Vamba Bility | Under The Silver Moon

One of 25 Art Cover's for Flaunt's 25th Anniversary Issue

Written by

Julia Smith

Photographed by

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Styled by

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Vamba Bility. “All The Weight” (2021). Calabash, Metal Chain, Thread. 19 X 62 Inches. Courtesy Of The Artist.

New Haven-based artist Vamba Bility created one of 25 original art covers for Flaunt Magazine's 25th Anniversary Issue, Under the Silver Moon, out now! ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Vamba Bility’s oeuvre is an exploration of the African Diaspora, weaving together the threads of story and material history. It is the documented call and response of culture, interpreted through channels of painting, textiles, found objects and sound; criss-crossing and interlinking to create an aesthetic encounter that captures the artist’s lived experiences in a net of earthly yarns. The multidisciplinary artist has roots in the Cote D'ivoire and Guinea before traversing to the United States, Bility’s work is informed by the contested space and shared culture of the diasporic experience. 

As one of the 25 art covers for Flaunt’s 25th Anniversary Issue, Under the Silver Moon, Bility has sewn together a cracked calabash, suspending the gourd with a heavy and rusted chain. The piece is entitled All the weight (2021). As one of the first crops that man cultivated, the calabash has been regarded in mythos as a sacred object and a vessel not only for food and water, but for knowledge as well. Borrowed from the artist’s new exhibition in the cathedral-esque halls of the Hammer Museum, it’s a part of a mark making series of artifacts, dehazing the nebulous landscape of diaspora in Bility’s woven Reverie. 

Vamba's new exhibition ‘Hammer Projects: Vamba Bility’ is on view now at the Hammer in Los Angeles through May 19.

On your website front and center, you have an outline of some of the main ideas behind your work, all contributing to the idea of ‘reverie.’ Do you mind expanding on what reverie means as it relates to this latest exhibition? 

That’s a portal into each piece that has allowed this body of work to be possible, and as it relates to the rest of the outline.

Reverie was at the core of it all, from the process to the install.  

One of the areas of exploration that threads through your early education, as well as this exhibition is weaving, where did you start with this motif?

Fiber engagements were all around me growing up in West Africa.

I majored in textiles at the Rhode Island of Design (RISD), which offered me the technical ability to engage with the process of weaving.

Where do you spend the majority of your time working and thinking? What is the point of critical mass when you decide, “Okay, it’s time to start this piece.” 

At the moment, working time is spent taking long walks, long drives to locate materials I am interested in working with, and in the studio.

It’s a balance between exploring what’s possible and echoing what’s possible.

What has been the most ambitious project that you have completed thus far? Has your voice as an artist evolved over the creation of this latest body of work

Each moment within the act of making feels like an ambitious project. And yes to the voice evolving, that is part of making.

Your work explores the hard-to-pin passage of time, was there a particular moment that you borrowed from / expanded on in these pieces? 

No, not just one. But I wanted this body of work to engage with the Vault space at the Hammer Museum, as it relates to the diasporic existence, being and processing through these various materials and modes of approaches.

There’s a lot of push pull, hard and soft materials, shadows and highlights in your work, where do you find the balance? Do you find that you have been drawn to one side of the contrast at times? How do you mediate the in-between, where does it weave together? 

There is an ongoing call and response. The balance can be found within all those movements. At times, it can feel heavier on one side than other, while on other occasions, it can feel like it is woven together within the movement.

Where was the most magical moon you’ve ever observed?

The most magical moon I have ever observed were the moons of my childhood. Between the ages of six to eight, I would stare up at the moon while walking and I believed that the moon was following me.

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Vamba Bility, Art, Flaunt Magazine, Issue 190, Under The Silver Moon, 25th Anniversary Issue