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“Techniques for Ecstasy” uses textiles to transcend isolation

A large textile made of red and white sheer fabric depicts three dancers layered over one another. The one in front wears a crop top and a baseball cap, and is outlined in beadwork.
"Move to the Front" by Alexandra Beaumont (CBJ Photo by Jasmine McBride)

Artist Alexandra Beaumont is reinforcing community connections through fabric and dance. Her new textile exhibition “Techniques for Ecstasy,” is showing at Public Functionary in Minneapolis now through May 25. 

Walking into Public Functionary’s gallery space, I was surrounded by 18 10-foot wall hangings of embroidered dancers made with vibrantly colored fabric. Beaumont says the pieces were inspired by a dance party photographed by Drew Arrieta. Then, using her background in fashion design, she recreated the images with fabric.

“I had all these beautiful images, and I was then able to imagine us together by painting us individually, and then stitching us together in these large-scale works,” said Beaumont. 

A woman in khaki pants and a white sweater stands next to a textile wall hanging that depicts a person dancing.
Alexandra Beaumont

Beaumont was raised in South Carolina and moved to the Twin Cities as an adult. She says attending events curated specifically for marginalized communities helped her break through her feelings of isolation. She says the notion of ‘communion,’ which she describes as the act of bringing communities together over a particular experience, is central to her artistic interest in reimagining joy.

“I was doing some more research into this notion of like, historically, ‘what have dance floors meant?’ Especially for marginalized communities. This phrase popped out to me in a Barbara Ehrenreich book about these particular practices that you see across time – across cultures – that communities have always reached for in order to achieve a kind of transcendence or to solidify a feeling of community amongst them. And then, music and dancing are always really central,” said Beaumont.

One of the works, “Soloist” came together in hues of blue, green, and white – over the image of a dancer with their eyes closed – creating the impression of peace and liberation.

“The images I have of this dancer – they have that kind of solitude, a little bit of solemnity in them – but they're really vibrant, especially the way they're using their hands. So I like what this piece ended up doing. It kind of blends the abstraction in the figurative work. It blends the foreground and background like they're really integrated into the space into the moment. And then I could add the subtle emphasis on the hands with the beading. I feel like this one really does a lot of the things that I set out to do with this body of work,” said Beaumont.

A textile wall-hanging depicts a woman dancing along, with one arm in the air and the other in front of her. The fabric depicting the woman is sheer white; the fabric on her left is a rich green color and the fabric on her right is a deep blue.
"Soloist" by Alexandra Beaumont (CBJ Photo by Jasmine McBride)

Standing amongst the large-scale works, one feels connected to not just the images, but also the room itself. Beaumont says the relationship between presence and space is a foundational element of this exhibit. She says she hopes to convey the infectious nature of feeling in connection to one’s surroundings and community.

“I have a fascination with parades and these spaces where we disrupt the kind of audience and viewer paradigm - where it's more like co-participation,” said Beaumont.  

The gallery exhibition is free and open to the public on Thursdays from 12-9 pm and on Fridays and Saturdays from 12-6 pm. “ARRIVE TOGETHER: A Salon Style Conversation on Dance & Community” will take place on May 23 with Alexandra Beaumont, along with scholar Dwight K. Lewis, Jr, artist Kat Purcell, and dancer jess pretty. 

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