Look past the painted cowboy, baseball, and party hats scattered across Jonni Cheatwood’s latest body of work and you’ll find a life stitched together from pieces of burlap, blanket, denim, mesh, and even an old leather satchel that once belonged to the artist’s father.
Inspired by the rich textile traditions of his Brazilian American background, Jonni creates patchwork-style paintings that reveal a family photo album’s worth of memories. “The memories that informed this series were deeply personal, but not all negative,” says the LA artist, whose first solo show, Toeing the Line, is on view at Shanghai’s Gallery All through April 20, 2023. “A lot of these pieces were created as a response to some of the emotional challenges that I've experienced in my life, including my ongoing struggle to process loss and grief,” he continues, before adding, “Some of the memories that I revisited while creating these works were happy and joyful. I’m recognizing that even happy memories can be complicated and emotionally tense.”
Though the leather satchel and much of the mesh and burlap is included in an earlier body of work, Jonni still incorporates found textiles to simulate exterior and interior spaces in Toeing the Line.
Using family photos as source material, Jonni converts his childhood memories into scraps of cloth and painted figures who pose for the camera at black tie affairs and kiddie birthday parties alike. His memories are vague and abstracted, muddled by the passage of time and the plasticity of the human brain. Calling himself an “expressionist brought up on Saturday morning cartoons,” Jonni fills the gaps in his memory with scribbles, scratches, and doodles he often applies straight from the tube of paint and onto the faces of his figures. “My work is informed by the idea of interconnectedness or togetherness,” he says, encouraging viewers to see their own story, memories, and loved ones in his faceless figures.
Assembling pieces of his past for Toeing the Line, Jonni builds “a narrative that is greater than the sum of its parts.” Though each work tells its own story, Jonni sees the entire series “as part of a larger conversation about loss, grief, and the healing power of creativity.”
“I’m recognizing that even happy memories can be complicated and emotionally tense.” — Jonni Cheatwood
All photos published with permission of the artist(s).
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