Discussion and Demonstration | SOFT MATERIAL – Part Two

May 28, 2021 @ 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm
Zoom Room
Pay What You Can

Museum of the African Diaspora, NIAD Art Center, Creative Growth, and Elbow Room present

A two-part Discussion and Demonstration with artists and co-founder of SOFT MATERIAL

Part Two features artists Ricky Bearghost, Gail Lewis and Sherrie Aradanas who will share their experiences of collaborating together through their different textile languages. Each artist works in very distinct ways and through their individual vocabularies they will demonstrate the ways that this collaborative moment has brought them out of their comfort zone. Ricky will share his weaving style, Gail her journaling and crochet/knitting practices and Sherrie her abstract and figurative embroidery. The discussion will be moderated by co-founder Nan Collymore.

SOFT MATERIAL is a collaborative garment construction project, between artists who have an interest and connection with what one might call fashion and textiles, but what could also be seen as the corporeal, the body and performativity. Soft Material supports and connects artists living with disabilities whose studio programs have been severely interrupted by the pandemic. Soft Material’s mission is to reduce the isolation of artists with disabilities by giving them the space to express their creative lives in community with each other through the support of skilled teaching artists. They are interested in elevating the artistic knowledge held in disabled communities of textile arts and garment construction.

The project, in part funded by the Center for Craft and through generous material donations from the community,  began a collaborative correspondence of a collective of six neuro-divergent artists who practice in three different progressive art centers, NIAD, Creative Growth and artists previously affiliated with PALS in Portland. With weekly supportive Zoom meetings offered by artists and Soft Material Co-founders, Nan Collymore and Celia Lesh, the six artists in the collective were brought into regular and meaningful creative connection.

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Part One of this Discussion and Demonstration is on Friday, May 21, 2021 1-2:30pm

Ricky Bearghost, Gail Lewis and Sherrie Aradanas

Born in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Ricky Bearghost is an active member of the Three Affiliated Tribes—the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation. In 1970, Ricky moved to Salem, Oregon, and in 1988 he relocated to Portland, where he began developing his creative practice at different progressive studio programs including Project Grow, Art From the Heart, and Portland Art and Learning Studios. He is currently being supported by an emerging program called Elbow Room.

Ricky’s early weavings were markedly traditional and small, created using a lap loom and colorful yarn. He would finish them by painting the reverse side, and sometimes dousing them with glitter. Over the years, Ricky’s textiles have grown in size and scale, and he has developed an electric style, integrating vibrant plastic pony beads with found objects, hand-made ceramic beads, and seasonal organic matter. Ricky’s visionary and resourceful textiles have been exhibited at the Portland Art Museum, Lowell (Portland, OR), Webb Gallery (Waxahachie, TX), and Galerie COA (Montreal, QC). 

Gail Lewis’ creative realm is most vividly expressed through her textile projects. Using embroidery, crochet, needlepoint, or knitting, she yields to the yarn for evocative inspiration. Lewis also takes to collage to express her love for holidays and cats (her favorite subject), and sources from coupons and kitty litter ads. Lewis also has interest in creating animated films. In 2017, Lewis published a cookbook, Sweet Treats, with Creative Growth, featuring her original drawings and a collection of her own recipes.

Sherrie Aradanas derives inspiration from the flashy worlds of Hollywood and the WWE; she depicts her favorite celebrities in order to pay homage to their talents and to better understand them. Her portraits feature wrestlers or actors with artistic focus on their hair and clothes, or, most often, the lack of the latter. Forming an intimate connection between artist and subject, her deep knowledge of these characters allows her to consider signature details that distinguish one machismo “muscle man” from the next. Aradanas’ palette is spare, often working monochromatically and allowing her linework to carry the most weight. In addition to painting and drawing, Aradanas is proficient in embroidery and wood.

Nan Collymore is often working by re-making or re-forming materiality into visual projects or palimpsests to re-frame a conversation on the intricacies of subjectivity. She co-founded Soft Material with Celia Lesh and her other recent projects are Dress I and II for small press L’habillement (of which she is the Founder), Editor of The Black Aesthetic Series III, she is Contributing Editor of The September Issues, and Contemporary & and a mother and inter-disciplinary artist. She works part time at NIAD Art Center where she teaches jewelry and fashion construction.


This program is co-presented with NIAD Art Center, Creative Growth, and Elbow Room