Whereabouts Unknown

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Felandus Thames
Opening: Feb 11, 5-8 pm
Through Feb 22, 2016

From the arresting to the poetic, Felandus Thames fills the gallery with texts that are both witty and deeply personal. Seton Gallery is transformed into a pale green huge, referencing a prison cell and serving as a canvas to comment and reflect on America’s troubled justice system. In a nation where 1 in 3 black men are reported to spend time, and profiling America’s youth has become common practice, Thames speaks to subjects that have been rendered invisible.
In the studio, Thames recounts different moments in his Mississippi youth when persons were wrongfully accused and imprisoned for crimes that they didn’t commit. Recalling exact moments when he heard the news, and shared conversations before his beloved were sent away, these narratives enter Thames’s work in subtle ways. For many of us, our concept of family changes over time.

I have at one time or another been in love with my mother,
1 grandmother, 2 sisters, 2 aunts (1 went to the asylum),
and 5 cousins. I am now in love with a 7-yr-old niece
(she sends me letters in large block print, and
her picture is the only one that smiles at me).

… My father’s mother, who is 93
and who keeps the Family Bible with everybody’s birth dates
(and death dates) in it, always mentions him. There is no
place in her Bible for “whereabouts unknown.”

-Etheridge Knight, excerpts from the poem, “The Idea Of Ancestry.”

Just as Thames’s solo exhibition title is drawn from Etheridge’s exploration of ancestral feelings, his barrette pieces smile back at viewers with admiration. Another nuanced installation that explores his personal history combines ball jars, photocopies of next of kin, and hair relaxer. Thames’s materials investigate the relationship between the domestic and the processed. The relaxer, whose chemistry transforms into a gelatinous substrate, obscures dipped photocopies of posed subjects. It’s as if these encapsulated moments have congealed, and there’s no point of return. Locally sourced barrettes and hairbrushes are also present in Thames’s work, and images of pop icons emerge from wood panels. His text pieces, formed by removing bristles, explore feelings of detachment with humor and sarcasm. As the exhibition title suggests, the concept of being rendered invisible through circumstances is at the core of Thames’s work.

Felandus Thames is an interdisciplinary maker living and practicing in the greater New York area. Born in Mississippi, Thames was also the recipient of the 2005 Mississippi Individual Artist Fellowship, which is awarded to one artist per discipline annually. Subsequently, he attended the Painting and Printmaking Program at Yale University School of Art, where he received his MFA in 2010. He has been included in exhibitions at the Tilton Gallery, Masur Museum, Charles H. Wright Museum, National Civil Rights Museum, Mississippi Museum of Art, Columbia University, Aspen Museum of Art, and Miami Basel. Thames was recently a Louis Comfort Tiffany Prize Nominee. He has been mentioned in numerous periodicals including the New York Times, International Review of African American Art, and Art in America. Thames’ work can be found in myriad of private and public collections both in the United States and abroad.

Laura Marsh
Director, Seton Gallery
University of New Haven
300 Boston Post Road
New Haven, CT 06516
Hours: M-F 11-4
Sat upon request