LISA SETTE GALLERY
Hosts a Reception with Artists Tomorrow
Text + Images Courtesy of Lisa Sette Gallery

On Saturday, June 12, you are invited to an all-day opening
reception with artists Merryn Omotayo Alaka and Sam Fresquez.

Above: The installation, currently on view at Lisa Sette Gallery, is part of a series titled It’s Mine I Bought It by artists Merryn Omotayo Alaka and Sam Fresquez.

Merryn Omotayo Alaka and Sam Fresquez produce immersive spaces that reference rituals of self expression and public representation. In considering their installation of multiple floor-length suspensions of synthetic hair, each meticulously gathered into tassel, bubble, and chandelier forms, Omotayo Alaka says, “Because of the scale and material, we are hoping that viewers have a physical relationship with the sculptures…we want the feminine body to be represented and seen here.” These representative objects tend to transform a space, says Fresquez, “They become a landscape, and it really becomes its own world.”

Above, left to right: Merryn Omotayo Alaka and Sam Fresquez.

Omotayo Alaka and Fresquez construct their intriguing worlds from personal experience: the installation at Lisa Sette Gallery is part of a series titled It’s Mine I Bought It, a nod to the Princess Nokia song Mine, which both revels in the ways that Black and Brown women wear their hair and rejects the incessant interrogation of these traditions. 

Omotayo Alaka and Fresquez both acknowledge as formative in their own lives the elaborate rituals of hairdressing, the use of synthetic hair as a facet of self-expression, and the fact that society imposes strict expectations upon the hair and appearance of Black and Brown women in public spaces. In the time-consuming process of constructing each gleaming tassel and tier, says Omotayo Alaka, “We were thinking of these as an extension of our own bodies…I think we were really relating to the sculptures as stand-ins for ourselves and talking about the relationship between self presentation and place.”

Above: Three installations by artists Merryn Omotayo Alaka and Sam Fresquez. Left: Notorious WIG, 2021, Kanekalon hair and braid clamps, steel, wire, 78 by 36 by 36 inches. Middle: Bundles Bundles I, 2021, Kanekalon hair, braid clamps, foam, wire, 58 by 12 by 12 inches. Right: Double Take, 2021, Kanekalon hair and braid clamps, steel, wire, 81 by 59 by 59 inches.

Public identity and cultural presence is also at work in Omotayo Alaka and Fresquez’s gleaming, oversize hoop earrings, made of Brazilian gold granite at a Vermont studio that usually fabricates gravestones and monuments. In elevating these familiar objects at iconic scale, Omotayo Alaka and Fresquez draw attention to both their history as an affordable item of adornment and their essential elegance of form. Fresquez remarks: “I’ve always been really interested in the idea of monuments—who they have been made by and for in the United States.” Ultimately, Fresquez remarks of the hoop earring statuary, “They’re monuments because we say they should be.”

Above: Two digital prints by artists Merryn Omotayo Alaka and Sam Fresquez. Left: Stuntin’ You, 2021, digital print on linen, 33 by 23 inches framed. Right: Say My Name 2021, digital print on linen, 33 by 23 inches framed. 

Patternmaking is an essential part of both artists’ practices; they see “patterns as a metaphor for intergenerational knowledge and the repetition of information.” Together, Omotayo Alaka and Fresquez produce brilliant printed textiles that pull into focus overlooked but culturally significant items: wheel rims, cosmetic razors, the virgencita necklace. Individually, Omotayo Alaka will exhibit textiles related to the symbolic significance of hair braiding and beading in Yoruba culture; Fresquez will include patterned works that explore the culture of Nascar, which was a part of her childhood experience. For both, patternmaking is a “quiet way to share stories about ourselves.”

Reception for Artists
Merryn Omotayo Alaka and Sam Fresquez
Lisa Sette Gallery
Saturday, June 12 | 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Masks are required
www.lisasettegallery.com