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Sculpture Magazine

Lou’s early work “celebrates a victory over the wrecking ball of the ordinary,” transforming daily “life into a retina-squelching vision that makes your eyes ache.” Behind their seductive , and painstakingly created, glittering, beaded surfaces, works such as Kitchen, Back Yard, and Trailer probed the hidden corners of American cultural values, using labor-intensive crafts as a metaphor for and a means to transcend the mundane and the squalid. Since wining a MacArthur genius award in 2002, the political content of her work has become more indirect, filtered through a spiritual and “mythical” approach to beading processes learned while working with a team of Zulu women in Durban, South Africa. (In 2005, Lou established a studio in Durban, recruiting unemployed artisans as beadwork collaborators.) Her new, and largest work to date, Color Field, which took an earlier form in South Africa, carpets a 1400 square-foot area with a shimmering expanse of brilliant color. The effect is one of sheer beauty, but Lou’s convictions are worked into the very structure of this abstract grid: beads as symbols of solidarity linking the values of feminism, hand-making, and physical labor.