The belief that rest is a fundamental human right grounds the works of LaToya Hobbs, a Baltimore-based artist who carves stylized woodblocks of Black women. Often using her family, friends, and self as subjects, Hobbs creates densely textured prints and paintings depicting quiet moments of affection and connection.
In “Erin and Anyah with Hydrangeas,” two young women—Hobbs’ stepdaughter and niece originally photographed by the artist’s husband Ariston Jacks—look directly at the viewer. One rests her head on the other’s shoulder, with puffy white flowers decorating the pinstriped backdrop. In “Flourish,” a thriving snake plant and anthurium frame the room and subject, who sits comfortably on a chair and peers out the window.
Emphasizing the necessity of care for oneself and others, these portraits are included in Hobbs’ upcoming solo show at Frist Art Museum in Nashville. Opening early next year, Carving a New Tradition celebrates the artist’s significant contributions to printmaking and considers how her oeuvre amends the art historical canon. The show contains works on paper and painted carvings, along with interpretations of works by artists like Alma Thomas, Kerry James Marshall, and Elizabeth Catlett, who often depicted Black mothers with reverence and strength.
While Catlett tended to present her subjects working, Hobbs offers an alternate mode of being, instead focusing on rest and relaxation. “The act of carving and its removal of material carries symbolic meaning related to the carving away of negativity and stereotypes needed to reveal the real version of oneself,” she says. Gouged with impeccably thin lines and delicate crosshatching, the works evidence the artist’s laborious process and profound admiration for the tactile, in both the tangible, ridged properties of her carvings and the connections elicited by human touch.
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