Material Fact gives new life to family fabrics

by Kashif Stone

Two UNC-Greensboro alumna’s are joining forces to present a new art exhibit at the Center for Visual Arts. Steisha Pintado and Ellen Kelly- Bryan are both graduates of UNC-Greensboro’s art department, each respectively earning a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Painting. Although their graduation years differ, their creative minds think alike when it comes to crafting and presenting art. The duo’s exhibit, Material Fact, intends to celebrate the shared experiences of being women as well as show the importance of developing relationships with other women Originally from the Bronx, New York, Pintado moved to North Carolina at age seven. She has always had an avid interest in art and benefitted from studying with Doug Collins, a profound art educator at her former high school. “Under his tutelage, I began to shape my educational goals in order to pursue art as a career,” said Pintado. During her time studying in UNC-Greensboro’s art department, Pintado began working with media that she associated with childhood iconography such as drawing, painting, puppetry, and animation. “I use this media to examine ideas of memory, self, family, and identity.”

Kelly-Bryan grew up near Charlotte and began taking private art lessons in the fifth grade until she graduated high school. She wasn’t particularly good at any sports or music, so art became her “go-to” as a hobby. She began attending UNC-Greensboro in 2000 and after switching majors a few times, she completed her degree in Art History and Museum Studies in 2004. “Being close to art and talking about it wasn’t fulfilling enough,” said Kelly-Bryan. She returned to UNC-Greensboro in 2008 to complete a degree in painting and received her bachelor of fine arts in 2010. Kelly-Bryan works primarily abstractly as a painter. “My work is focused on attempting to create a record or map of my thought process through the layering and interplay of paint, thread, fabric, and collected objects.”

Material Fact is a stand-out show due to the personal connection that both artist have to the materials. The show features repurposed fabric passed down to each artist from the women in their families. These personal materials are also universally relatable to others as the passing down of fabric is a tradition that is culturally ubiquitous.

The tradition of handed down materials inspired the artist to craft the exhibit. “We both have many things that have been handed down through our families that would traditionally be associated with women, such as fabric, yarn, and linens,” said Pintado. This project arose from a need to begin processing the presence of these objects. “Part of it was purely practical. How do you transform the things you own from boxes of clutter into a tool to further your own growth?” Worried that altering the original material would somehow destroy the memories they have associated with them, the duo ended up creating a stronger and more nuanced connection to these objects in their new forms of paintings.

One of the biggest obstacles faced when developing the exhibit regarded making sure the artists commit to studio schedules to meet the deadline to install the show. This commitment required the duo to make sacrifices and prioritize their lives to get everything done. “Thankfully we have friends and family that were able to support and help us during this time,” said Pintado. “We share a small studio space downtown and as we got closer to the show, we had a bit of an issue with where to store paintings. Thankfully our neighbors didn’t mind us using the hallway to hang our works as they dried so we could continue making painting in our space.”

The show opened on May 6 to a great crowd with great energy – the artists even sold a painting their first night. Thus far, the show has received positive reviews with many visitors interested in knowing how the paintings were created. “While we had certain ideas in mind when making the painting, the works use a formal language that is accessible without needing to necessarily understand our conceptual goal,” said Pintado. “We wanted to convey a sense of appreciation and celebration of the women in our families. By incorporating their belongings into our work, we acknowledge their visual and personal influence in our lives.” The duo hopes visitors will enjoy the paintings, but also consider the ways in which familiar objects are powerful reminders of history and a source of greater understanding if allowed to acquire new meaning. !


Material Fact will showcase at the Center for Visual Arts (200 N. Davie St., Greensboro, NC, 27401) from May 6–25. Also, the duo will be hosting an artist talk session on Wednesday, May 18 from 5:30- 6:30 pm. The Center for Visual Arts operating hours are Tuesday – Saturday 10 am to 5 pm, Sunday 2 to 5 pm, and closed on Monday. The show is free and open to the public.