The San Luis Obispo Museum of Art (SLOMA) is currently showcasing artist Alisa Sikelianos-Carter’s exhibition, “In Space and Splendor: A Topography Of Wildness,” which focuses on representations of Black identity through mixed-media comprised of magazines and glitter.
Sikelianos-Carter’s abstract pieces are festooned with an array of Black hairstyles and braids, including box braids and cornrows in a multitude of colors, arranged in repetitive patterns and shapes.
Her exhibition also draws inspiration from the Earth and celestial adornments, referencing images of topographical maps, geology, planets and galaxies, plants and florals.
“Blackness has always been here, and so in the same way that we understand nature and space and the ocean, we are a part of this universal system,” Sikelianos-Carter said.
Her work fills up the gallery, its vastness challenging the historical limitations put on the space that Black people are allowed or expected to occupy.
Sikelianos-Carter described the Black hair that she features in her work as a “divine technology” with a purpose that extends far beyond the general expectations of the functionality of hair.
“Black hair is a technology to protect against UV rays and to keep our scalps cool … That’s a biological function,” she said. “But then going further and imagining hair as this divinely gifted technology that protects us from white supremacy and delusion.”
Sikelianos-Carter employed a deeply intentional practice when sourcing the visuals she used in her artwork. Along with the internet, she found images from hair styling magazines.
“I’ve been introduced to my art where I’m, like, expanding into other ways of making, which is very freeing and exciting,” Sikelianos-Carter said.
Sikelianos-Carter hails from upstate New York, where she lives and works on her MFA at Rutgers University. Her work came to San Luis Obispo through a mutual connection with SLOMA’s creative director and curator, Emma Saperstien.
Saperstein said Sikelianos-Carter’s work is inventive and restructures her usual artistic expression.
“The thing that excites me the most about it is that she, as an artist, challenged her practice,” Saperstein said. “She’s always made works on paper, she’s used to making figurative work, and this way of working is a whole new arena for her.”