Installation view of “INFINITE INDIGENOUS QUEER LOVE” at deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, on view through March 12, 2022. Photo: Julia Featheringill, Courtesy the artist

Object Lessons: Jeffrey Gibson

I’ve been working with fringe as a main element of the work for at least 10 years. Fringe was seen as an accessory, found on fancy dance shawls in powwow dances, and initially I was thinking of it in that context, using it on punching bags and wall hangings. I started thinking about the craft aspect of working with patterns in the fringe and color blocking—really dense fringe that can be cut, so it can mirror the geometric shapes in the paintings. Over the past three or four years, I’ve been thinking about how I can push beadwork and fringe formally and as a material.

Last summer I was thinking about films I had never watched, including Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. I knew the basic storyline, and I started thinking about how Modernism happens at different times in different cultures—it’s not always the Western Modernism that we’re familiar with. As I was watching the film, I realized that the monolithic form in 2001 is made to represent this kind of modern future, one that doesn’t include queerness or Indigenous cultures and that removes the hand from the future, the body from the future. It’s clean, controlled—there’s no humanity in it. I thought, “How do I indigenize or queer this form?” The fringe jumped to mind immediately. In its original context, fringe has a supporting role, it’s never the central subject, and I like the idea of shifting things that are on the periphery into the center.