Visions of water will be the focus of Various Small Fires’ first Art Basel Miami Beach Nova presentation with new works by Jessie Homer French and Diedrick Brackens. These two artists have both consistently returned to the subject of water.
Raised on the shores of Lake Mexia in the town of Mexia, Texas, textile artist Diedrick Brackens’ (b. 1989) practice asks “what it means to be a child of this lake.” This body of water represents both joyous pastimes and dark histories. During a Juneteenth celebration in 1981, three Black teenagers were arrested at the lake, which ended in their drowning— an event now believed to be an act of racial violence. The lake carries the intangible remnants of this history, among many other fond memories for the artist that were created in and around the lake. In woven tapestry works such as “if you feed a river” (2019) and “bitter attendance, drown jubilee” (2018), figures stand in water, reaching into the depths to pull out the fish swimming at their feet. Brackens’ woven works often feature fish as symbolic ancestors; in the latter work, for example, catfish stand in as remnants of departed souls, a reference to southern folklore. Brackens will create two new weavings for ABMB that will consider this relationship with bodies of water and their corresponding creatures and myths, revealing Southern folklore, mythologies of liberation, and the artist’s personal history as a Black, queer man.
Jessie Homer French’s (b. 1940, New York, NY) new paintings will center around water and marine life from the perspective of environmental protection. A self-described “regional narrative painter,” the artist has painted the landscape near her home (now near Palm Springs, CA) for the last five decades. An avid fly fisher, French has always had an appreciation for lakes and rivers—one strengthened via many hours of contemplating the West Coast’s natural landscape while fishing throughout California, Oregon, and Canada. This attention to the environment is reflected in the artist’s intensely detailed paintings, which often examine human negligence’s impact on the natural world. Paintings such as “Chernobyl” (2017) and “Blowout” (2020) feature the nuclear disaster site and an oil rig fire, the marine life positioned uncomfortably close to the source of danger. For VSF’s booth, the artist will create three new works that will document urgent threats to our waterways (and water- bound life), while also forewarning our future’s environmental catastrophe.
Brackens and Homer French have generated distinct bodies of work that reflect the artists’ deeply personal relationships to specific bodies of water— a subject that is only fitting for VSF’s booth at Art Basel Miami Beach, which will present an array of new artistic visions surrounding water situated minutes from the Atlantic Ocean.
Diedrick Brackens (b. 1989, Mexia, Texas, lives and works in Los Angeles, California) received a BFA from University of North Texas and an MFA in textiles from California College of the Arts. Recent solo exhibitions include the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Arizona; Blanton Museum of Art, Austin; Jack Shainman Gallery, New York; New Museum, New York; Sewanee University Art Gallery, Tennessee; and Ulrich Museum of Art, Wichita, Kansas. Recent group exhibitions include Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; California African American Museum; and Jewish Contemporary Art Museum, San Francisco. He is the recipient of the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Biennial Grant; Los Angeles Artadia Award; American Craft Council Emerging Artist Award; and the Wein Prize. Brackens’ works are in the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art; Hammer Museum; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Brooklyn Museum; Museum of Fine Art, Houston; New Orleans Museum of Art; and the Oakland Museum of California.
Jessie Homer French (b. 1940, New York, New York, lives and works in Mountain Center, California) is a self-taught, self- proclaimed “regional narrative painter” who routinely, perhaps even obsessively, paints archetypes of death, nature and rural life. She has held solo exhibitions at Massimo De Carlo, London; Various Small Fires, Los Angeles and Seoul; Mother’s Tankstation, Dublin and London; the Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena, California; Craig Krull Gallery, Santa Monica, California; Winchester Gallery, Victoria, British Columbia; and Ankrum Gallery, Los Angeles. Her work has also been included in group exhibitions at François Ghebaly, Los Angeles; CLEARING, New York; the Palm Springs Museum; Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Beach; and Samuel Freeman Gallery, Santa Monica. French’s work is included in the permanent collection of the Palm Spring Art Museum and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.