ALL FINALISTS / LJ ROBERTS

LJ Roberts

media
location
is an American visual artist whose large-scale textile installations investigate the relationships between queer and trans activism, protest, narrative, and craft. One recently completed work, a 14-foot x 20-foot hand-stitched quilt, is the first in a series envisioning fantastical, post-apocalyptic queer and trans vehicles and vessels. Roberts is a published author and lecturer at Parsons School of Design in New York.

When did you realize you wanted to become an artist?

Around 14 years old, I began reading Maya Angelou, Dorothy Allison, Toni Morrison, and a little later, June Jordan. Literature and poetry were my gateway to relating and sharing with others. Initially, it was writing that made me commit to creativity as a lifelong practice. I feel like I am a writer activating language through material deviance.

How would you describe your art in three words?

Time-expansive queer epics.

Who are your favorite artists, past or present, and why?

Mark Bradford, Harmony Hammond, TT Takemoto, Rosie Lee Tompkins, Tammy Rae Carland, Frederick Weston, and Claude Cahun are steady favorites. Félix González-Torres has been a great influence on my practice, and my work often references his. I appreciate the work of Chitra Ganesh, who produces speculative feminist queer and trans futures that look to the past and present.

What drew you to the medium you work in?

I am nomadic—sometimes out of necessity, sometimes by choice. Textiles are an ideal medium because of their pliability and everydayness. Their adaptability and flexibility to various locales feel akin to what I practice as a queer, trans person moving through a world that imposes ridigity and regulation when it comes to my gender, physicality, and sexuality.

What does craft mean to you?

Craft is often thought of as being on the margins, which is where the best of queerness thrives. As I see it, the best of craft lives on the margins, too. I view craft as an intrinsic practice that continuously challenges the “center” without occupying that central position.

Move Left
Move Right
Courtesy the artist; Photo: Jenna Bascom
Courtesy the artist and Hales Gallery, London and New York
Courtesy the artist and Hales Gallery, London and New York
Courtesy the artist and Hales Gallery, London and New York
Courtesy the artist and Hales Gallery, London and New York
Courtesy the artist and Hales Gallery, London and New York
Courtesy the artist and Hales Gallery, London and New York
Courtesy the artist and Hales Gallery, London and New York
VanDykesTransDykesTransVanTransGrandmxDykesTransAmDentalDamDamn, as installed in Studio Views: Craft in the Expanded Field, 2017, Museum of Arts and Design, NY
Material: Yarn, leather, lace, recycled bike inner tubes, thread, poly-fil, zippers, Lite Brites, shoelaces, and metal studs
Dimension: Approx. 168 x 240 in (426.7 x 609.6 cm)

LJ Roberts began work on VanDykesTransDykesTransVanTransGrandmxDykesTransAmDentalDamDamn in 2014. During a six-year period, the artist worked on the piece at various residencies and during the Museum of Arts and Design’s exhibition Studio Views: Craft in the Expanded Field (2017).

Courtesy the artist; Photo: Jenna Bascom
VanDykesTransDykesTransVanTransGrandmxDykesTransAmDentalDamDamn
Material: Yarn, leather, lace, recycled bike inner tubes, thread, poly-fil, zippers, Lite Brites, shoelaces, and metal studs
Dimension: Approx. 168 x 240 in (426.7 x 609.6 cm)

This large scale sewn and knitted mural-sized quilt includes materials and images related to car maintenance and repair, reflecting the artist’s background as a third generation Detroiter “steeped in car culture.” Roberts’ work looks to histories of feminist, lesbian, queer and transgender communities, specifically the Van Dykes, a group of outlaw lesbian separatists who traversed the North American continent in conversion vans in the 1970s.

Courtesy the artist and Hales Gallery, London and New York
VanDykesTransDykesTransVanTransGrandmxDykesTransAmDentalDamDamn (detail)
Material: Yarn, leather, lace, recycled bike inner tubes, thread, poly-fil, zippers, Lite Brites, shoelaces, and metal studs
Dimension: Approx. 168 x 240 in (426.7 x 609.6 cm)

The work is also inspired by queer-identified people today, such as Hadassah D’Luxe and their zine Vanifesto: A Meditation on Van Lust, recording the transient and creative culture of van gangs and imagines speculative futures in post-apocalyptic terrains.

Courtesy the artist and Hales Gallery, London and New York
VanDykesTransDykesTransVanTransGrandmxDykesTransAmDentalDamDamn (detail)
Material: Yarn, leather, lace, recycled bike inner tubes, thread, poly-fil, zippers, Lite Brites, shoelaces, and metal studs
Dimension: Approx. 168 x 240 in (426.7 x 609.6 cm)
Courtesy the artist and Hales Gallery, London and New York
VanDykesTransDykesTransVanTransGrandmxDykesTransAmDentalDamDamn (detail)
Material: Yarn, leather, lace, recycled bike inner tubes, thread, poly-fil, zippers, Lite Brites, shoelaces, and metal studs
Dimension: Approx. 168 x 240 in (426.7 x 609.6 cm)
Courtesy the artist and Hales Gallery, London and New York
VanDykesTransDykesTransVanTransGrandmxDykesTransAmDentalDamDamn (detail)
Material: Yarn, leather, lace, recycled bike inner tubes, thread, poly-fil, zippers, Lite Brites, shoelaces, and metal studs
Dimension: Approx. 168 x 240 in (426.7 x 609.6 cm)
Courtesy the artist and Hales Gallery, London and New York
VanDykesTransDykesTransVanTransGrandmxDykesTransAmDentalDamDamn (detail)
Material: Yarn, leather, lace, recycled bike inner tubes, thread, poly-fil, zippers, Lite Brites, shoelaces, and metal studs
Dimension: Approx. 168 x 240 in (426.7 x 609.6 cm)
Courtesy the artist and Hales Gallery, London and New York
VanDykesTransDykesTransVanTransGrandmxDykesTransAmDentalDamDamn ephemera
Courtesy the artist and Hales Gallery, London and New York