Nari Ward examines societal issues—such as citizenship, cultural consumption, discrimination, and poverty—with personal connections, reflecting his experiences growing up in Jamaica and working as an artist in Harlem. Ward’s art is often composed of the discards of consumerism—materials collected from his urban neighborhood—that reveal the diverse emotions inherent in everyday objects. His work helps to develop a viewer’s awareness and understanding of contemporary themes, through wordplay that explores the ambiguity of language or juxtapositions of technology with other found objects.
The FWM exhibition We the People highlighted recent, prominent installations and sculptural works by Ward. The eponymous new installation transcribed the opening phrase of the United States Constitution with shoelaces bored into the museum wall. These shoelaces were hand dyed during Ward’s residency. Ward believes that it is impossible to separate these three words from their strong association to the Constitution. He can, however, revolutionize the viewer’s reaction to them through the magnitude of the arrangement and adaptation of the piece.
After this exhibition, Ward completed a second work with FWM’s studio staff, a cross-stitched and embroidered quilt. Titled Homeland Sweet Homeland (2012), this densely textured work reconceives the Miranda rights—which are dictated by police to criminal suspects to ensure they understand their Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights—from the perspective of a US citizen. Upon closer inspection, this seemingly domestic wall hanging contains all manner of collaged found elements, including barbed wire, chains, silver spoons, and bullhorns.