Driving between Lawrenceville and her hometown of the Bronx as a student, Kim Dacres ’04
would often muse about the shredded scraps of tires she noticed scattered along the New Jersey Turnpike. But it wasn’t until college that she was able to get her hands on one of the tires and consider how she could use them artistically.
“Each tire has different threads, they’re never all the same pattern or size, and some have metal cables woven in them to help them keep their form,” Dacres says. “The material is really forgiving. I love the color, the smell…there are so many possibilities of what the material can do. It’s strong and flexible.”
For her first solo exhibition, Swerve Team Meeting,
opening at A.I.R. Gallery in Brooklyn, New York, on Thursday, April 18, Dacres used four to seven car or motorcycle tires and 30 to 60 bike tires to form each one of the nine sculptures that comprise her installation.
Sourcing tires from local mechanic shops, garages, construction sites and even picking some up off the street, Dacres turned her Harlem one bedroom co-op apartment into a studio and got to work creating the sculptures. Over a two-year period, Dacres collected, cleaned and braided recycled parts from Harlem and the Bronx. Repurposing existing materials was one of the aspects of her artistic process that Dacres enjoyed most.
“I am taking something nobody really wants and turning it into something that will be appreciated,” she says. “As long as I have my jigsaw and screws, I can make something.”
The nine sculptures draw on hairstyles, features and identities of black women. She selected the tough yet flexible and forgiving materials to emphasize the characteristics of black women inside and outside her community.
“I spent time thinking about influential women and women of color, the archetypes and features of their hair and identities,” she says. “In this installation I am thinking about how those communities and archetypes would influence me.”
Dacres said she is setting up the exhibition in an oval shape, an homage to the Harkness tables found throughout Lawrenceville.
“I like the idea of everyone having an equal voice with no clear head of the table,” she says. “It allows for different perspectives.”
She says the sculptures themselves were inspired by her close friends from Lawrenceville, women she remains in touch with to this day, including Kalifa Waugh, Theresa Simon-Vermot (Collins), Ajara Rahman, Ph.D., Donna Rizzo and Marissa Gant, all members of the Class of 2004.
“It was very formative [being at Lawrenceville together] saying it’s okay to be different, it’s okay we are here existing in a predominantly white space. We still are who we are and where we are,” Dacres says. “We’ve been roommates and friends. The journeys that have happened in these relationships, it’s not just their presence but how we navigate growing up in the world as women of color.”
Dacres says she took “the long way” to becoming a full-time working artist.
“I did not cut straight through the Bowl, I went around the Bowl,” she jokes.
A first-generation Jamaican-American, Dacres earned her bachelor’s degree in studio art and political science at Williams College and a master’s in education from the City University of New York. She then joined Teach for America and taught in the New York City public schools, but says her passion always remained in making art.
“I was always interested in visual arts and visual media, how people express themselves,” she says. With a family who were “DIY people,” Dacres enjoyed building and putting things together, and she began building furniture and studied woodworking at Williams. Her work as a sculpture artist was a natural evolution.
Her first public art installation, Peaceful Perch, a collaboration with Daniel Alexander Matthews, is currently on view in Harlem’s Marcus Garvey Park through September 2019.
Dacres says the discipline she learned as a student at Lawrenceville comes in handy every day as a working artist.
“As an artist you are a self-employed business person – it’s your business from top to bottom, from creation to execution, promoting, networking, finding materials and funding,” she says. “Waking up every day I have business hours. It’s not going to look like study hall but there’s a two-hour time when I’m supposed to be doing something. It keeps me from just dreaming to executing. I one-hundred-and-ten-percent credit Lawrenceville with giving me that skill and understanding where my discipline starts and stops.”
Swerve Team Meeting runs April 18 through May 19, 2019, at A.I.R. Gallery, 155 Plymouth Street, Brooklyn, N.Y.
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