sonya clark and miniature golf at cranbrook museum
We Are Each Other and Cranbrook on the Green
“Over her twenty-five-year career, Clark has been committed to issues of history, race, and reconciliation. Clark often undertakes this exploration through everyday fiber materials—hair, flags, found fabric—and craft practices. In Clark’s work, craft and community are intertwined, and the resulting projects facilitate new collective encounters across racial, gender, and socioeconomic divisions. The ethos of her participatory work is embedded in the title We Are Each Other. It is inspired by the poem about civil rights activist Paul Robeson (1971) by Gwendolyn Brooks, which ends with the phrase: “we are each other’s harvest: we are each other’s business: we are each other’s magnitude and bond.”
In the Hair Craft Project, for example, Clark collaborated with hairstylists to use the hair on her own head as a canvas to highlight their skills, carefully documenting each creation over the course of a year. In works such as the Kente Flag Project, Unraveling, and Monumental Cloth, The Flag We Should Know Clark explores the varied and often conflicted social and cultural histories that flags can represent.”
Art documents society and culture whether the work makes that obvious or not. Artists describe personal perspective and opinion through their chosen medium. Blocks of color and sharp focus highlight the symmetrically intricate hair pattern while the creator softens in the blurred background. The green of the hairstylist’s shirt dramatically contrasts with the hot red background generating visual energy.
Clark arranges elements from several flags where white stars on a navy blue field anchor the elongated composition. Additional patterns integrate into familiar red and white bars with one rogue star creating visual balance. Long before the advent of the socials, flags have been used to instantly communicate a stance in a crowd. In a now antiquated style of warfare, flag bearers located your friends or enemies. They were targeted first in order to fell the flag confusing combatants. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin planted a victorious flag on the moon declaring American ingenuity and strength. The Confederate flag has come to denote a particular mindset that is either revered or reviled depending on race, geography and/or learned biases.
I’d gone to the museum last Thursday to find it randomly closed so I created Clark’s review from website images, which I would have needed regardless because the pieces are mounted under glass. Circled back this Wednesday and discovered the rear gallery singularly devoted to the Confederate flag. I had no knowledge of this installation when referencing it in the previous paragraph. The symbolism is so strong that when generally considering the impact of flags, this one came immediately to mind.
In contrast to the seriousness of Clark’s presentation, Cranbrook Museum offers silly summer fun with its returning miniature golf course. Triton Poolsball allows players to interfere with their competitor’s shot setting fountain sculpture reproductions as moveable goal tenders.
One of this season’s new holes is Glassy Green set on a lush stage adjacent to the serenity of the reflecting pool. All the holes are just-tricky-enough par 3s making for a delightful afternoon.
Sonya Clark on view through Sept 24th. Cranbrook on the Green through Sept 3rd at Cranbrook Art Museum 39221 Woodward Bloomfield Hills MI
*mini golf and the Confederate flag images are mine. Additional Clark images are from the museum website.
direct quote from museum materials
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