Associate Professor, Studio Arts
Aaron McIntosh is a cross-disciplinary artist whose work mines the intersections of material culture, family tradition, sexual desire and identity politics in a range of works including quilts, sculpture, collage, drawing and writing. As a fourth-generation quilt maker whose grandparents were noted quilters in their Appalachian communities, this tradition of working with scraps is a primary platform from which he explores the patch worked nature of identity. Since 2015, McIntosh has managed Invasive Queer Kudzu, a community storytelling and archive project across the LGBTQ South.
His work has been exhibited at the Hangaram Art Museum in Seoul, the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, Yale University's Green Art Gallery, the International Quilt Study Center, the Los Angeles Craft & Folk Art Museum and the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay & Lesbian Art in New York City. His current research creation project, Hot House/Maison Chaude, is supported by a 2020-2022 SSHRC Insight Development grant. Additionally, McIntosh is a recipient of the 2020 United States Artist Fellowship in Craft, a 2018 Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Fellowship, a 2017 Virginia Culture Works Grant, and two Center for Craft Windgate Fellowships in 2006 and 2015. He has held residencies at the Banff Centre, Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, and the Virginia Center for Creative Arts. His critical writing has been published in the Brooklyn Rail, Hyperallergic, the Surface Design Journal, and the Journal of Modern Craft.
As an educator, McIntosh is committed to transforming and diversifying the next generation of fibre/textile artists. Since 2010, he has taught in the Fibre programs of James Madison University, the Maryland Institute College of Art, Virginia Commonwealth University, and currently is an Associate Professor in the Fibres & Material Practices program at Concordia University.
Photo credit: Terry Brown
Photo credit: Nick Clifford Simko
Photo credit: Terry Brown
FBRS 260 / Textile Printing and Dyeing (Winter)
FBRS 480 / Advanced Fibres (Winter)
My research is engaged with the complex histories of my personal and artistic lineage, negotiating traditional and contemporary culture through object-making and storytelling. Quilts, weeds, yellowing wallpaper, firewood, a taxidermy bear and Colonial-Revival couch—my works reach across generational divides through a language of form and material dialect. In saturated objects, stories of cruising gay men and family past-times collide to draw attention to the murky intersection of personal desires and family institutions, as well as openly question our larger social constructions of deviancy, shame and heteronormativity. My intention is to celebrate Southern queer vivacity in the face of perceived invisibility.
As a fourth-generation quilter, my work is rooted in the material, process and cultural attributes of quilt-making. Quilt-like accumulation and piecework are primary across my practice, whether I’m sewing fabric, gluing pages or arranging cut-outs. Other transitional object shave shaped me: hoarded romance novels, gay lifestyle magazines and erotica. My notions of desire, romance and sexuality have been mediated through such printed matter, which have provided fictional narratives that I fragment and retrofit for my own narratives.
My work celebrates these domestic contexts and haptic qualities of learning desire. In furniture objects like The Couch or Twin Beds, I have created objects in which erotic words and images are not only read but also felt, sat on, and touched by viewers. Simultaneously deconstructing the quilt and my identity, I infuse works with the realities of what happens beneath quilts: desire, anxiety, sex, birth and death. In ForestFrolic, Road to Tennessee and the new Transitional Object series, I boldly bring these images of desirable men out from under the bed and offer them up as comfort objects.
Recently, my practice has seen a shift towards nature-based forms. Coming from subsistence farmers, connections between land and identity run deep. I have probed my early connection to the forest and my family’s conquest of it. In works like Bear, and Weeds, natural forms are recreated with patchwork skins of gay erotica and images of my flesh. Embedding queerness into representations of nature, I confront the ways in which queer bodies are stigmatized because of our supposed unnatural state of being.
My ongoing project, Invasive Queer Kudzu, subverts the xenophobic relationship many Southerners have with the non-native kudzu vine, and reclaims kudzu as a demonstrative form of queer visibility. I am collecting Southern LGBTQ stories through workshops at community centers and narratives from LGBTQ archives, which are quilted as leaves, eventually forming a phenomenal mass of queer vines.
Coursing through my work, quilt making’s possibility as a language, form and tool make it an expansive medium for my multifaceted stories. My research broadens our understanding of this traditional craft and seeks to expand the concept of piecework or patchwork as a global expressive form aligned with identity formation.
Photo credit: John Dean
Photo credit: John Dean