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A Common Thread

Rowan Renee

a photo of common thread
a photo of common thread

Due to the process-based nature of the Session program, this project will undergo constant modifications; the features of this page provide accruing information on the project’s developments.

January 13–March 4, 2022

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A Common Thread will transform Recess into a collaborative weaving studio that explores craft—specifically the physical transformation of material through the body—as a framework for envisioning and enacting transformative justice. At the beginning of the Session, the space will open with a few woven objects on display that were formative in their thinking about these issues, organized around a 25-foot long warp-printing/painting table and loom. Over the course of the Session, they will activate the loom as a place to explore ideas of transformative justice that have played a role in their own personal journey as an artist and a person dealing with familial and structural violence. The meditative act of weaving is offered as a non-verbal and embodied cultural ritual for experiences that are excluded from other public modes of healing, often because of persistent taboo, social shame or stigma. Through co-weaving sessions with community members and thematic public conversations with transformative justice practitioners, the project brings together artists, activists, and community members—particularly those who have been personally affected by the criminal legal system—to fundamentally rethink how society thinks of crime and punishment while exploring art-making as a system of care and healing.

The artist invites community members who have an experience that they would like to process through the lens of transformative justice to bring material (fabric, paper, imagery or text) to contribute to a collaborative weaving during open studio hours or by scheduling a co-weaving session with the artist. Those unable to come in person can contribute material remotely via email to with “A Common Thread Contribution” in the subject line. Contributed imagery will be incorporated by the artist themself and through making these materials available to others who come to participate in the weaving process. In this way, the labor of transformation will be shared across a community of participants. For those who contribute remotely, they are putting their materials in the care of others to be transformed; for those who contribute in-person, their own experiences will be in direct conversation with others who have worked on the same textile or have contributed materials to its creation. As the textile grows over the duration of the Session, it will become a visual representation for what a community-driven transformative justice process could look like.

Conversations with Transformative Justice Practitioners

These one-on-one conversations will invite practitioners of Transformative/Restorative Justice to join Rowan Renee in a public conversation that incorporates art-making and somatic movement around the weaving table and loom. Each conversation will address a specific issue or community that has experienced harm, particularly at the intersections of sexual abuse, gender-based violence, systemic racism and discriminatory policing. The conversation will explore different cultural and political strategies being developed and practiced in every-day life to deal with those harms outside the current criminal justice system. These conversations are conceived as part of community-building and collective-envisioning processes that offer a structured way to consider the intersections of art and healing, and the possibilities of art to transform trauma that is carried in the body. They will help inform the artist’s methodology of a full day workshop combining weaving and transformational justice principles that will be the eventual culmination of the Session project.

Session invites artists to use Recess’s public platform to combine productive studio space with dynamic exhibition opportunities. Sessions remain open to the public from the first day of the artist’s project through the last, encouraging sustained dialogue between artists and audiences. Due to the process-based nature of Session, projects undergo constant revision and the above proposal is subject to change.

About the artist

Rowan Renee

Rowan Renee is a Brooklyn, NY based artist who explores how queer identity is mediated by the law. Their work addresses the intergenerational impact of gender-based violence and incarceration through State records and family archives. Their work has been exhibited in solo exhibitions at Smack Mellon (2021), Five Myles (2021), Aperture Foundation (2017), and Pioneer Works (2015), with reviews in publications including VICE, Huffington Post, Hyperallergic, and The New York Times. They have received awards from the Aaron Siskind Foundation, the Harpo Foundation and the Jerome Hill Foundation, and have been an artist-in-residence at the Center for Book Arts, NARS Foundation, Red Bull Arts and the Textile Arts Center. Currently, their project Between the Lines, in collaboration with We, Women Photo, runs art workshops by correspondence with LGBTQ+ people currently incarcerated in Florida. Their installation, No Spirit For Me (2019), was included in the critically acclaimed exhibition Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration, curated by Dr. Nicole R. Fleetwood at MoMA PS1.

artist website


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