The future is dark, with a darkness as much of the womb as the grave.
-Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark

Dark Matter is inspired by the wonder and mystery of creation imbued into the primary mediums of handmade paper and iron. Imagery of the cosmos, flora, and reproductive anatomy are central motifs as are the primary raw materials recycled from the artist’s used bed sheets into paper pulp. In the past year, detailed images of space arrived from eons ago via the Webb Telescope. The massive depth of space was illuminated for us in more detail than ever before, highlighting the vast expanse surrounding Earth and what little we do know of the universe. When one turns that same telescope towards our own society and how the microcosm of our bodies and the power of fertility is treated, we wish for similar reverence. Dark Matter refers to the unknown, hypothetical substance that makes up the majority of space in between observable phenomena.

January 10-February 7, Hudson Galleries at the Mississippi University for Women, Columbus MS

Dark Matter was created using a combination of traditional craft, contemporary technology, activist images and texts, and personally impregnated materials to represent the complexities of navigating our current climate.  The exhibited work reflects our own bodies and the complexities of reproduction with the vastness of space. As Solnit states, we are in the dark as to what the future may bring but can hope we are in the dark of a womb that will birth a new age not revert to the grave of the past one.

Nebula, Artist made paper from old bed sheets, rusted doilies, steel, 8’x8'x4', 2023

is a diptych of two large sheets of handmade paper backed with rusted doilies. Each bed sheet was pulped separately and then poured together in a spiral pattern around iron castings and sprinkled with glass, gold, and iron dust. Reinforced by the rusted doilies on one side, the decorative craft is transformed into mitochondria or floating phenomenon. Doilies were used to impress wet sheets of paper to create textured Alabama cotton and black denim planets and moons (Planetary Bodies) while the encased castings are seen as individual works in 40 Constellations (40 Folds)

Planetary Bodies
Planetary Bodies, artist made black denim and Alabama cotton papers, rust
8 series of 8”x8”x2” shadowbox frames
4 series of 14x11x2” shadowbox frames

Constellations (40 Folds)
Constellations (40 Folds), 40 piece installation, cast iron, magnets, dimensions variable, 2023

Constellations (40 Folds) consist of paper forms that were transmuted into iron. Wet sheets of recycled pulp were formed into yonic shapes and encased in resin-bonded sand molds. Molten hot iron was directly cast into the paper pulp by the artist, an experimental process honed to allow unexpected final forms to emerge. Arranged according to the constellations Cassiopeia, Andromeda, Virgo, and the Sculptor, the vulvar iron stars map out Ptolemy’s observations of the night sky made memorable by their mythic associations.

Void, edition of 2 artist books, text by Liz Egan and edited selections from additional Pink House Defenders, 24”x19”x1.5” closed, 48”x19” open, steel, artist made papers from old bedsheets, denim, iron, rust, 2023.

Iron pulses through our blood and makes up the core of the Earth. It is a sign of life. The artist books Void are made using iron dust as a primary printing material through which viewers learn the impact of the overturning of Roe v. Wade through the Pink House Defenders’ experience. In the fall, Tordella-Williams and former Defender Liz Egan invited reflections on the closing of the Jackson Women’s Health Center (colloquially known as the Pink House) and the end to their work as clinic escorts in Mississippi. Egan edited those texts with her own experience into the codex of Void.

The books were printed onto mended bed sheet papers using iron dusted through laser cut paper stencils. Each signature was then rusted and sealed. The mended areas of the paper look like craters or puckered scars and vary from page to page. The signatures are bound using a secret Belgian binding and have CNC plasma cut steel covers. The back cover features the Pink House cut in negative. While the exterior covers show hints of white paint that are rusted and worn, the interiors are a bright pink to represent the Pink House’s color and vibrant tenacity. The book serves as a memorial to a community and to the access to healthcare that once was tenuously available to all Mississippians.

Positive/Negative & Interiors
Interiors, burnt artist made black denim and cotton papers, set of 2 8”x8”x2” shadowbox frames
Positive/Negative , bleach screen prints on artist made black denim paper, 5 pairs of 8.5”x11” prints

Text is also incorporated into Positive/Negative, an ongoing series of silk screens using custom made bleach ink. Corrosion from the bleach exposes activist verbiage from the past and recent present in contrast to black denim paper. Interiors exhibits a layered interior in burnt black and white handmade papers and yonic forms inspired by O’Keefian edges imbued with a subtle violence.

Moonscape Triptych, stenciled and rusted iron on artist made denim and Alabama cotton papers, 14’x4’x2”, 2023

Finally, the Moonscapes series were produced with laser cut stencils and iron dust, creating rusted and stained paper. Queen Anne’s lace merges with medical illustrations of uterine arteries to create mirrored and decorative patterns. These papers were made from old ben linens, Alabama cotton, and black denim. The artist’s old bed sheets hold the site of copulation, bleeding, weeping, sweating, sleeping, and dreaming. Stained rust mirrors the common remnants of menstruation and life lived dripping into the papers.

Moonscape I
Moonscape III

Moonscape II
Moonscape IV