American textile artist Samantha Kerr’s work responds to the ongoing crisis in America -the violent murder of ordinary citizens of color. Born out of sorrow, Kerr’s often disturbing images reveal a savagery and heartbreak inscribed across our lives every week.
One of series of stitched images about the loss of life, the latest and deeply powerful work photographed in situ seeks to move beyond the creation “trauma porn about the loss of black life, but this photo is a moment and feeling in time that had to be made.”
Kerr has made a number of pieces in response to the loss of black life in America “the modern equivalent of lynching. Another black man was needlessly killed and all I could think was “stop killing black people” over and over again. So I made a hoop that said that and my brain cleared briefly.”
During these times, blunted and often unfeeling responses prompted the artist to question what would such people say if she died “What if I was murdered just for existing, and the scene popped into my mind. I stitched and stopped but most of my manic energy went to making the blood, I use my menstrual blood in some of my work but I didn’t have any/enough for this photo. When it was finished I felt a release and also a sadness. The burning image had left my mind but I’ll never be able to escape the reality that I could be murdered for living.”
The artist primarily uses recycled materials such as bed sheets, discarded clothing and curtain and thread. Much of her technique is self taught, through observations of other artists online. She shares: “My technique usually involves me being inspired by a phrase or ruminating on a concept or situation and having it explode from my hand. I don’t draw patterns on me fabric before I stitch, I do it all freehand. Whenever I have an idea that’s burning to get out I stitch until I’m finished.”
When Kerr was young she worked in different forms of fine art and craft making, picking up cross stitching but ultimately finding it too prescriptive.
The artist reveals that it was her time in the witchcraft community Reclaiming that led to her change in creative focus “ We were doing a craft spell. The teachers led a trance in which we sunk into the earth and connected with the mycellia and web of life and asked the earth what it needed. When we came out of the trance we were encouraged to use all of the craft items in front of us to create. I picked up a needle and thread and some fabric and stitched “We are one.” The next day I bought hoops, thread and needles and have been making ever since.”
In her practice, Kerr notes she tries to be her own muse, guided by the mediative experience of making art to process understand and negotiate the world, to express sorrow and outrage, and ultimately as such express our shared humanity as grief over this ongoing brutality that continues unrelentingly.
All images are the sole copyright of the artist Samantha Kerr.