Sonya Clark: Tatter, Bristle, and Mend

U.S. five-dollar bill has an embroidered afro and sideburns stitched onto the portrait of Lincoln’s head. One-third of the afro protrudes beyond the top of the bill.
Mar 03 to Jun 27, 2021

Textile and social practice artist Sonya Clark (b. 1967) is renowned for her mixed-media works that address race and visibility, explore Blackness, and redress history. This exhibition, the first survey of Clark’s 25-year career, includes the artist’s well-known sculptures made from black pocket combs, human hair, and thread as well as works created from flags, currency, beads, cotton plants, pencils, books, a typewriter, and a hair salon chair. The artist transmutes each of these everyday objects through her application of a vast range of fiber-art techniques: Clark weaves, stitches, folds, braids, dyes, pulls, twists, presses, snips, or ties within each object.

Featuring 100 works of art, Tatter, Bristle, and Mend spans the breadth of the artist’s career to date. Early beaded and stitched pieces are paired with Clark’s more recent forays into mediums such as sugar and neon. The exhibition focuses on central themes—heritage, labor, language, and visibility—and emphasizes Clark’s astute ability to rework concepts and materials over time, pulling apart threads of ideas and mending them back together to create new layers of meaning. By stitching black thread cornrows and Bantu knots onto fabrics, rolling hair into necklaces, and stringing a violin bow with a dreadlock, Clark manifests ancestral bonds and reasserts the Black presence in histories from which it has been pointedly omitted.

A circular wreath made of dark, tightly coiled hair with strands escaping and resembling laurels.

Sonya Clark, Hair Wreath, 2002; Human hair and wire, 13 x 13 x 2 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Heather and Tony Podesta Collection, Washington DC; © Sonya Clark; Photo by Lee Stalsworth

Exhibition Sponsors

Sonya Clark: Tatter, Bristle, and Mend is organized by the National Museum of Women in the Arts. The exhibition is made possible by The Coby Foundation, Ltd., with additional funding provided by Share Fund, Clara M. Lovett, the Sue J. Henry and Carter G. Phillips Exhibition Fund, Stephanie Sale, and the Lenore G. Tawney Foundation.

  • The Coby Foundation, Ltd.

Related Media

Online Exhibition

Two rings with gold bands and small gem-like forms on top. The gems are crafted from raw sugar. The left ring is perfectly circular with a small, smooth, white sugar crystal on top. The right ring is a slightly rougher circle, with a larger, lumpy, brown sugar crystal on top.
Can't visit in person? Explore this online exhibition delving into the exhibition themes and highlighting the detailed artwork.

Audio Guide

Hear from Sonya Clark as she discusses specific works featured in the exhibition.

Large Print Labels

An antique, black and silver typewriter with the words 'Remington 7 Noiseless' emblazoned on the top. The lettered keys of the typewriter have been replaced with small balls of dark brown hair.
Access all exhibition text in large print format for ease of reading as you explore the galleries.

In the News

A dark-skinned women sits in a living room wearing a colorful headscarf knotted at the top; large, dark-framed glasses; and a long-sleeved black sweater. Her arms are stretched out at her sides with her palms facing up.
View the BBC World News America feature on Sonya Clark and "Tatter, Bristle, and Mend."


The exhibition catalogue features texts from an exciting group of prominent scholars and curators, including Nell Painter, distinguished historian, writer, and visual artist, in conversation with Sonya Clark.