Soft Material is a group exhibition organized by Nan Collymore and Celia Lesh at the Berkeley Art Center. The exhibition features works by Sherrie Aradanas, Ricky Bearghost, Raven Harper, Gail Lewis, Elmeater Morton, and Shantae Robinson.
The Soft Material project began at the onset of the pandemic. Artists like Aradanas, Bearghost, Harper, Lewis, Morton, and Robinson rely heavily on studio spaces at art centers like NIAD for connection and community integration. With shelter-in-place orders in effect, Collymore and Lesh facilitated online programs for artists across organizations including NIAD, Creative Growth, and Elbow Room to continue virtual workshops for collaborative exploration through garment construction. This exhibition at Berkeley Art Center features works from NIAD artists.
Soft Material orchestrates a confluence of the artists’ interests in the body and performativity. Skillfully constructed, each work provides the viewer with satisfying evidence of each artist’s hand. Elmeater Morton & Shantae Robinson’s A Dress, My Dress, balances softness and intensity with its neon-orange tulle and gently embroidered neckline embellishments. Gail Lewis & Sherrie Aradanas’ Number 1 Meow Meow connects the structure of a sleeved shirt with a tuft of fur and exceptional embroidery. Gail Lewis’ Kimono Dress is a beautiful occupying presence in the gallery, with vibrant color blocks that suggest beauty and comfort. In weaving these personal and joyful threads together in one place, Soft Material becomes a site of captivating convergence of inspiration, self-expression, and wonder.