Carving a New Tradition: The Art of LaToya M. Hobbs
January 26–April 28, 2024
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (November 30, 2023)—The Frist Art Museum presents Carving a New Tradition: The Art of LaToya M. Hobbs, an exhibition of recent woodblock prints and mixed-media portraits from the Arkansas-born, Baltimore-based painter and printmaker. Organized by the Frist Art Museum with Dr. Rebecca VanDiver, associate professor of African American art at Vanderbilt University, the exhibition will be on view in the Frist’s Gordon Contemporary Artists Project Gallery from January 26 through April 28, 2024.
In her practice, LaToya M. Hobbs explores Black womanhood, family, labor, self-care, and the rich traditions of printmaking while pushing the medium’s boundaries. She often uses herself, her family, and friends as subjects in her work to draw attention to the power of representation and legacy. She has stated, “Though I’m presenting the work through the lens of my own experience, I champion the everyday woman while addressing the themes of motherhood, family, and the connection one has to the physical spaces they occupy.”
Much of Hobbs’s art begins with photographs of her subjects, many made during collaborative photoshoots with her husband Ariston Jacks. After a multistep preparatory process, she begins carving and painting. “Hobbs favors relief printmaking, in which one carves away material from a surface to create an image,” writes guest curator Dr. VanDiver. Hobbs goes further, noting that “the act of carving and its removal of material carries symbolic meaning related to the carving away of negativity and stereotypes needed to reveal the real version of oneself.”
In traditional printmaking, an artist carves the matrix—the printing surface—leaving a raised image. Ink is then applied to the matrix, paper is pressed to its surface, and then the paper and matrix are run through a printing press to create a print. “While Hobbs does create traditional woodblock prints, she also carves a new tradition by displaying the painted print matrixes themselves as finished art objects,” notes VanDiver.
On its debut loan from the Baltimore Museum of Art, Hobbs’s monumental work Carving Out Time (2020–21) anchors the exhibition and is only the second complete installation of the masterful carved cherrywood panels. Life-size scenes follow Hobbs through her full day as a woman, mother, wife, and an artist. On the walls of highly detailed domestic spaces, Hobbs reproduced artworks by African American artists from whom she draws inspiration, including Elizabeth Catlett—who Hobbs considers one of her “art mothers,” Kerry James Marshall, and Alma Thomas. “The large scale of Carving Out Time is akin to that of Western history painting, typically utilized to tell the grand historical narratives of white men,” writes VanDiver. “Yet, with its positive depictions of a Black family and Black female artistry, Carving Out Time marks a shift in canonical representations.” The title references both the daily negotiations one makes to get everything done and the time Hobbs had to “carve out” to finish the labor-intensive project.
While Carving Out Time highlights Hobbs’s labor, new works like A Moment of Care, Sunday Morning, and Note to Self: No Rest for the Weary draw attention to the need for rest and self-care. Visitors to the Frist will have the opportunity to see several works completed in 2023 such as Erin and Anyah with Hydrangeas, which depicts the artist’s stepdaughter Erin and niece Anyah. VanDiver notes, “The hydrangeas and green foliage found in the background, a newer element in Hobbs’s art, reflect the sense of healthy growth and ‘flourishing’ Hobbs has experienced recently in her career and personal life.” Further, “The patterned background of Erin and Anyah and the different textural elements seen in other works illuminate the tactile and textured quality of much of Hobbs’s artwork.”
“Throughout her practice, Hobbs charts a new course in which depictions of the Black family, Black women, Black rest, and Black creative labor are recognized, celebrated, and elevated. In both form and content, Hobbs carves a new tradition,” writes VanDiver.
About LaToya M. Hobbs
Hobbs received a BA in painting from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and an MFA in printmaking from Purdue University. She is a professor at the Maryland Institute College of Art and a founding member of Black Women of Print, an artistic collective that seeks to make the past, present, and future work of Black women printmakers more visible. Her work is in the permanent collections of the Baltimore Museum of Art; The David C. Driskell Center at the University of Maryland; Harvard Art Museums, Milwaukee Art Museum; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Petrucci Family Foundation Collection of African American Art; Samella Lewis Contemporary Art Collection at Scripps College; Smith College Museum of Art; The Rockefeller Foundation; and more.
About Dr. Rebecca VanDiver
Dr. Rebecca VanDiver is an associate professor of African American art and a 2023–25 Chancellor’s Faculty Fellow at Vanderbilt University. She is the author of Designing a New Tradition: Loïs Mailou Jones and the Aesthetics of Blackness (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2020).
Friday, January 26
Conversation: LaToya M. Hobbs with Dr. Rebecca VanDiver
Free; first come, first seated
Join LaToya M. Hobbs and exhibition curator Dr. Rebecca VanDiver for this conversation about Hobbs’s artistic practice, influences, and the exhibition.
Carving a New Tradition: The Art of LaToya M. Hobbs is organized by the Frist Art Museum with Dr. Rebecca VanDiver, associate professor of African American art at Vanderbilt University.
Lead Sponsor: Blevins, Inc.
Supporting Sponsor: Clay Blevins
Supported in part by Gordon CAP Gallery Fund and Friends of Contemporary Art.
The Frist Art Museum is supported in part by The Frist Foundation, Metro Arts, the Tennessee Arts Commission, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
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