Elias Sime :: eye of the needle, eye of the heart

Made a quick visit to Santa Monica Museum of Art yesterday to visit a friend who works there and was taken aback by their wonderful exhibition of work by Ethiopian artist Elias Sime. It’s presented like an installation, with stuffed and decorated goat skins, and thrones carved from wood and animal horns arranged around the floor of the room, which they opened up to one big room with the high warehouse ceiling opened up.

Elias Sime at SMMA, image from http://micheleguieu.blogspot.com/

Elias Sime at SMMA, image from http://micheleguieu.blogspot.com/

I was reminded of Ethiopia, probably because of the colors and materials. The brown and earthy tenor of the whole room, highlighted with bright colors of plastic and threads within the larger pieces are the colors of Ethiopia, where mud and rocks prevail. The goat skins and thrones, along with mud and straw sculptures of monkeys in one corner, are made from the materials traditionally ised forbuilding traditional tukuls ( before eucalyptus was introduced in the 19th century!). A video in the back room, narrated by an enthusiastic Peter Sellars, gives a great view of the artist’s life within his community in Addis.

Although the goat skins and thrones dominate the room (I love the wooden carved feet emerging from some of the thrones!), the stitched canvas paintings hung on the walls are surreal and impressive in their craftsmanship. The imagery is pure modernism–heroic and masculine, but every line is stitched into the canvas (by hand? I think so.). You get close and you can feel the tenacity required to manually create the broad strokes of color one 1/4-inch stitch at a time.

My favorite part of the installation is video that you can control, taking you through the streets of Addis. They simply attached a camera to a car and drove around. It really gives a sense of this city, which my dad calls an “overgrown village.”

Check out this blog, which has loads of great photos, including Peter Sellars’ gigantic face from one of the the videos.

See some of my own photos from Ethiopia, and read about my travels there by choosing the “Ethiopia” tag on this blog, or visit my Flickr page.

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