Photo credit: Philipp J Hoffmann
Michael C. Thorpe
Boston, MA - November 16, 2021 – LaiSun Keane Gallery is delighted to announce the representation of artist Michael C. Thorpe (b. 1993). The artist is best known for his vibrant quilted paintings, bringing the immediacy of a photograph together with the abstraction of collage. His work incorporates portraiture, still life, text and interiors, and refers back to the quilting tradition of his mother’s family and the rich history of African American quilting.
To celebrate the announcement, Thorpe will be presenting seven all-new works during the Untitled Art Show in Miami Beach, November 29 - December 4, 2021 at booth #C8. The new work explores the relationship between African Americans with nature. Thorpe will be attending Untitled’s VIP preview Monday, November 29, and will be at booth #C8 on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday from 3 - 6pm.
“We are immensely fortunate to have met Michael serendipitously at the early stage of his career and our gallery, in June of 2020. After we visited his studio, saw the works that he was making, and learned more about his art, we knew instantly that he was a special talent the world must not ignore,” said LaiSun Keane. “Michael’s colorful quilts are a feast for the eyes and a joy to experience! While people are immediately drawn to them for their inviting, visual qualities at first glance, their captivating narratives reinforce the personal and intimate nature of his work.”
LaiSun Keane mounted Thorpe’s first solo show in her eponymous gallery in SoWa Boston in Spring of 2021. The show, which quickly sold out, led Keane to subsequently give him shows at two art fairs in New York City: SPRING/BREAK Art Show and Art on Paper.
Thorpe’s work is currently being exhibited in “Fabric of A Nation: American Quilt Stories” at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, through January 17, 2022. He will be the subject of a solo exhibition at Paul R. Jones Museum, University of Alabama, in 2023.
“The works I’m making for Untitled are about celebration of life, and more importantly the celebration of freedom,” says Michael C. Thorpe. “Having the ability to create whatever you want without outside pressures is the most liberating feeling, period. I gained this sense of freedom from the artists I look up to, from the likes of David Hockney, Bob Thompson, and David Hammons to name a few. They just create art. That’s all I hope to do.”
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Michael C. Thorpe (born NY, 1993) is a visual artist living and working out of New York, New York, with a primary focus in textiles. His mother, Susan Richards, taught him the art and craft of quilting. Through the usage of bright colors, organic shapes, and meandering quilting patterns, Thorpe explores the limitations of both social constructs and textiles. He combines fabrics, imagery and language to evoke alternative perspectives on the human experience.
Thorpe grew up in Newton, MA and graduated from Emerson College with a degree in photojournalism. His work is in the collection of Museum of Fine Arts Boston and is primarily represented by LaiSun Keane.
He has a work in the traveling group exhibition The Art of the American Guitar at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond from October 6, 2022 - January 29, 2023 and the Frist Art Museum in Nashville from May 26 - August 13, 2023.
He is slated for a solo show at Paul R. Jones Museum at the University of Alabama in 2023 and Fuller Craft Museum, Brockton MA in 2024.
Indispensable: Michael C. Thorpe’s Longarm Sewing Machine
Textile artist Michael C. Thorpe first used a longarm sewing machine in 2018. That first one belonged to his mother, Susan Richards, an experienced quilter. After it became clear that one machine was not enough for the two ambitious and creatively divergent quilters (Thorpe describes it as a “traffic jam”), Thorpe acquired his own machine, which he now uses in his New York City studio.
Thorpe’s quilts, which are often portraits or narrative scenes, build on his training as a photojournalist as well as his experiences as a biracial artist, basketball player, and member of a family that boasts several quilt makers. Unlike his mother’s traditional and intricate works, Thorpe’s quilts tend to be experimental and expressive, often with pencil marks visible and edges unsewn. To varying degrees of abstraction, he layers fabric shapes and draws with a meandering stitch to convey his subjects’ personality and emotionality. He counts Romare Bearden, Henri Matisse, Jacob Lawrence, Jasper Johns, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and the celebrated African American women quilters of Gee’s Bend, Alabama, among his influences. It’s important to him that the movement of his hands be visible in his finished pieces, which is why he prefers to use the nondigital functions of his longarm machine.