Candace Montgomery: Woven in Process and Politics

One of Candace Hill Montgomery's recent weavings, which will go on view at the Sag Harbor Whaling Museum on Friday. Parrish Art Museum

The Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill has selected Candace Hill Montgomery to launch the 2019 Parrish Road Show, its off-site exhibition series of temporary projects, at the Sag Harbor Whaling and Historical Museum. “Hills and Valleys,” which opens Friday, features approximately 25 recent weavings by the Bridgehampton artist.

While Ms. Montgomery has worked in a variety of disciplines since emerging in New York City’s art scene in the late 1970s, her recent practice has focused on woven mixed-media works that reflect her life and an array of current political and sociological issues. 

Her interest in the sewing arts traces back three generations to her great-grandmother, who owned a design and dressmaking store in Manhattan’s Washington Heights. As a child she spent summers at her grandmother’s farm in Alabama, where she learned crocheting, knitting, and embroidery, as well as how to pluck chickens. “I did that with a turkey once,” she said. “Process has always been fun for me.”

Ms. Montgomery works on handmade looms and counts among her materials handspun wool that produces nuanced colorations, organically dyed yarns, horsehair, linen, mohair, leather, and silk, to name a few. To mount the weavings, she uses found objects and old farm equipment parts, ranging from a fireplace iron to a vintage golf club to a piece of driftwood.

As important as materials and process are to Ms. Montgomery, her work also addresses issues of race, feminism, poverty, and the environment.

“All of the work is kind of political, but not overtly so,” she said. “There are plays on words and double entendres. I’m interested in language and how it can change.” One example is “The Pelosi Afghan,” which refers to both the once-popular type of crocheted woolen blanket or shawl and Nancy Pelosi’s planned trip to Afghanistan that was canceled by Donald Trump.

“When I saw her weavings, I was just blown away by the depth and the richness of those works,” said Corinne Erni, the museum’s senior curator, who organized the exhibition. “The ultimate product is an abstract artwork, but what’s in it is incredibly personal and rich and thoughtful. There are really so many layers in there, looking at them is almost like unraveling a thread.” 

Some of Ms. Montgomery’s titles illustrate her fascination with language and how different idioms can be combined. One piece made from hand-dyed Japanese wool, kid mohair, dreadlocks, artificial hair, and polyester is titled “Dread Being Burnt no more On the Fringes (or On How to Get Dis’d Entangled).” The piece is mounted on a vintage hot comb.

Other pieces refer to political and cultural icons, among them “Michelle Obama’s Other Dress” and “Modern in Design but not as Modern as Rihanna Talking Like She Hoarse.” 

The Whaling Museum is a particularly appropriate venue for Ms. Montgomery’s show since, once she turned 10, her family spent summers in Sag Harbor, first at a house on Hampton Street, later in Sag Harbor Hills. Ms. Erni noted that she selected works for the exhibition whose hangers use old tools or netting that connect to the museum’s history.

Ms. Montgomery has exhibited at the Bronx Museum of the Arts, the New Museum, Printed Matter, Artists Space, Franklin Furnace, and Creative Time. She was an artist in residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem and received a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship.

Ms. Montgomery's work will be on view at the Whaling Museum from Friday through June 16 with a reception set for Saturday from 6 to 8 p.m. The Parrish's Water Mill building will feature an installation of works by both 2019 Road Show artists, Ms. Montgomery and Laurie Lambrecht, from Friday, May 24, through Nov. 3.