Denise Toney, detail of Behold in Textiles: Petit, 2019, decoupage and mixed media
Within my exhibition, Behold in Textiles, I explore the time-honored arts of sewing, quilting, découpaging, and papercrafting with African fabric as the base medium. I love color, and I also have a special affinity for floral and butterfly-laced textiles. Earthtones that are reminiscent of the colors that I grew up with within my home dominate my art. All of my arrangements are extremely calculated, contrived, and deliberate. I take great care to make sure that the prints, design scales, and textures of the fabric complement one another. I feel like I “paint” with the medium of fabric like a painter paints with his or her paints.
Many of my fabrics are imported from African marketplaces and as an avid collector, some of the fabrics that I use have a long and sometimes royal history to them. Most of my Pieces contain vintage, limited-edition, retired fabrics that are no longer easily available today.
Just about all of my Behold in Textiles artwork features a focal point that pays tribute to some uplifting concepts about African life and tradition. You’ll see motifs that contain deeper meanings, such as ankhs and other Egyptian symbols, the Sankofa bird, and various Adinkra symbols that are interspersed all throughout West Africa where many Africans in the Diaspora descend from.
Behold in Textiles got its start from one of the fabrics that features a woman holding a youth up to the sky. It reminded me of the African ritual of lifting newborns to the sky while proclaiming, “Behold the only thing greater than yourself”, as was shown in the mini-series Roots, which paid homage to times when parents spoke life into their offspring and named their children according to the destinies they wanted their children to have. That scene was very impressionable upon me, having seen it during my formative years, and hence, Behold in Textiles sprung from there. One quilt became an entire multi-media yet cohesive collection.
Denise Toney is a New Jersey multi-disciplinary artist who has taught various art classes in the classroom and within her own art studio. She was recently selected to participate in several juried art exhibitions at Manufacturer’s Village–a dedicated art village in East Orange, NJ–East Orange City Hall, the West Orange Arts Council, and the Newark Arts Festival. As an avid collector of African textiles, she has offered her contributions to several artists’ talks and panel discussions. Denise is featured in three art/business publications: On the Easel, a digital and print magazine where artists share their works in progress; The God-S Movement Coloring Journal by Yvonne Onque; and SheEO’s Rock! Women in Business Series: 99 Tips to Transform Your Own Business Today, where she is a contributing author who appears on the book’s front cover. As a veteran teacher of urban youth and young adults by day and a strong proponent of art as therapy, Denise has earned a reputation for enlivening traditional lesson plans with out-of-the-box art activities and teaches the techniques she employs at various establishments.