Photolucida: Sonya Lawyer: A Piece (of the Dream)
This past April, I was fortunate to have a chance to see the work of photographer Sonya A. Lawyer at the Photolucida portfolio walk. Her combination of color and image stood out and the idea of creating quilt-inspired narratives seemed in perfect harmony with her subject matter. Sonya creates image transfers on hand-dyed fabric allowing for a more tactile presentation and uses family and found photographs to reference the piecing together lost histories. In the fall of 2015 she will have a solo exhibition at the Arlington Arts Center in Arlington, Virginia where she will debut her latest body of work Beauty Recovered in October 2015 and currently has work in Center Forward at the Center for Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins, Colorado.
Sonya was an Artist in Residence at Light Work in Syracuse, New York. Additionally, she participated in Maryland Art Place’s 19th Annual Critics’ Residency. Franklin Sirmans was the Critic in Residence. Her work has been published in Contact Sheet, The International Review of African American Art, Nueva Luz, and The Washington Post. In 2009, she received an Individual Artist’s Award from the Maryland State Arts Council. Currently, she is the Editor in Chief of SALYSÉ Magazine, a fashion/beauty/art photography publication.
A Peace (of the Dream) is a photographic-based blog project which overlays a personal narrative over vintage images of women, men and children to create quilt-like pieces of art. Some of the imagery used in the work is anonymous and some are family members. The narrative is partly stories from my own life, partly family members’ recollections and close friends’ anecdotes, but all of the narrative is grounded in someone’s reality. CulturalDC’s Flashpoint Gallery in Washington, DC granted me the opportunity to adapt the online digital exhibition, a 365 day blog, into a month long physical exhibition which opened June 27, 2014 and ran until August 2, 2014.
In 2001, I began collecting vintage photo albums. Most of them have been purchased through online auctions and others were purchased at antique stores. The women, men, and children in the images I have collected are anonymous and only now known by their auction id number and their seller’s quirky username. The thought of families torn apart, albeit figuratively, and then sold to the highest bidder is very disturbing and repeats a very troubling part of history. Although I recognize my own complicity by participating in the auctions of my “ancestors,” I feel that I am rescuing “people” from further disturbance.apeaceofthedream.com is an online archive of digital sketches. The final physical pieces are realized as 18” x 24”, or larger, image transfers on fabric that I have hand-dyed. It is an intensive, time-consuming, but rewarding process, so each of the final “quilt pieces” is one of a kind. The mixing of dye to create the various fabric shades, tints and intensities allows me to highlight various parts of the vintage images when I create the fabric transfers. This is something that I would not be able to do if I used store-bought fabric. I always enjoy watching gallery visitors reaching out and wanting to touch the pieces. Along with the vibrant colors, there is a tactile quality and an air of familiarity to the final quilt-like pieces that always seems to engage viewers.
A Peace (of the Dream) is a celebration of lives past and present—a “visual poem” created through reflection and discovery. In weaving together pieces of family history or memory, the quilt creates a story about our shared humanity. It’s about the stories we tell over and over again, and the secrets that we keep inside for far too long. It’s about our likes and dislikes, our faith and our disbelief, our friends and our enemies, our futile searches and our brilliant discoveries, but most of all, it’s about how when we really step back and examine our lives, we actually see the common threads (dreams) that bind “us” all together.
Since community engagement has always been important to me, every Saturday during the exhibition at Flashpoint, I scanned pictures and documented gallery visitors’ stories for incorporation into a “Community Quilt.” The piece was titled “i.you.he.she.they.we. (us)”. It was extremely rewarding to create a dialogue between the past and the present as it intersects with the personal and the universal.
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