Akea Brionne pictured in her studio with works in progress.
Photo: Courtesy of the artist

Akea Brionne’s Dazzling Artworks Blend Traditional Tapestry with Photography

Exploring themes of identity and relationship to place, the emerging artist's Afro-Surrealist pieces are causing a stir among collectors

Akea Brionne’s vibrant works masterfully blend the traditional art of jacquard tapestry with an innovative process that employs photography and artificial intelligence. In essence, her Afro-Surrealist pieces are about identity and relationship to place, or “social geography,” as she calls it. In Brionne’s world, statuesque Black women are depicted against dreamy, unidentified, and often desolate backgrounds. “I explore a lot of ideas surrounding displacement, assimilation, and the preservation and reclamation of ancestral wisdom through storytelling, Surrealism, and world building as a Creole woman,” says Brionne.

Golde (2024) from the series “The Final Hour.” Photo: Ruben Diaz

Since making her mark in 2022 with the national touring group show “A Movement in Every Direction: Legacies of the Great Migration,” which is currently on view at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive through September 22, she has presented otherworldly seascapes alluding to folklore and mythology at the Library Street Collective in Detroit and staged a buzzy exhibition in New York at Lyles & King.

Layers of research and process go into each work: The artist begins by feeding her own photography and appropriated images into a private AI server. From there, she builds a narrative with written prompts from her dreams and memories. The digitally printed jacquard tapestries are then painstakingly embellished by hand with rhinestones and filled with doll stuffing to create a three-dimensional effect. “My goal is to trick people into digesting photography and fiber art with respect,” she says.

Akea Brionne's Sunny. Photo: Courtesy of the artist

Counting Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Henri Matisse as inspiration, Brionne is also influenced by Pueblo weavings and pottery as well as the artisan-made objects that line the walls of her home in Detroit. “Much of it is relegated to the world of folk art, but I think it has a place in art history as well,” says Brionne, who is currently creating short films that draw on her passions for music and dance as well as new artworks exploring themes of climate change. “The beauty of the multiplicities of my identity is that I have the ability to build something new and authentic to who I am and who I’m becoming, armed with the knowledge of that past and with the possibility of the present and future.”

Akea Brionne, Isis Returns. Photo: Courtesy of the artist

A version of this article first appeared in print in our 2024 Summer Issue under the headline “Singular Expressions.” Subscribe to the magazine.

Cover: Akea Brionne pictured in her studio with works in progress.
Photo: Courtesy of the artist


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