Migrant Barrier Tapestry

Kaneem Smith

Exhibition: Aug 5 – Dec 26, 2021

Kaneem Smith draws inspiration from a familial and historical standpoint of personal experience and the human condition. As a mixed media artist and sculptor with a background in fibers, these concepts run a complex thread throughout her body of work. Smith’s work challenges viewers to contemplate global concerns of ethical trade, the West’s over-consumption of natural resources, and colonialist commodification of underprivileged producers and their products.Smith’s Migrant Barrier Tapestry explores the tumultuous relationship between trade, consumption, and commodities. The tapestry is made with burlap and covered with indications of coffee beans that have been imported/exported from around the world.  Combined, these elements serve as a visual reminder of the trade of natural materials, specifically cotton and coffee. The size of the tapestry speaks to the scope of migrant issues around ethical trade, the over consumption of natural resources, and commodification of underprivileged producers and their products. The tapestry was initially conceived to connect Puerto Rico and Galveston, Texas in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria’s immense agricultural harm. “The utilization of fiber material as a primary medium in my work is entwined with racial, classicism, sexual inequality, social politics, and American history for example, and all of it continues to drive and motivate my practice.” — Smith

About the Texas Biennial

The 2021 Texas Biennial: A New Landscape, A Possible Horizon, is a geographically-led, independent survey of contemporary art in Texas. For the seventh iteration of the Texas Biennial, the project is distributed across five Texas museums, featuring exhibitions, programs, and works of public art in San Antonio and Houston from September 1, 2021, through January 31, 2022.For the first time, the Biennial features artists whom the organizers have termed “Texpats.” “Texpats” refers to Texas natives and artists working in any part of the world whose work takes Texas or its history as its subject matter. The fifty-one artists featured in the 2021 Texas Biennial range from emerging artists and collectives to well-established and internationally celebrated artists working in sculpture, film and experimental video, photo-based media, installation, sound, painting, printmaking, music and performance, social practice, and public art.

Principal themes examined in the Biennial include the mutable histories contained within objects and people, activism and issues of racial and social justice, and narratives unique to the history and land of Texas.


Kaneem Smith

Houston, Texas, USA

Kaneem Smith was born in Buffalo, NY, raised and based in Houston where has she has been a practicing visual artist and fine arts educator since 2003. She had studied at Rice University and the Maryland Institute College of Art before receiving her Bachelor of Arts Degree from Sarah Lawrence College, and then her Master of Fine Arts Degree from Syracuse University.

She has exhibited at the Mönchskirche Museum in Germany; Texas Southern University Museum; Project Row Houses, and at Dallas Center of Contemporary Art, among others. Her work has been included in numerous groups shows in venues, such as the Art League Houston, Station Museum of Contemporary Art; Grounds for Sculpture, Hamilton, NJ; Amarillo Museum of Art; National Art Gallery, Athens, Greece; Lima Art Museum, Peru, as well as the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Among her many accomplishments, exhibitions, awards, and residencies, Smith was the recipient of a visual arts fellowship through The Hungarian Multicultural Center Artists and Writers Residency Program in Hungary (2003), an Edward F. Albee Residency Grant (2005), Vermont Studio Center Fellowships (2006) (2008), and a Visual Arts Fellowship from the Creative Capital Foundation in New York (2008). Smith also received studio fellowships for the Atelierhaus Hilmsen Residency for Artists and Professionals in Germany (2010) (2012). In 2015 Smith co-organized the 2015 Texas Sculpture Symposium in Lubbock, TX, with featured Keynote speaker and distinguished visual artist Judy Pfaff and San Antonio sculptor Ken Little. In 2017, she received a visual artist grant award in sculpture from the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation and received a Houston Artadia Award through Artadia: The Fund for Art and Dialogue.

About her work, Ms. Smith said, “Since childhood I have long been captivated by the concept of acquiring raw organic, plant-based and synthetic fibers and then transforming that material for non-utilitarian use and occasional aesthetic significance. Textile as something tactile and having

its own visual prowess, my research-based interests lie in how the usage of the medium has evolved over time and has been carried into a contemporary and accepted art practice. In creating sculptural works out of fabric materials such as burlap formerly used for import/export purposes, referencing concerns on ethical trade, colonialist interactions on the natural environment, and contemporary issues concerning global civil rights and connecting it to my cultural complexity continues to be carried out into current events.

“Bearing witness to how certain contemporary American and International artists of color emerged from more traditional craft beginnings in their careers into prominent creative figures in the greater art world has especially been inspiring for me. The utilization of fiber material as a primary medium in my work is entwined with racial, classicism, sexual inequality, social politics and American history for example, and all of it continues to drive and motivate my practice.”

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