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Connecticut Art Review "Studio Visit"

Pleasure. This is the first word that viewers will connect with the work of Felandus Thames at his solo show The Things That Haunt Me Still at Real Art Ways. Bright orange beads pop against a vibrant kelly green backdrop in this central work. The bold, seraphic font alludes to the colors and diction of advertisements for Newport cigarettes from the 1980s. With their banal imagery, these ads often targeted African American consumers.

Yet in Thames’s Pleasure, the word sinks to the bottom of a beaded veil poised within a white freestanding frame. The implied heaviness hints at the disconnect between the meaning and application of the word within the product’s advertisements. The word also underscores one of the show’s themes — how different audiences access and relate to the portrayals of Black people in the media. Curated by David Borawski, Thames’s exhibition targets the intertwined issues of race and gender, sometimes by way of consumer culture.

Plans for The Things That Haunt Me Still began about two years ago, but many of the works in Thames’s solo show were made in the six months prior to its opening. That half-year was defined by the COVID-19 pandemic and racially-motivated protests — an unsettling timeframe that Thames has processed through his practice as an interdisciplinary artist. Throughout this time, Thames has often worked for twelve or thirteen hours straight, six days a week in his West Haven studio.

“Artists have long been imagined as highest on the pecking order of blue-collared workers,” Thames said. “However, the work of the artist is to erase notions of labor and deal with the economy of ideas. What separates us from theorists is the practical application of these ideas,” Thames added. (Read More)


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