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Memory as Material: A conversation with Sonya Yong James and Kelly Taylor Mitchell

March 2, 2022 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm Free


The Anderson

The Anderson is pleased to present, as a component of the programming for Southern Exigency (Feb. 4 – Mar. 5), Memory as Material: A conversation between artists Sonya Yong James and Kelly Taylor Mitchell, moderated by co-curator Sakina Ahmad. 

Zoom Panel, 3/2/22, 7:00pm EST



Event Description:

Join artists Sonya Yong James, Kelly Taylor Mitchell and moderator Sakina Ahmad for a public conversation about memory, myth and materiality. Participants in the Anderson’s current exhibition Southern Exigency (on view through March 5th), James and Mitchell will discuss the significance of personal and collective histories in their practices and their use of material to make-present, engage and transform those histories.

Following the moderated conversation, all attendees are invited to remain in the Zoom meeting for an open forum discussion on the rewards and challenges of working with historically loaded or significant materials.

From the curators – Memory resides in many forms, from photographs to the materials in our everyday lives. The work of both Sonya Yong James and Kelly Taylor Mitchell have a profound material presence that carries forth the content of their works. Sonya uses horsehair, wool felt, and thread. For her, these materials carry trapped energy inside of them which is released in the making process. Kelly uses peanuts, fabric, ceramics, and pearls. Her making process includes ritual and intention to continue African diasporic traditions and imbue her work with presence and meaning. Kelly and Sonya will discuss how their works use memory as material and material to convey memory. We will end with a followup conversation about how we convey memory through material in our own practice.


Artist Bios: 

Kelly Taylor Mitchell (she/her, b. 1994) is an artist and educator who lives and works in Atlanta, GA where she is currently an Artist-in-Residence with the Studio Artist Program at The Atlanta Contemporary and a Working Artist Project Fellow with The Museum of Contemporary Art Georgia. Kelly is an Assistant Professor of Art and Visual Culture and the Art Program Director at Spelman College. Kelly’s multidisciplinary practice centers oral history and ancestral memory woven into the fabric of the Africana Diaspora, in order to present speculative histories, specifically related to concepts of community autonomy, swamp marronage, and inherited identity. Utilizing printmaking, papermaking, sculpture, and textiles her work manifests as immersive installations, performative objects, and partnered artists books offering a venue for the sensorial to connect to, convey, and reimagine rituals and rites of autonomous kin, collectives, and individuals of the Africana Diaspora.


Sonya Yong James: Cloth and fiber can sometimes hold the gift of memory. Textile art can provoke a desire to touch, thus awakening multiple senses at once. Color and texture can be heard like a sound while the desire to experience art by physically touching it is using the eyes of the skin.


I am a multidisciplinary artist that works with thread and repurposed cloth as I love the references that they hold such as mending, repairing and connecting. This ubiquitous material is central to the human experience. Cloth is always touching us. I am intrigued by the idea of a single thread becoming warp and weft and forming something whole. I use string, sewing, and weaving as well as found objects to construct new worlds of imagination. Adapting age-old techniques and traditional materials, I seek to create environments and sensory experiences. For many, fiber art is synonymous with women’s art. Knitting, crochet, weaving, and sewing are historically associated with domestic work- clothing the body, providing warmth, adorning space – and speak to the strength as well as the exploration of female labor.


My current work speaks to my fascination and reverence for the natural world. I have been exploring narratives that speak to collectively shared mythologies and folk tales. Myths and fairy tales spin and weave stories of relationships, power and morality. From Arachne to Rapunzel, ethereal threads of golden hair and silk serve both to protect and entrap, to create and condemn. These once familiar stories are then fragmented and conflated with another to form new clusters of meaning and are a perfect medium for modern allegory and what it means to be alive today.