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Adrienne Sloane makes political statements with jigsaw puzzle pieces

At Storefront Art Projects in Watertown, ‘PeaceWork’ uses a popular pastime to comment on American injustice

Adrienne Sloane, "Culture Wars," wood, laser-cut puzzle, painted soldiers, print on tin box, in "PeaceWork" at Storefront Art Projects.Adrienne Sloane

Adrienne Sloane, a textile artist who needles those in power, has a new medium: jigsaw puzzles. Her show “PeaceWork” is at Storefront Art Projects.

The artist is known for “The Unraveling,” a slow-burn performance piece revolving around a knit American flag. She slowly pulled out the threads of red, white, and blue yarn. It was shown at several sites during and immediately after the Trump administration including Fuller Craft Museum and the Massachusetts State House.

Her jigsaw puzzles are no less pointed. “Missing Pieces Justice” features a double-sided puzzle with the Constitution on one side and names of Black victims of police violence on the other side — a hidden but lurid red underbelly. The unsolved red pieces spill like blood over a mostly put-together founding document.

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Adrienne Sloane, "Missing Pieces Justice," laser-cut, two-sided printed wood puzzle with bag. Adrienne Sloane

In “Culture Wars,” red, white, and blue puzzle pieces can be assembled into a board game. Rifle-toting soldiers in blue and red face off like chessmen atop the finished puzzle. Its box reads “A Classic Real-Time No Rules Game for the whole Family.” Such work is bleakly comic; this game for our American dystopia nods to the pervasiveness of a gun culture that would feature a toddler in advertising. Small print at the bottom cautions, “Please note: choking hazard for children under 2 not already otherwise preoccupied by guns.”

Not all the works are political. For “Unseen Forces,” Sloane adds knitted flourishes to a puzzle detail from van Gogh’s “The Starry Night.” Such pieces feel like sketches, suggesting possibilities of blending the two mediums in a more ambitious piece with more heated content.

Adrienne Sloane, "Unseen Forces," knitting on puzzle assemblage. Adrienne Sloane

But her cultural commentary is razor sharp. “An Incalculable Loss,” made with a quilting machine, features stitches on a fabric print of the New York Times front page from May 24, 2020, as the COVID-19 death toll in the US approached 100,000 (today, it’s over 1 million).

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Adrienne Sloane, "An Incalculable Loss," free-motion quilting.Ellen Wineberg\Storefront Art Projects

Sloane creates a rhythm over the page sewing dark circles around some names and joining them in a trickle of black stitches. Startlingly, George Floyd’s name zig-zags over the whole page in red. Floyd was murdered on May 25, 2020 — the day after that Times front page. Outrage and grief erurpted into the streets.

Sloane uses mediums of comfort and bonding to investigate American fissures — and it’s profoundly disquieting.

ADRIENNE SLOANE: PEACEWORK

At Storefront Art Projects, 83 Spring St., Watertown, through Aug. 27. www.storefrontartprojects.com


Cate McQuaid can be reached at catemcquaid@gmail.com. Follow her on Instagram @cate.mcquaid.