenting with new large ceramic pieces along with site-specific sculptural and painted installations.
Muzae Sesay’s work explores his memory of environments and spaces, which can be personal memories or a practice of empathy – of imagining another person’s memory and what that experience would feel like. His paintings touch upon themes of community, urbanization, and home. For his series in Personal Alchemy, Sesay focuses on the breezeblock, a type of concrete block that allows for both airflow and decoration in homes and buildings. Breezeblocks were popular in Mid-Century Modern Californian architecture, especially in Southern California where the artist grew up. Sesay, as well as Paz and Friedman, are focused on interconnection, using personal experience and emotions in creating work that explores what it means to be human.
Personal Alchemy is supported in part by Members of the ICA’s Director’s Circle and by Kelly-Moore Paints.