Drawn to stories in the things we leave behind, Shinique Smith uses discarded clothing as an artistic medium to explore the complex and accidental connections between individuals. Her installation, The Secret Garden, is an adjustable maze of brightly-colored and textured panels, influenced by the practice in which unwanted used clothing from the United States is baled and sold overseas to third world countries, with the bulk going to Africa. Several hundred tons of clothing, packed into tight bundles, is shipped every year, generating a multi-billion dollar industry. Beyond the economic implications, these bales also provide a tangible connection point to individuals elsewhere in the world through the very clothes on our backs. Smith’s maze provides a metaphor for these complex connections as visitors explore the network of interlocking paths. In navigating the maze, the visitor is mentally and physically making connections in space, and with other visitors. The surface of the maze itself is built up through an accumulation of paint, fabric, found objects, and collaged images. The texture invokes the layers of memory and the history of the individuals passing through. Exiting the maze, visitors emerge into a room filled with bundles of recycled clothing, providing a space to replicate the artist’s process and contemplate the tangible connection between individuals and their material goods.
ABOUT SHINIQUE SMITH
Shinique Smith earned her MFA from Maryland Institute College of Art. Her first large-scale museum exhibition, Menagerie, opened at the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami, Florida, in 2010 and traveled to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Madison, WI in 2011. Her work has also been exhibited at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, Boulder CO, Studio Museum in Harlem, NY, National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC, The New Museum, New York, Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin, PS1/MoMA, NY, Rubell Family Collection, Margulies Collection, and the Denver Art Museum. She received awards and fellowships from The Joan Mitchell Foundation, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.