Jim Cooper, "13th Floor Buddha, detail"

The Covering: A Retrospective Celebrating Wini McQueen by Christine Miller

SDA member Wini “Akissi” McQueen’s art draws upon many approaches of surface design in her mixed media work that include dyeing, shibori, quilting, wax resist, and painting. Her recent retrospective, The Covering, at the Museum of Arts and Sciences in Macon, Georgia reflects her life long relationship with cotton. She uses cotton to connect the various threads of history, artistic expression, and family in her artistic journey. 

Wini in her studio.

This three gallery exhibition features richly layered, contemporary quilts and mixed media two-dimensional collages. The Covering moves from intimate works to sculptural forms, including a large, bright “canopy” of hand-dyed fabrics. The garments on display in the exhibition draw from the African traditions of dyed cloth and hand sewn construction. She works with image, color, and texture to create work that reaches back into her family’s past as slaves. The narrative aspects of some of her artworks include visual depictions of slaves enchained and tortured in order to raise cotton to be a commodity that created vast wealth in this country and enriched the slaves’ owners. Through image transfers and printed text, the viewer is connected to the reality of cotton production in the southern United States during slavery. Her artistic expression draws from the story of cotton as it has danced among generations involved in its production and use.

Throughout this exhibition, she offers powerful metaphorical themes related to cotton, the fabric medium that has “covered her life” and threads throughout her work. Grounded in a rich history of crafts, McQueen is redefining the traditional art of quilt making through the use of modern textiles and innovative improvisational techniques. Known as a gifted and insightful storyteller, she has earned national recognition for her use of textiles to document oral histories and explore issues of race, class, society, and gender roles. 

A wonderful interview with the artist, in the museum galleries of her retrospective, delves into the deep history of her life, as well as the challenges and successes of her artistic process. You can learn more about McQueen and her rich career in a recent Macon Magazine article, in the African American Visual Artists Database, and on Wikipedia

Video Credits:

  • Wini McQueen, artist
  • Dorothy O Brown, Craig Coleman, Marvin Holloway, collaborating artists
  • Susan Welch, Museum Director and Exhibit Curator
  • Tabitha Walker, Big Hair Productions, filmmaker

– Christine Miller

5 Comments

  • Alisa Banks says

    March 26, 2021 at 6:02 am

    Wow!- this is SO powerful! I am inspired by Ms. McQueen's art, inspiration, and process; by the respectful, sensitive, and respectful way that she honors the ancestors and her stories; and by her perseverance in working with (at times) difficult materials. It was heartening to hear of her journey and I am drawn to the lush surfaces and dense content. (I only wish I could see those textures in person.) Thank you for featuring Ms. McQueen and her work.

  • Mary Thomas says

    March 26, 2021 at 11:29 am

    In the early 50’s I lived on Baseline Road in Tempe, AZ. I remember as a youngster that large trucks drove by carrying picked bales of cotton. Some would fall off the trucks and land on the side of the road. I would then pick up that cotton and collect enough to fill small pillows that I made. I attempted to take the cotton seeds out of the cotton before using them.

  • Anneke Herrold says

    March 27, 2021 at 5:11 am

    Wonderful artist about this wonderful artist. Thank you!

  • Anneke Herrold says

    March 27, 2021 at 5:13 am

    Correction to my last comment. Wonderful video about a wonderful artist.

  • Tenecia McKinley says

    September 29, 2021 at 9:20 pm

    I wish I had known about this exhibition. I spotted an old photo of my great-grandparents and their children in one of her quilts. I would love to see it up close.

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