Fauna/Banks at Staple Goods, New Orleans

By March 22, 2024
Imogen Banks & Benry Fauna, DETAIL VIEW: Woven Portrait Sequence, 2024, woven linen, decoupage glue transfer, 35 x 6.5 inches. Image courtesy of the artists & Staple Goods, New Orleans

Following Survivor watch parties and late night conversations over drinks, fellow artists and friends Imogen Banks and Benry Fauna decided to experiment by combining their respective art practices in collaboration. Their exhibition, Fauna/Banks, at Staple Goods Gallery is the first public installation of the duo’s work. Fauna, a portrait photographer, employs digital collage, mixed media, and duplication as a means of conveying movement in his images. Banks, a painter and fiber artist, explores abstraction, shape, and form via cotton rope and weaving. Working together, Fauna printed his images onto textile surfaces provided by Banks; she would then cut and weave together multiple materials, passing the objects back to him to add layers of polaroid transfers and resin atop braided rope and brushy acrylic. Back and forth, the artists added canvas scraps from other projects and remixed some of the same images into existing compositions, to and fro, again and again.  

Walking into the gallery on St. Roch Avenue in New Orleans, I am immediately drawn to a series of works called Woven Portrait Tests. Throughout the space, grided, black and white, patchwork objects reveal varying levels of facial clarity and opacity in paper, linen, and canvas. In one piece, (Woven Portrait Tests no. 2(Vicente)), a traditional three-quarter view headshot of a young man has been spliced and threaded to include additional vantage points and details. With further layers of imagery, the figure now has multiple mouths (one closed-lipped, the other with lips parting, perhaps to speak), four (or maybe five?) eyes that enable the sitter to simultaneously hold the gaze of the viewer and look away, and multiple sets of eyelashes that flutter into brows that grow into facial stubble or a mustache. Watermarks on the paper bleed into flecks of fiery orange from the printer, perhaps hinting at a glitchy kind of alchemy of process. The work both demonstrates traditional portraiture’s inability to capture the full essence of an individual and offers a visual solution to this problem. Through this quilted, layered aesthetic, the artists convey the figure as an uncontainable and changing subject. The sitter’s personhood cannot be captured or synthesized by the image.       

Imogen Banks & Benry Fauna, Woven Portrait no. 2 (Jorge)
2024, Linen, canvas, thread, satin, 34 x 28 inches. Image courtesy of the artists & Staple Goods, New Orleans

The pair’s process of literally weaving their respective material together proves to be an effective metaphor for collaboration, partnership, and care. Some images, like those in the Woven Flag series, appear altered beyond recognition, their imagery instead yielding to the complexity of the material itself in layers and frays of satin, linen, and thread. Grabbing coffee with the artists, they praise the collaboration as informing their individual practices and share enthusiasm to continue working in tandem. What’s next?, I ask. They smile conspiratorially and say: Bigger, more color, and wearable objects.   

Fauna/Banks is on view at Staple Goods in New Orleans through April 7, 2024.

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