Sokari Douglas Camp's sculptures feed off contradiction. They have the instinctual feel of a tactile, hand-made craft and yet also the mechanical effect of a welded steel concoction. In both idea and texture, fragmentation dominates the large-scale works, making structures of the most stalwart material seem fragile at the seams.
The Nigerian-born artist channels her heritage into her works, balancing warm memories with wounds ripped open. Although to a western crowd the steel masks may echo Picasso's disjointed faces, they also mimic Kalabari masquerade props, a nod to Camp's heritage. Her exhibition at Stux Gallery, entitled "Dressed to the Nines," toys with fashion as a celebration, distraction and form or armor in contemporary life. Although the artist clearly riffs off the tension between Nigeria and England, there are other less obvious ruptures as well, such as fashion vs. faith, parent vs. child and profit vs. peace.
Jesus Loves Me
One such multilayered images is "Jesus Loves Me," a sculpture inspired by the "Pentecostal Londoners who outfit extravagantly to secure husbands and business partners," according to the Stux Gallery. In it, a man and woman wear what appears to be the hottest new fashions, adorned with neon crosses and depictions of Jesus. Topped off with red lipstick and hip glasses, the pair seems to have turned the religious icon into the fashion statement du jour. The conflict in their work resides in their poses, somewhat liberated and wild and yet robotic and awkward.
"Purge" focuses on the trauma oil has unleashed on the Niger Delta, as well as the belief that violence can fix most problems. Two sculptures in traditional dress dance wildly atop oil barrels, the man wearing a top hat and waving a cane. Upon closer inspection a neat and tidy array of bullet holes adorns their fashionable ensembles and creeps up their faces, but the overall impact of the shots fired is just a whisper compared to their loud fashions. Camp's exhibition doesn't just blur the line between the essential and the ornamental, the spiritual and the aesthetic, she welds the seemingly disparate categories together. If the Tin Man had wished for a new outfit instead of a heart, he may look something like a Camp creation.
Check out a slideshow of the works below and let us know if you're inspired to pick up some welding tools:
Sokari Douglas Camp's "Dressed to the Nines" runs until November 24 at Stux Gallery.