GET TO KNOW: Angela Drakeford
Hobbies: gardening, going to concerts, traveling
Education: University of Nebraska at Omaha
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If you talk to Angela Drakeford, your words may become a part of her art.
The artist collects conversations and language, be it her own or from those she hears around her and turns them into works of art.
“I'm kind of a hoarder with language, so if people say something, I'm like, that's mine, and I will use it however I want to in the future,” Drakeford said.
“I Can Grow Tall,” Drakeford's exhibition currently on view at Carver Bank, features a giant collection of language and her second piece to address race, “Unsolicited.”
The piece — tar paper covered with glitter made of ground glass — covers much of a wall with statements that Drakeford has heard, such as “You don't talk black” and “You need to get over your history.”
Drakeford said the piece is a collection that spans from her earliest memories to current things that she hears. The text is neat and orderly as if it were written on an invisible piece of lined paper. Its display is almost cute, a stark contrast to the hateful words it contains.
“I wanted to make it really beautiful, but then I wanted to kind of juxtapose it with some things that are really nasty and vile and make it out of a material that's really kind of a little dangerous,” Drakeford said.
She said she has always wanted to make work about race because it's a very important factor in her life, but she didn't know how to go about it for a long time.
“I just kept thinking that people have these conversations with me, because they can't easily identify where I come from,” Drakeford said. “So they don't even think about what they're saying.”
Drakeford didn't envision herself becoming an artist.
She took art classes in high school, but when she started college at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, she said, “I'm not going to do that. That doesn't sound like a good career move.”
So she studied social work and women's studies but eventually decided that was an even worse idea. Drakeford ended up taking art at UNO and fell in love with it again. She graduated with a BFA in sculpture in 2009.
Though her work was initially more traditional object-based sculpture, she soon started to experiment with text.
She focused on words she'd hear in private conversations or with people she was close to, using slides as a medium. She started making pulp out of a person's clothing and using it to spell out text about that person.
“I Can Grow Tall” is an intimate look into Drakeford's life. The three pieces on display represent the three distinct stages of her growth.
“Self-Portrait,” another piece in the show, is a 96-by-36-inch spread of intricately designed flowers, made from tar paper.
Drakeford was bullied a lot, mostly for the color of her skin. So she said she wanted to take material like tar paper that carries negative connotations, something like what people thought she was when she was young, and make something beautiful out of it.
Drakeford's work is personal. She said she wants people to be able to connect with it on an emotional level. “I want to pull on your heart strings or push your buttons a little bit.” Drakeford said. “I think we don't react a lot and we don't think about how other people experience things.”
Her art is on view at Carver Bank, 2416 Lake St., through Oct. 31. She is also featured in The Union for Contemporary Art's “Predictions and Echos” show, open now at Creighton's Lied Art Gallery.