Time, memory, and the body intersect in Rikkí Wright’s evocative new work. Her imagery and her materials emerge from her own body and her personal history. Memories of the rich farmland of Alabama, where she was born and regularly returns inform the content of her art.
Wright’s exhibition at Rift Contemporary presents two bodies of work, dreamlike cyanotypes, the largest of which are created with prints of her own body, and ceramic sculptures infused with family memories. Both bodies of work are made with materials and processes that derive from nature. The cyanotypes are produced outdoors with sunlight and the ceramics incorporate clay from the soil of her family’s Alabama farm. The artist’s presence is felt in all of her works.
Wright describes the imprint of her body and of plants and objects in her cyanotypes as what is left after presence. Memories are recorded and preserved. She compares the process to fossilization, where nature preserves the traces of what was once there. She considers the cyanotype to be the most suitable printmaking technique to create a cohesive collaboration with nature.
The bodies in Wright’s cyanotypes float without being weighted to gravity. They could either be in the sky or in the water. The images appear fugitive, as if they could disappear into the background then re-emerge. The body and the background are in a dynamic equilibrium.
Wright says that it was inevitable that her artistic practice would incorporate pottery, having been born in Alabama where “the deep iron rich soil thrives.” She would spend summers at her grandparents’ farm, and remembers swimming in flooded ditches and making mud patties, creating forms from the earth. She stays rooted in the land where she was born through a continuous exploration of its soil. Her ceramic sculptures have the appearance of historic artefacts. They embody the history of her forebears. In the artist’s words, “taking dirt from Alabama and rendering it into clay to build vessels is a practice of remembrance and reverence.”