Fine Art PR Publicity Announcements News and Information
Fine Art PR Publicity Announcements News and Information

Textile Museum of Canada Announces Simone Elizabeth Saunders: u.n.i.t.y. Exhibition

The Textile Museum of Canada (the Museum) will present Simone Elizabeth Saunders: u.n.i.t.y., an exhibition of works by Simone Elizabeth Saunders, evoking personal history, Afro diaspora, and Black sisterhood through portraits created with bold, colourful textiles. Saunders’ dramatic tufted works incorporate motifs from her Jamaican heritage and engage with sociocultural factors to reclaim power from oppressive ideologies. Saunders’ background in theatre arts informs her practice as she integrates dramatism and story-telling within her singular creations. Organized by Contemporary Calgary Senior Curator Ryan Doherty, the exhibition will be on view in Toronto from October 12, 2022, to January 29, 2023.

Borrowing iconography from her Jamaican heritage, art history, literature, music, and current events, Saunders depicts single female figures, each a montage of powerful, inspirational Black bodies that collectively surface as a strong and resilient community. As much as these eloquent portraits connote Black joy and perseverance it is when they are presented together that they become narratives of connection that, for Saunders, offers herself and others a potent sense of belonging.

The exhibition includes pieces from Saunders’ Ancestral Bodies series (begun in 2021) honouring her ancestors, and her Protect Black Women series (2020-2021) featuring Four Queens (2021) inspired by Czech artist Alphonse Mucha’s Art Nouveau work Precious Stones (1900), which shows iconic figures and gestures amidst decorative botanical motifs. In Four Queens, Black women take similar poses, but gaze directly at viewers as embodiments of Black Power, Black Dreams, Black Magic, and Black Love. Saunders emulates Mucha’s turn-of-the-last-century artwork in her own style, championing Black womanhood and creating what she calls “Black Nouveau.”

While Saunders has only recently embraced textile art, her great-grandfather in Jamaica was an affluent tailor. She has also been influenced by a range of artists including Gustav Klimt, Alphonse Mucha, Wangechi Mutu, and Renaissance tapestries. Among her influences, she credits Black figures across disciplines and generations who have excelled at their craft and sparked joy including, Maya Angelou, Octavia Butler, H.E.R., Alicia Keys, Queen Latifah, Toni Morrison, Nina Simone, Kehinde Wiley, and Serena Williams among many others.

About the Artist
Simone Elizabeth Saunders (she/her) was born in Calgary, Alberta where she continues to live and work. She received a BFA (Major in Fibre) from Alberta University of the Arts in 2020, and a BFA (Performance) from University of Alberta in 2006. Her textiles are hand tufted mixtures of wool, acrylic, silk, and velvet on rug warp, using a tufting gun and punch needle techniques.

Saunders is a classically trained actor who, prior to making textiles, spent over a decade acting, producing, and writing as a founding member of the Afrocentric Calgary theatre company Ellipsis Tree Collective. The world of theater and film propelled Saunders’ interest in set design, which further ignited her interest in visual arts—specifically fibre arts.

Saunders’ work has been exhibited at Alberta Crafts Council, Edmonton, AB; Art Museum at the University of Toronto, ON; Claire Oliver Gallery, New York, NY; Contemporary Calgary, AB; Marion Nicoll Gallery, Calgary, AB; Metropolitan State University, Denver, CO; Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis, MN; and The Mint Museum, Charlotte, NC. She is included in the exhibition The Social Fabric at ArtsWestchester, White Plains, NY, opening October 2022.

Saunders’ work is in the collections of 21c Museum Hotel, Chicago, IL; Hill Harper House, Detroit, MI; Minneapolis Institute of Art, and The Mint Museum.
Saunders was the National Winner of the Bank of Montreal’s 1st ART! competition in 2020. Her work has been covered by national and international media including Black Art Magazine, Booooooom, Calgary Herald, Canadian Art, CBC, Colossal, Create! Magazine, CTV, Design Milk, Elephant, Fair Lady Magazine Galleries West, Pom-Pom Magazine, Studio Magazine, Surface Design Journal, Toronto Star, and Uppercase Magazine.

She is represented by Claire Oliver Gallery, New York, NY, where she will have her debut exhibition opening in March 2023.

For more information, visit:, @textilemuseumofcanada, and #TMCtoronto, on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Simone Elizabeth Saunders, Excellence, 2021, velvet, acrylic and wool yarn on rug warp, 152 x 152 x 4 cm. Courtesy the Artist and Claire Oliver Gallery. Photo: Jesse Tamayo