The artist makes incredible handmade quilts inspired by the feeling of being overwhelmed.

Artist Justin Chance’s reverence for writing is evident. Through double entendre and other jeu de mots, he develops titles that carefully amuse his audiences — his ecstatic charm nearly puckish in its ability to complicate as it elucidates. For his first solo exhibition at Tara Downs gallery in New York, he began with the title, Live, a play on the homonym /liv/ the verb and /laiv/ the adjective, eliciting a dual meaning — both aliveness and its eventual mortality, and the immediacy of the moment — existence and instance. While the works in the show span two calendars commemorating the twin towers (along with a third calendar created by Chance including dates of personal loss for the artist) and an image of the late Jenni Crain, a close friend of the artist who passed in 2021, much of the exhibition’s focus is a series of quilts, each evoking a state or concept related to being overloaded and overwhelmed. Quilts like Green Screen (2022–23) and Black Box (2023) are handspun effigies of media culture, signaling intrinsic transmutation and postmortem surveillance. Other titles, like Depression (2022) and Aloha Sadness (2022-23) point with a waggish finesse to melancholia and desperate isolation. Both overtly and covertly, the exhibition examines loss — of people, of place, of time, of image.


“Green Screen” (2023).


“Textbook” (2022-2023).


“Aloha Sadness” (2022-2023).


“Depression” (2022).





Chance uses a wet felting method to make a surface from scratch by soaping, stretching, and then rolling wool with bamboo mats. He then builds the quilt’s design by adding tufts of raw wool piece by piece by poking fibers into place with a hooked felting needle. The additive process allows him to mix hues and develop tones and shadows, building them into vibrant compositions. Lastly, he adds a top layer of hand-dyed silk organza and a back layer of cotton, all sewn together to embed the felted layer and partially obscure its content, sometimes burning small holes into the completed quilts. Stained, speckled, and ribbed by stitched lines, the multilayer suzanis lay flat on the wall, displaying their irregular proportions and distinctive birthmarks. They exist in anachronistic tension as freshly made relics, rewarding the viewer who takes the time to examine their multiplicity.


“Black Box” (2023).


“Violence” (2022-2023).


“A Good Man Is Hard To Find” (2022).



Justin Chance photographed at his studio, Brooklyn, New York. April 2023.


Main image: Coverall by CDLP x JWAN YOSEF. Above: Pants by LOEWE.



This story is printed in GAYLETTER issue 18.