Tau Lewis, Return of the Martian Water God (detail), 2022. Repurposed leather, vinyl, suede, acrylic paint, leather primer, PVA glue, leather cement, cattle bone bead, Dutch trading bead, wooden dowl, and steel. 68 x 110 x 10 inches (172.7 x 279.4 x 25.4 cm). Courtesy the artist. © Tau Lewis
Tau Lewis (b. 1993, Toronto) transforms found materials into intricately detailed soft sculptures, quilts, masks, and other assemblages through intensive processes such as hand-sewing, carving, and plaster casting. A self-taught artist, Lewis’s practice is directed at healing personal, collective, and historical traumas through the repetitive forms of creative labor she employs. She forages for materials and artifacts charged with meaning—previously worn clothing, fabrics, leather, and photographs, as well as drift wood, sand dollars, and seashells—that she often collects from her surroundings in Toronto, New York, or outside of her family’s home in Negril, Jamaica. The evocative objects Lewis gathers and transmutes constitute a relationship in her work to the social, cultural, and physical landscapes she moves through, collects from, and inhabits. Lewis’s upcycling relates to forms of material inventiveness practiced by diasporic communities, wherein working with things close at hand is a reparative act aimed at reclaiming agency. Throughout, Lewis’s interest is in honoring and advancing these diasporic traditions, and exploring, as she has said, “the transference of energy and emotion that occurs when an object is made by hand.” For the ICA, her first solo museum exhibition in the U.S., Lewis is creating a new body of work.