I DON’T WANT TO SEE MYSELF WITHOUT YOU, 2020
Acrylic on canvas, glass beads, and artificial sinew inset into wood frame
82 x 74 inches (208 x 188 cm), with frame
Commissioned with MIT Percent-for-Art Funds
Commissioned for the new Vassar Street Residence Hall, I DON’T WANT TO SEE MYSELF WITHOUT YOU (2020) welcomes students and visitors with dizzyingly hard-edge graphic letters that spell out the work’s title. Surrounding this text, a dense pattern extends from the painting to its beaded frame, and adds to the work’s visual impact. In his multimedia paintings, quilts, sculptural objects, and garments, Jeffrey Gibson often engages geometric abstraction and its place in various art traditions, while also calling upon the practices and materials found in Indigenous handcraft and adopting techniques of weaving, quillwork, or beading, or incorporating materials such as elk hide canvases and sinew.
Gibson’s works bear even more wide-ranging references too, frequently touching on music or politics, or embracing a camp sensibility associated with queer nightlight subculture or the fluidity of gender. I DON’T WANT TO SEE MYSELF WITHOUT YOU (2020) is emblematic of Gibson’s tendency to appropriate phrases from lyrics found in pop, soul, or disco music, citing George Michael, Depeche Mode, Grace Jones, or, here, a song by folk-soul singer Terry Callier. The United States’ history and settler colonialism are also subjects that inform the texts Gibson embeds in his works. His beaded wall-hanging American History (JB) (2015), for example, reads: “American history is longer, larger, more beautiful and more terrible than anything anyone has ever said about it.”
Throughout Gibson’s work, identity, and culture, craft, and fine art, are consistently exposed as entangled, interwoven, and embellished upon. For Gibson, Indigenous crafts and designs have “historically been used to signify identity, tell stories, describe place, and mark cultural specificity,” and yet his work invites viewers to think outside of specificity and to complicate their understanding of Indigenous aesthetics and material histories.
Jeffrey Gibson was selected for the Percent-for-Art commission in consultation with Naomi Carton, Dennis Colins, David Friedrich, Steven Hall, Sonia A. Richards, Michael Maltzan, Varin Ang, TJ Fanning, and in dialogue with the New Vassar Founders’ Group.
I DON’T WANT TO SEE MYSELF WITHOUT YOU was commissioned with MIT Percent-for-Art Funds.
Jeffrey Gibson (b. 1972, Colorado Springs, CO; lives and works in New York) earned his MA from the Royal College of Art, London, in 1998 and his BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1995. Gibson is represented in the permanent collections of the Denver Art Museum, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian at the Smithsonian Institution, National Gallery of Canada, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, and more. Gibson is on the Faculty at Bard College, and is a past TED Foundation Fellow, a Joan Mitchell Grant recipient, and a 2019 MacArthur “Genius” Grant recipient. Gibson is a member of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and of Cherokee descent.
Building Number: W46*
Accession Number: PFA.2020.001
*Note: This artwork is only accessible by guided tour.