Heidi Kumao: Real and Imagined documents and contextualizes narrative fabric works and animations from Kumao’s 2020 solo exhibition at the University of Michigan’s Stamps Gallery. Using fabric cutouts and stitching of everyday objects, Kumao creates a tactile visual vocabulary that distills unspoken—often sinister— aspects of daily human exchanges into accessible narrative images. Fueled by the ongoing battles over reproductive rights, the #MeToo movement, and personal experience with traumatic loss and separation, Kumao creates poetic and, at times, playful open-ended visual haikus that weave in her experiences as an Asian American woman, artist, and educator. Charged interactions from intimate relationships, medical procedures, the workplace, and the political sphere are captured midstream, suspended in time within felt film stills. Real and Imagined presents the reader with an opportunity to experience this striking oeuvre of over thirty fabric works and video animations.
This exhibition catalog marks the first significant publication on Kumao’s work and includes a selection of works from across her career. It includes critical writings by: Srimoyee Mitra, curator and Director of the Stamps Gallery and NYC-based art critic, Wendy Vogel, an interview between the artist and writer Lynn Love and poems by the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize Award winner, Marilyn Chin.
For over thirty years, Kumao has developed an expanded art practice that includes animations, video installations, photographs, machine art, and fabric works that give physical form to the intangible parts of our lives: our emotions, psychological states, memories, thinking patterns. Her hybrid artworks have included electromechanical girl’s legs that “misbehave,” video installations about surviving confinement, surreal, experimental stop motion puppet animations, performative staged photographs, and hand crafted cinema machines.
She has exhibited her award-winning artwork in solo and group exhibitions nationally and internationally including the Art Science Museum Singapore, Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona, the Museum of Image and Sound (São Paulo) and the Museum of Modern Art in Buenos Aires. Her work is in permanent and private collections including the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, Arizona State University Art Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Exploratorium in San Francisco. She has received fellowships and grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Creative Capital Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. She is a professor at the Stamps School of Art & Design at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.