Diedrick Brackens: ark of bulrushes

July 16 - December 11, 2022

Mint Museum Randolph


ark of bulrushes presents a new series by Los Angeles-based artist Diedrick Brackens including large-scale (8-feet) weavings and premiering the artist’s first woven sculptures.

Known for making colorful textiles about African American and queer histories, Brackens has developed a process of combining the tactility of yarn with the ethos of storytelling. For this exhibition, the artworks tell timeless narratives about emancipation and remediation through pattern, body, and the power of craft.

In addition to being one of the most innovative and important artists on the rise in the United States, Brackens work incorporates traditions important to the Southern region —  baskets that relate to Cherokee nation and the Gullah people, quilts that resonate with all cultures, but a particular exploration of quilts in the African-American historical narrative.  Brackens’ deeply colored weavings pull imagery from 19th-century Freedom Quilts — used as a communication tool by enslaved people traveling along the Underground Railroad — and star constellations that have been used to navigate the external world and internal psyche for thousands of years. The central focus of Brackens’ artwork always returns to the Black body represented in form or implied in absence.

Intertwined with the patterns are dynamic human figures mimicking animals associated with constellations. This positioning aligns the body within the cosmic proportions of the universe, inferring empowerment of the individual and of a people.

The sculptural basket boats in this exhibition take different forms that reference the human body in communion with nature. The ark is Brackens’ sculptural prototype of a boat that he hopes to float on the Mississippi River. Made with enough room for a passenger to sit upright or lie down, the body and boat can float and bob down the river as one.

The floating of reed basket boats is significant in legends of deliverance, including the Biblical story of the exodus of the Israelites where an “ark of bulrushes” carried the infant Moses up the Nile River. Taking its name from this story, ark of bulrushes gestures to craft itself as a form of mythology — the passing on of tradition, technique, and narrative. Brackens practices textile craft with unique vision and perspective, spinning new definitions of what it means to live today.

‘Diedrick Brackens: ark of bulrushes’ Opening Celebration

Saturday, July 16 | 11 AM-6 PM
Mint Museum Randolph

1 PM | Moving with the Spirit, a dance and drum performance of African Diaspora Arts.

2 PM – 3 PM | Artist Diedrick Brackens and Lauren R. O’Connell, curator at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Arts and curator of the ark of bulrushes, discuss the evolution of the exhibition, the agency of contemporary craft, and expansive possibilities of artist-curator collaborations.

The Mint’s iteration of the exhibition also includes three additional components that enhance the core installation of Brackens work, including woven and quilted works from the Mint, drawing heavily from the historic quilt collection and the extensive collection of Native American basketry; an installation of North Carolina weavers and a visitor engagement area with response walls and extensive resources from the Mint’s Library and Archives that elaborate on these important craft traditions and methods.  

About The Artist

Diedrick Brackens (born 1989, Mexica, TX; lives and works in Los Angeles, CA) is best known for his weavings that explore narratives about queerness, masculinity, and the Black experience in the United States. His work incorporates elements of West-African weaving, American quilting, and European tapestry-making, as well as histories associated with craft. Bracken’s work has been shown in solo exhibitions at the New Museum, New York, NY; Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, TX; Oakville Galleries, Ontario, Canada; Alabama Contemporary Art Center, Mobile, AL; The University of the South, Sewanee, TN; and Ulrich Museum of Art, Wichita, KS. Select group exhibitions include Plumb Line: Charles White and the Contemporary, California African American Museum, Los Angeles, CA; Ear to the Ground: Earth and Element in Contemporary Art, New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, LA; Made in L.A. 2018, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA; Material Futurity, Macalester College, Saint Paul, MN; and The Possible, UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, CA. Brackens received a master of fine arts from the California College of the Arts, San Francisco, and a bachelor of fine arts from University of North Texas, Denton. The artist is a recipient of the United States Artists Fellowship (2021), Marciano Artadia Award (2019), American Craft Council Emerging Artist Award (2019), and The Studio Museum in Harlem’s Wein Prize (2018).


Diedrick Brackens: ark of bulrushes is organized by Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA) and curated by Lauren R. O’Connell. Support provided by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and S. Rex and Joan Lewis Foundation. Learning & Engagement and Community Outreach programming for this exhibition is generously supported by Windgate Foundation. The Mint Museum is supported in part by the Infusion Fund and its generous donors, and the North Carolina Arts Council. Thank you to our media partners QCity Metro and Queen City Nerve.

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