El Anatsui

Dimensions91 cm x 216 cm x 10 cm
Materials 10 varieties of wood, carved glass, cast glass, copper wire and bottle caps

This sculpture is a tribute to the artist El Anatsui, who was born in Ghana in 1944 and has lived in Nigeria for more than forty years. In 2013 I saw an exhibition of his amazing tapestries at the Brooklyn Museum in New York. I was overwhelmed by the creations he could achieve by piecing together bottle caps and pieces of pliable aluminum from liquor packaging, used printing plates, and food packaging, that are collected from recycling centers. These tapestries some of which measure five or six meters in width had a powerful presence utilizing the natural colors of the found materials. As with many of my documentary pieces it took a long time to imagine the visual form the sculpture would take.

For my sculpture, I researched the shapes that he repeatedly used and reproduced them in 10 different varieties of wood (oak, ash, beech, elm, Sapelli, Iroko, Sipo, Cherry, Chestnut, and Mahogany) that I had in my studio as remains from sculptures that I had made in the past. To add a certain sense of authenticity I added some small sections of colored bottle caps from a variety of European beers. I chose as the principal form for the representative tapestry honoring El Anatsui, a map of Ghana and Nigeria. The two countries that occupy the territory in between his two homes, Togo and Benin, is where I placed the portrait head of the artist. In keeping with my recent series of torn photo portraits I assembled the head from five different photographs. In an unusual twist instead of just sandblasted flat glass I incorporated two elements of cast glass to add a greater sense of expression.