Carving a New Tradition showcases recent woodblock and mixed-media portraits by LaToya M. Hobbs exploring the themes of Black womanhood, family, labor, rest, and self-care. Hobbs uses portraits of herself, family, and friends to draw attention to the power of representation and legacy. She favors relief printmaking, in which the artist carves a matrix, or printing surface, leaving a raised image to which ink is then applied. For her, 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.
Typically, once carved, paper is pressed to the matrix’s surface before the artist pulls a print by running the paper and matrix through a printing press. In this way, the matrix usually functions as a tool used to produce a displayable print. While Hobbs does create traditional woodblock prints, two examples of which are on view nearby, she also challenges tradition by displaying painted print matrixes as finished art objects, as seen in her major series Carving Out Time in the adjacent gallery. These innovative hybrid works combine Hobbs’s painting and printmaking processes.
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.
Hobbs received a bachelor of arts degree in painting from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and an master of fine arts degree 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.
Carving Out Time
The monumental Carving Out Time, on view in this gallery, is a portrait of a typical day in Hobbs’s life. Organized like acts of a play into five scenes, Hobbs brings viewers through her day as a woman, mother, wife, and an artist. The double meaning of the title Carving Out Time calls attention both to the daily negotiations one makes to get everything done and to the time the artist had to set aside to finish this ambitious and labor-intensive project. Here, legacy and lineage, familial and artistic, are celebrated on a grand scale. Hobbs pictures herself with her husband, fellow artist Ariston Jacks, and their two young sons going about the activities that define their day—waking up, homeschooling, housework, enjoying family time, meal preparation, bedtimes, and art making. On the walls that surround them hang artworks by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Elizabeth Catlett, Kerry James Marshall, Valerie Maynard, and Alma Thomas, a group of African American artists from whom Hobbs draws inspiration. The large scale of Carving Out Time is akin to that of Western history painting, typically utilized to tell grand historical narratives. With its positive depictions of a Black family and Black female artistry, Carving Out Time marks a shift in how these subjects are represented in fine art.
Salt of the Earth
In 2018, Hobbs began her Salt of the Earth series—portraits of herself, friends, family, and community members—which explores the roles of Black women as preservers, asked constantly to pour out and give of themselves. In this gallery are 2023 additions to this ongoing series that expand viewers’ understanding of the multifaceted nature of womanhood by addressing the themes of self-care, self-reflection, and rest. Though connected to the Salt of the Earth series, the works Flourish, Erin and Anyah with Hydrangeas, and Pinnacle mark a new shift in the artist‘s work and speak to the growth to new heights she has experienced recently in her career and personal life.