born 1948, Caetanópolis, Brazil
lives in São Paulo
Born and raised in the self-proclaimed cradle of Brazil’s textile industry, Sonia Gomes trained and then worked as a lawyer until her midforties, coming to art relatively late in her life. Fabric is central to her sculptural practice, which includes pieces that can be anchored to the wall, stand on their own, or are suspended from the ceiling. It’s a material through which to recognize and assert the long-overlooked physical, spiritual, and affective labor of women of color. Gomes’s interest in craft and folk art is inspired by memories of her maternal grandmother, a seamstress and practitioner of Candomblé, an Afro-Brazilian religion that synthesizes Catholicism and West African religious traditions.
Working both intuitively and intentionally, she makes her objects by meticulously wrapping wire armatures, pieces of driftwood, fragments of old furniture, and other found objects in bits of used clothing both scavenged and gifted. For her Torção series, Gomes twists and stitches together these fabric pieces—vividly colored and richly patterned, and combined with embroidery, lace, and netting—to create webs and networks with slender branches and swollen nodes, suggesting nests and cages, roots and mycelia, or our circulatiory and nervous systems. In her Pendentes series, a string of bulging forms succinctly captures and conveys the sagging weight of an aging body. Evoking but never directly representing nature and the body, Gomes’s sculptures are visceral and auratic, like relics or talismans, holding the memories and histories, the physical and psychological traces, of all those who wore the clothing they are made from.