Measure your history with material. | Sonya Clark | The Art Assignment | Summary and Q&A

April 28, 2016
The Art Assignment
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Measure your history with material. | Sonya Clark | The Art Assignment


Sonya Clark, a textile artist, uses materials like hair, thread, and comb to explore history, identity, and race. She invites viewers to measure and quantify their own personal histories through art.

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Key Insights

  • 😒 Sonya Clark's artwork explores the intersection of history, identity, and race through the use of unconventional materials like hair, thread, and comb.
  • 🫵 She invites viewers to reflect on their own personal histories and cultural narratives by quantifying and measuring them through artistic processes.
  • 🌍 Clark highlights the importance of personal and small histories, as well as monumental and collective histories, in understanding ourselves and the world.
  • 🔨 Measurement becomes a tool for understanding and processing complex emotions and concepts that numbers alone cannot capture.
  • 🥰 Through her artwork, Clark emphasizes the power of art to create connections, foster understanding, and challenge historical narratives.
  • 💭 Artistic representations of history can evoke emotions, provoke thought, and facilitate dialogue on issues such as race, memory, and identity.
  • 😒 Clark's use of materials like hair and gold wire symbolizes the intertwining of personal and global histories, highlighting the lasting impact of historical events.


[MUSIC PLAYING] We're in Richmond, Virginia today to talk to the artist Sonya Clark. Sonya is a textile artist, but I mean that in a very wide way, for she applies the mentality of textile work to a broad range of materials. She's used human hair as thread, calling it the fibers we grow, and thread as hair, putting to use embroidery and braiding te... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: How does Sonya Clark use hair as a medium in her artwork?

Clark uses hair as thread and thread as hair to explore the cultural significance of hairstyles like cornrows and Bantu knots. She also incorporates human hair, such as her own, into her artwork to create self-portraits and reflect on long legacies.

Q: What is the connection between hair and racial identity in Sonya Clark's artwork?

Sonya Clark sees the head and hair as sites where individuals negotiate race and express themselves. By using hair as a medium, she invites viewers to consider how hairstyles and hairdressing are reflections of personal and cultural identities.

Q: What is the significance of Sonya Clark's "Unraveled" and "Unraveling" works?

"Unraveled" is a piece where Clark dismantles a Confederate battle flag thread by thread, highlighting the unraveling of historical narratives. "Unraveling" is an interactive artwork that invites the audience to help take apart a partially unraveled garment, engaging with the process of unraveling history.

Q: How does Sonya Clark use measurement in her artwork?

Clark uses measurement as a way to understand and represent history. For example, in her artwork "Long Hair," she digitally prints and stitches together a dreadlock measuring 30 feet long, symbolizing the length of a lifetime. She also measures distances and history through materials like gold wire.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Sonya Clark is a textile artist who applies textile work to a range of materials, including human hair, thread, and combs.

  • Clark's artwork explores themes of history, identity, race, and personal narratives.

  • One of her notable works is "Long Hair," a digital print and continuous gridlock measuring 30 feet long, representing a lifetime measured in hair.

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