The work of First Year Experience (FYE) faculty member LaToya M. Hobbs can be seen in Carving a New Tradition, an exhibition at the Frist Musuem in Nashville. The solo show showcases a selection of recent prints and mixed-media artwork from the studio of Hobbs, who is also a founding member of Black Women of Print, an artistic collective aimed at rendering the work of Black women printmakers—past, present, and future—visible.
LaToya Hobbs. Erin and Anyah with Hydrangeas, 2023. Acrylic and collage on carved wood panel; 48 x 60 in. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Ariston Jacks
On its debut loan from the Baltimore Museum of Art, Hobbs's monumental work Carving Out Time anchors the exhibition. It is only the second complete installation of the masterful carved cherrywood panels, where life-size scenes follow Hobbs through her full day as a woman, mother, wife, and an artist. On the walls of highly detailed domestic spaces, Hobbs reproduced artworks by African American artists from whom she draws inspiration, including Elizabeth Catlett—who Hobbs considers one of her "art mothers," Kerry James Marshall, and Alma Thomas.
"The large scale of Carving Out Time is akin to that of Western history painting, typically utilized to tell the grand historical narratives of white men," writes Dr. Rebecca VanDiver, associate professor of African American art at Vanderbilt University and curator of the exhibition. "Yet, with its positive depictions of a Black family and Black female artistry, Carving Out Time marks a shift in canonical representations." The title references both the daily negotiations one makes to get everything done and the time Hobbs had to "carve out" to finish the labor-intensive project.
While Carving Out Time highlights Hobbs's labor, new works like A Moment of Care, Sunday Morning, and Note to Self: No Rest for the Weary draw attention to the need for rest and self-care. Visitors to the Frist will also have the opportunity to see several works completed in 2023 such as Erin and Anyah with Hydrangeas, which depicts the artist's stepdaughter Erin and niece Anyah.
In her practice, Hobbs explores Black womanhood, family, labor, self-care, and the rich traditions of printmaking while pushing the medium's boundaries. She often uses herself, her family, and friends as subjects in her work to draw attention to the power of representation and legacy. Much of her art begins with photographs of her subjects, many made during collaborative photoshoots with her husband Ariston Jacks. After a multistep preparatory process, she begins carving and painting.