Review: Donya Stockton’s “Endless” Weaves the Shape of Things to Come

Solo show at Northern-Southern runs through Feb. 18

Works from “Endless” (photos by Wayne Alan Brenner)

At Phillip Niemeyer’s intimate Northern-Southern gallery Downtown, topology itself is quivering in delight. Yes, Donya Stockton – the multitalented woman behind legendary club venues Beerland, Rio Rita, King Bee, and more – has a new exhibition of her avant-garde weaving on display there, and topology (the properties of a geometric object that are preserved under continuous deformations) is being stretched and twisted to its real-life limits in the most compelling ways.

We’ve previously profiled Stockton because of her (formerly) below-the-radar career as a basketweaver (see: “Donya Stockton Isn’t Going Anywhere Near Hell in That Handbasket,” back in 2016), but this is the first time we’re reviewing a dedicated exhibition by the artist.

That’s right: Artist. Not craftsperson – which is never a slur, but only a distinction – but artist. Stockton had already moved beyond categories of crafting years ago, rendering forms that defied even ornamental utility, but this collection of her newest work lands the fanciful and labor-intensive objects more squarely (or, perhaps, dodecahedronically) in the realm of high art.

In “Endless,” arrayed within the spare Northern-Southern space on a series of tables and plinths, Stockton’s most recent variations on what’s structurally possible in weaving reeds and cords have left the norms, and even the abnorms, of basketry far behind. “I was doing nothing but toruses for a while,” she told us in 2016. “I got stuck with everything having a hole in the middle of it, but now I’m trying to not do that.” Achievement unlocked: There’s not much in “Endless” that smacks of the ol’ doughnut shape, the curled lengths of woven material instead branching out like small-scale architecture on a ruptured Mandelbrot bender, piece after piece fracturing filamented surface toward almost non-Euclidean expression.

Donya Stockton has brought the mundane to the celestial, bent topology to her creative pleasure, and revealed a small universe of new possibilities in the world of weaving

At least that much, the proverbial “next level” of creative exploration, could’ve been extrapolated from Stockton’s previous works. (Sure, it could’ve been – if one had an imagination and critical thinking abilities on par with those of the artist, anyway.) What surprises most in “Endless” is the incorporation of natural objects within the handwrought pieces, as Stockton has further disrupted surface etiquette by strategically entwining enormous seed pods and pieces of driftwood and flat lozenges of copper and more into her intricately woven fabric.

“That was inspired by living in Oaxaca,” the artist tells us. “There are a bunch of trees here that have these weird seed pods, and I’d see them as I was walking around and I’d think, 'I bet I could do something cool with those!’ So I started obsessively collecting them from off the ground whenever I’d find them. The really long flat ones are from the Framboyán tree. They’re super heavy and woody, so I started drilling holes into them to see what I could do and discovered that I can just weave them directly into the frameworks that I was already creating. They both follow and direct the curves I was already wanting. So it seemed like the perfect complement to what I was already doing/wanting to do.”

The Oaxacan influence is also reflected (literally) in the reeds and cords that Stockton braids as foundations for these seemingly extradimensional yet deeply earthbound sculptures. Tinted with natural dyes of indigo, cochineal, and marigolds, the bending lines of support radiate what hues are available precisely where the wares are being wrought. “The range of colors that you can achieve with just those three dyes is pretty impressive,” says the artist, her fingers finally faded free of work-related pigmentation.

By integrating such site-specific foragings into constructions that resemble glitch-ridden models of astrophysical singularities, Donya Stockton has brought the mundane to the celestial, bent topology to her creative pleasure, and revealed a small universe of new possibilities in the world of weaving – a universe that’s on display within the tightly woven core of your city right now.



Closes Feb. 18

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