Catfish—a long-time symbol of Brackens’s—will appear in a new tapestry, There is a Leak (2020) (the title references the gospel song “There is a Leak in this Old Building”). It features a black figure seated in front of a giant yellow picnic basket and holding a long, forest-green fish. Brackens told me that Texas, his home state, has historically been the largest consumer of catfish. “It feels like the perfect spirit animal or mascot,” he said. The sea creatures are scavengers and survivors, he explained.
Brackens will also bring his work off the walls as he creates three baskets to complement nine new tapestries. He’ll fill the baskets with what he calls a “jelly resin” material molded to look like water. “When I was teaching, I’d tell my students that basketry was the next big thing in textile,” Brackens said. (He began teaching at California State University Long Beach in 2015.)