Image: Detail. Trilogy. Xenobia Bailey. Courtesy of Sheldon Museum of Art
Selvedge congratulates Xenobia Bailey, recently announced as one of the recipients of the Center for Craft's Archive Fellowships, 2022.
Bailey cites her her mother’s home décor, as much as her BFA in Industrial Design from the Pratt Institute as influential to her work. She is perhaps best known for what she describes as her "aesthetic of funk," seen in the colourful, crocheted hats that rocketed her to fame after the release of Spike Lee’s film, Do The Right Thing.
Bailey is very conscious of the social movements of the 1970s that are associated with the funk music scene, and posits her work as celebrating the cultural legacy of African American women, expressing "racial pride through the process of crochet.”
Image: Trilogy. Cotton and acrylic yarn crochet with plastic beads, 2000. Courtesy of Sheldon Museum of Art.
Her bright, large-scale, crocheted mandalas, such as Trilogy, speak to her knowledge of ethnomusicology, as well as her interest in African, Native American, and Eastern philosophies. For Mothership 1: Sistah Paradise’s Great Wall of Fire Revival Tent, Bailey was inspired by the rituals of Obeah, offering the tent as a space of sanctuary, a place of resistance and renewal.
Image: Sistah Paradise’s Great Wall of Fire Revival Tent (installation view, John Michael Kohler Arts Center), 1993. Acrylic and cotton yarn and mixed media. Courtesy of Xenobia Bailey.
Sometimes described as 'afrofuturist', Bailey combines crochet, knit, folk and ceremonial fabrics to create her distinctive style. More recently she has explored repurposed and upcycled vintage fabrics for a series of NFTs, celebrating "the skill of adornment of my mother and other African American homemakers and caregivers."
For the Archive Fellowship, Bailey intends to research life of James Forten, born to free Black parents in 1766, in Philadelphia. As a 14-year-old, Forten worked, and was a prisoner of war on tall sail ships. Later, he applied his experiences to his craftsmanship, as a master sail maker in the shipping ports of Philadelphia.