Aaron Sanders Head
Museum Gallery, June 1-July 2, 2023
Aaron Sanders Head is a Southern, Alabama-based textile artist. Aaron was raised in rural Grady, AL and Hope Hull, AL, as the youngest of three children from an artist mother and an agricultural worker father. His grandparents were both rural mail carriers, and the times Aaron spent accompanying them on those trips cemented early on a fondness for rural areas and the importance of connection however it can be found. That learned sense of observation combined with inherited family traditions of textile and agriculture inform the unique visual language Aaron works in today, that exists in the worlds of quiltmaking, handwork and natural dyes. Aaron creates quilts and hand-stitched, naturally dyed textiles that explore the lived experiences of rural Alabamians.
I create textile works, often in the form of hand-stitched panels and quilts, that explore the diverse and conflicting experiences of living in contemporary rural Alabama. My artistic practice utilizes the agricultural, artistic and storytelling traditions of my family to depict the realities of overlooked communities, while also celebrating and memorializing the bonding traditions that hold communities together and investigating the reasons why people remain.
The compelling action behind my artistic practice is the desire to create work that feels truly endemic; directly rooted in, enhanced by, and in conversation with the place the work was created. One of my primary goals is for the work to look like the place from which it comes. One avenue of creating work in this manner has been using solely natural dyes—primarily indigo, black walnut, sumac, osage wood, goldenrod, among others. I grow or forage all of the dye materials used in my work here in Greensboro, AL, located in Hale County. These materials have complex regional histories, invoking both the powerful, healing traditions of Indigenous, African American and rural medicine practitioners, and the abject horrors of forced labor and enslavement. I use traditional methods of coaxing color from these materials, forging a direct connection between the work, the history of the land, and the material itself. The slyly radical framework of quiltmaking and textiles enables my work to embrace the tension between a recognized traditional craft and something less contained.
My works are a testimony to the generous, fierce natural beauty of Alabama, and a result of the deep but ever-adaptable roots that radical people have fostered in the Black Belt for generations. My ongoing practice explores the unifying and reclaiming abilities of textiles and natural dyes, and uses the familiarity of textiles and quilts as a mode of storytelling.