Shani Richards

Sarah (2016)
hair, lye soap, yarn, tree branch
72 x 4 x 1.5 in.

My art is all in a moment. It is as innocent as that. There seems to be in me the need to not only capture these moments, but also as a metal-smith I make work through the investigation of materials, objects, craft processes, body adornment and people. This investigation relates to my interest in the history of post colonialism in America. I create objects that address issues of racism, sexism, and stereotypes to provoke the viewer into critical engagement.

Like a detective, I research to identify what is not written, what is erased from the history books. I begin by investigating the history of metalsmithing for African American crafter like me. I have found no one, often metal workers come from a privileged upbringing. I have to look deeper and dive into the history books and read in between the lines to find the faceless and nameless slaves that helped build this country. I want to elevate the craft and skills of the women that worked the hearth cooked the food, served the food, polished the silver and pressed the clothes. Domestic workers has kept the privileged comfortable and continue to do so today. In my work I attempt to juxtapose the past with the present in order to critique a society which refuses to see the roots of this country.

I am an observer of material culture stemming from my interest and experience in crafts and domestic handwork. I employ materials such as hair, plastic, soap, rope, etc; supposedly worthless materials that have a long history currency and disposable agency within the postcolonial context. I appropriate familiar/common sources into sculptural outcomes that connect the materials to symbolize the continuous chains of slavery.

© Shani Richards