The Right Time

Artist Joana Choumali is holding her first solo exhibition at Sperone Westwater and the collection of new and older works is gorgeous. Entitled It Still Feels Like The Right Time and split into two parts, the pieces come from her acclaimed series Ca Va Aller (2016-2019) and from Alba’hian, an ongoing series begun in 2018.

Born in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire (where she still lives and works), Ms. Choumali studied graphic art in Casablanca and initially worked as an art director in advertising before moving on to photography, specifically focusing on documentary portraits and then evolving from there to fine arts. Her various career experiences all factor into her beautiful images where photography combines with paint, embroidery, collage, textile and cutout figures.

She Made The Sun Rise, Mixed Media, 2022

One of the most impressive feats she achieves is recreating morning skies with gauzy layers of fabric that create a watercolor effect and shimmer with shards of glitter penetrating the surfaces. The effect is absolutely magical and evokes the early daytime when delicate colors of a sunrise coincide with a brief quiet time before the world awakes.

The embroidery work is also lovely and is especially effective on foliage, where she achieves the layered coloring of the natural world. I found this aspect particularly interesting as it reminded me of the South American embroidery tradition and made for an interesting mix of craft juxtaposed against the environments of the African west coast and the cities and beaches therein.

Untitled (Ca Va Aller), Mixed Media, 2019
Untitled (Ca Va Aller), Mixed Media, 2019
Comfortable Silence, Mixed Media, 2022

Aura, inner strength and dignity play a primary role in the various characters that inhabit her pictures and the works come alive even more so with all the dense layering of media. It’s not just the intricate stitching and three dimensional surfaces—there is energy radiating from the pieces and you can feel it when viewing them, both visually and viscerally. The pieces honoring her mother (who died unexpectedly in 2020) are especially powerful.

Ms. Choumali is an artistic force with a unique way of expressing the soul of her subjects. Her many accolades, residencies and awards attest to her sensitive insight and capacity to bring out the light of a human spirit. The works in this exhibition show the grace and angel that is in all of us.

It Still Feels Like The Right Time runs through April 30.