Mending the Sky, presented New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA),brings together eleven artists to respond to a world in distress. Studio Art Professor Beili Liu’s After All / Mending The Sky inspired the exhibition’s title and draws upon the ancient Chinese fable of Nüwa, goddess and creator of mankind. After a rip in the sky brings suffering and calamity to her creations, Nüwa mends the sky. The installation links this heroic effort with the humble task of sewing—both endeavors of mending and healing.
Nine suspended, organic, cloud-like forms, each composed of translucent half domes crafted from raw silk fiber, are imprinted with the cyanotype process, more commonly used to produce photographic prints, to lend each a distinct rich indigo hue. Thousands of sewing threads descend from each cloud, and at the end of each is a sewing needle, as if asking each of us to pick up a needle and get to work. After All/Mending the Sky seeks to show us that the individual actions of each and every one of us can add up to something transformative.
“Our director, Susan Taylor, asked me to envision a contemporary art project in response to the pandemic—not just about loss, but about finding hope in an uncertain world. I conceived the exhibition Mending the Sky, which takes its title from the Chinese artist Beili Liu’s installation After All/Mending the Sky (2017)," said NOMA curator Katie Pfohl. "Beili’s installation will open the show. It consists of nine suspended raw silk clouds with needles hanging on threads at the bottom to repair them. I feel it encapsulates the work that must be done but also the hope we have for the future.”
Other artists in Mending the Sky include Firelei Báez, Diedrick Brackens, Helen Gillet, Heidi Hahn, Ana Hernandez, Baseera Khan, Thao Nguyen Phan, Jamilah Sabur, and Clarissa Tossin.
In an article for the Wall Street Journal titled "Covid-Era Exhibits Promote Art as Therapy," Judith H. Dobrzynski writes, "A lot of popular contemporary art is intended to provoke. But in this unsettling year, some museums, like the Bass and the Rubin, are installing works and exhibitions meant to do the opposite. They are stressing their meditative, even spiritual, side, with displays that may soothe nerves, facilitate communication, foster exploration of emotions, and overcome stress."
Mending the Sky will be on view at NOMA from October 10, 2020 - January 31, 2021. Liu's work will also be on view in another group exhibition After Carolee: Tender and Fierce at Artpace in 2021, curated by independent curator Annette DiMeo Carlozzi and featuring more than a dozen women artists with Texas ties as a tribute to one of Artpace's most iconic former residents, Carolee Schneemann. Among the other artists in the exhibition include alumna Virginia Lee Montgomery (BFA in Studio Art, 2008).