The complex, rich colors and textures of Bryana Bibbs’ weavings invite the viewer to come closer. “For me color has deep meaning,” according to Bibbs, a Chicago based fiber artist and 2014 graduate of The School of The Art Institute of Chicago. “I’m learning to use color in a more intuitive way,” according to Bibbs, “ I let my mind and body choose.” Bibbs also gives herself permission, as long as the art she’s working on is non-functional, to make mistakes and embrace what’s created. “ It’s that slow process, the taking of your time, taking the mistakes and kind of letting go and seeing what happens with the mistakes,” says Bibbs. Her work is also about experimentation, using unusual fibers like peacock feathers or material like plastic in her weavings to enhance the storytelling. According to Bibbs, “ It gives it some weird time stamp or story behind the piece.”
By working with fiber, Bibbs is also able to push her work beyond the painters who have influenced her practice, such as Mark Rothko and Ivan Albright. Bibbs says,“ I feel like I can express myself far more with fiber than I can with painting. Painting is very fluid with acrylics and oil and all. But with fiber it’s the textures, it grabs me in ways that painting didn’t.”
Bibbs put these ideas into practice with a series of works that she continues today called “The Journal Series”. This work began when her art practice took a pivotal turn in 2019 at the beginning of the pandemic after ending a nearly 10 yearlong mentally and sometimes physically abusive relationship. During this same time, Bibbs decided she needed to quit her retail job and take a chance on her art practice even though she hadn’t been making much art since she graduated.
“I went through narcissistic abuse. Your mind is all over the place, constantly walking on egg shells, constantly questioning your sense of reality, their sense of reality, it’s just a complete and total screwing of the mind,” says Bibbs.
But was the inherent “slow” process of weaving that helped Bibbs to think. For her, weaving was survival. “ It’s my way of expressing myself without expressing myself.” Stuck mostly inside, Bibbs began making these ten by fifteen-inch weavings rich with texture and color made with handspun yarn she created herself. “When I started doing them it was my way of coping and processing life and then when I started documenting them, I was like, I could tell what my good days were or bad days.” Bibbs won’t disclose which one is which; she’d rather the viewer have their own experience because she says “Telling a story by color choice allows the viewers to put themselves into it.”
Bibbs wanted to help other women of domestic abuse so she created the “ We were never alone project”, where women come together and use the meditative exercise of weaving to help them process what they have been through. “ People can sit around the table and have a conversation and no one judges anyone else,” according to Bibbs. In the end the participants can choose to have their work publically exhibited along with their story or not. . Bibbs says, “I think the most important thing they walk out with is to realize that there are others going through it all too.”
Bibbs says she will continue the project to help get the word out about domestic abuse. For now, however, Bibbs is focusing on a bright future with two summer art residencies in Maine and several upcoming gallery and museum shows in Chicago and Milwaukee where viewers will get a chance to see her work up close and personal, just like she likes it.