The transdisciplinary artist skewers traditional symbols and images in a new Houston Center for Contemporary Craft exhibition.
By Anna Lassmann
LARGE PIECES OF JAGGED CANVAS, painted with an assortment of primary colors depicting a person with bright purple hair, a red polka dot nose, and a pink turtleneck, engulfed in iconography of hairspray, smiley faces, and words such as “commotion,” make up the eight-foot-wide piece titled Electric Shock by Houston transdisciplinary artist B. Anele.
“I believe the world needs more color,” Anele says. “There is so much gray and brown everywhere, and colors seen to be reserved for children, which I think says a lot about society’s projections on growing up—meaning you have to lose some sense of wonder, excitement, and self-expression.”
Electric Shock is one piece from Anele’s most recent body of work currently on display at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft. The exhibit, “I Don’t Play That Game,” features about a dozen pieces mostly composed from canvas and paint, resembling extravagant fashion pieces. Another piece is a ten-foot-tall gray jumpsuit with road stripes dividing the legs titled The Road to What.
“There is kind of a theme of the road, which is such an American trope, like road trips,” says Sarah Darro, curatorial fellow at HCCC. “A lot of their work alludes to roadside attractions and the counterculture you can experience while pulling off to a random roadside attraction.”
“It’s communicating to the viewer that they want you to take a trip,” Darro adds.
However, there is one piece that stands out from the exhibit filled with chain-linked jackets and jumpsuits: 100 Smiles, composed of 100 plastic bags with smiley faces sewn together into what looks like a king-size quilt and suspended from the ceiling.
The smiley faces on the bags hint to the idea of capitalism making people happy, which Anele disagrees with. “A lot of symbols such as chain links and smiley faces [are odes] to common symbols found within the culture I identify with—the sub or counterculture community of freaks and outsiders,” Anele says.
At just 25-years-old, Anele has produced an impressive body of work beyond their exhibit at HCCC. They have had showcases at art galleries in New York, California, Austin, and Houston all without professional training.
“I feel very validated by my opportunities,” Anele says. “It’s kind of surreal sometimes just because my process of getting here has been so organic, almost like destiny. At the end of the day, I also know I do work extremely hard, and I have always felt something inside of me different from most people, in a positive way, and my art is my most healthy way of sharing it.”
Anele has struggled with people projecting their views of what art should be. They want to free themselves from traditional boundaries. “I feel there is a true power in being able to break from the norm, find your own way, and this is even bigger than art alone—it’s a statement about society,” Anele says. “I hope people see the work with an uninhibited eye and without prior bias or boxes on what they believe art has to be.”