Following the model of a Proust Questionnaire—an inquiry into one’s personality that was first made popular by the French writer Marcel Proust and more recently revived by Vanity Fair—we asked 20 questions to Artspace featured artist Xaviera Simmons, who loves dramatic landscapes and well designed spaces, prefers to walk whenever possible, enjoys earthy red wine, and finds inspiration in the shows at the Studio Museum in Harlem.
Lotus (3) by Sanford Biggers
About the Work
The lotus flower is a divine symbol in Buddhist and Hindu traditions, representing the purity of the soul and the detachment of the body and mind from earthly concerns. The lotus is a motif central to Sanford Biggers’ artistic practice, which he likens to a visceral, pre-conscious notion of art-making where being open to “unknown possibilities” and to improvisation are key.
Executed in grayscale, Lotus (3) seems to be a detailed and beautiful image reminiscent of traditional woodcuts. Closer inspection, however, reveals that the intricate patterns decorating the lotus are actually representations of thousands of men and women bound fast within its petals. The shape of each petal and the configuration of the bodies within correspond to an eighteenth-century diagram that shows the layout of human cargo in slave ships crossing from Africa to America.
Celebrated for her dazzling, decorative portraits of bold, black women that reference art historical sources and pop culture, Mickalene Thomas has been on a meteoric ride ever since snagging a MFA in painting from Yale in 2002. An artist-in-residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 2003 and a standout in P.S. 1’s Greater New York survey show of new talent in 2005, Thomas has gained blue-chip gallery representation in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles and landed her works in major museum collections across the country.