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Layo Bright’s practice explores migration, inheritance, legacy and identity through hybrid portraits, textiles, and mixed media works. Employing a range of materials such as glass, wood and textiles, these forms mirror fragile yet complex relationships with the personal, natural, and built environment. Bright’s work with plastic, checkered bags—often linked to migrants around the world—combines the material with crushed glass to critically address the inevitability of migration and loss in our current global climate. In fusing these and other materials, Bright’s practice carefully considers the legacy of suppressed histories within inequitable class structures.

“This body of work explores issues relating to migration and the injustices related to the global migrant crisis, using plastic checkered bags that are linked to and associated with migration in many parts of the world.

I work with materials that tie into a collective experience of migration with the Ghana must go bags I use in my works. They are checkered polyethylene tote bags that were imported from China to Nigeria in the 1980s. There was a xenophobic law at the time that forcefully deported around 2 million Ghanaians from the country. With the urgency of the situation and having to flee Nigeria on short notice with personal belongings, many Ghanaian migrants used the bag to move their belongings. The bags, which were imported to Nigeria from China, were a preference for the fleeing migrants as they were lightweight, foldable and cheap bags. This whole event, of a mass exodus of Ghanaians fleeing with their belongings in these bags, led to the bags being known as Ghana must go bag in Nigeria. I was born in Nigeria and grew up there, so I’m familiar with this material and have a personal history connected to it. As an artist living in the US after migrating here for further studies, I relate to the connotations of the bag as a migrant living abroad.

In several parts of the world, the checkered tote bags are linked to migrant communities. For instance it is known as ‘Zimbabwe bag’ in South Africa, in Germany it is called the “Türkenkoffer” (Turkish suitcase), in the USA, the “Chinatown tote”, in Guyana, the “Guyanese Samsonite”, and in various other places, the “Refugee Bag”.

I fuse sheets of glass and crushed glass as an overlay to the bags on the panel because I’m interested in the glass ceiling effect. These fused sheets of glass overlay the checkered plastic bag in my works, to disrupt the pattern and either reveal or conceal the pattern. The “glass ceiling effect” is a metaphor to represent the invisible barrier that migrants have to contend with to either assimilate into a dominant culture to blend in, or the barriers to entry that prevent migrants from being accepted into or allowed into countries (e.g. anti-immigration policies). “


Bright (b.1991, Lagos, Nigeria) received her LL. B (Hons.) from Babcock University (2014), was called to the Nigerian Bar Association (2015) and received her MFA in Fine Art (Hons.) from the Parsons School of Design (2018) and is the recipient of honors and awards including the Ron Desmett Award (2023), UrbanGlass Visiting Artist Fellowship (2023), NXTHVN Fellowship (2021), the International Sculpture Center’s 2018 Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award (2018); and the Beyoncé Formation Finalist Scholarship (2017). Bright has exhibited work both internationally and nationally. Bright’s recent exhibitions include A Two Way Mirror: Double Consciousness in Contemporary Glass by Black Artists, Museum of Glass, Tacoma, WA, USA; Between the Seams, PM/AM Gallery, London, England; The Glass Show, Halsey McKay Gallery, East Hampton, NY, USA; Rockhaven, Monique Meloche Gallery, IL, USA; Undercurrents, Sean Kelly Gallery, NY, USA; Woman to Woman, Bode Projects, Berlin, Germany; among others. She is the 2023 Ron Desmett Award recipient from the Pittsburgh Glass Center and has participated in several artist residencies including the Laurie Wagman Visiting Artist & AIR at Tyler School of Art, NXTHVN Fellowship in New Haven, CT; Triangle, Brooklyn, NY; Flux Factory, Queens, NY; The Studios at Mass MoCA, North Adams, MA; Tri-tryagain Studio Residency, Brooklyn, NY; International Studio Center Sculpture Residency at Grounds for Sculpture, Hamilton Township, NJ. Currently, she is participating in the Visiting Artist and Designer Fellowship at UrbanGlass in Brooklyn, NY. In Fall 2023, Bright participated in the Visiting Artist Residency at The Museum of Glass, Tacoma WA.

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