"Long before tufted rugs spawned a viral pandemic-era hobby, Welsh and Ghanaian artist Anya Paintsil learned rug hooking from her grandmother. The technique, passed down through her family for generations, became the basis of her artistic practice. Paintsil’s exuberant, figurative textile works engage with the history of feminine-coded creative labor and reference the artist’s mixed heritage, mining everything from childhood memories of alienation to Welsh and Ghanaian folklore.
Hair is the unifying motif of “Proof of Their Victories,” Paintsil’s current solo exhibition at New York’s Hannah Traore, on view through February 4th. Rendered in shaggy, snagged acrylic and wool yarn, Paintsil’s subjects sport cartoonish features and bemused or aghast expressions. Many are engulfed by their own manes, which are adorned with colorful accessories. The inviting tactility of these works is explicitly referenced by Hate This But Love You 1 and 2 (both 2022), in which disembodied hands are tufted into mounds of synthetic hair. These textiles also evoke the intimacy of doing another person’s hair, their confluence of subject and medium suggesting parallels between fiberwork and hairstyling—two traditions routinely undervalued in patriarchal society. "