in Collaboration with Cyle Warner
at The Barn

May 4, 2024

Cyle and I shared a wall in the Art Barn of the Norfolk School of Art program for 6-weeks, the summer of 2022. Over in the east wing, our wall didn’t reach the ceiling meaning that we would share every sound. I liked his music, and the sound of his sewing machine late into the night. We gradually became friends, through impromptu studio visits, frisbee in the courtyard and many late night meals. Although we grew up on opposite ends of the country, we learned we had several things in common, soccer, track, we were both Eagle Scouts, family roots in the Caribbean, he had one younger sister of the same age difference and of course, a passion for making. 

The first thread I observed through Cyle’s work was fabric. Within a week his studio walls were full of stretcher bars with a variety of woven, sewn, knotted and stretched fabrics hanging onto them. He was clearly painting, but rather than wet globs or strokes, we would cut and stitch his pallet to the frame. The results are only a fraction of the beauty in his work, his process also stands out to me. Cyle gathers fabrics with intention and familial sensibility. Both his mother and grandmother are seasoned seamstresses, they gift their son the sections of fabric they’ve collected over decades. However the fabric in this work, The Scars X, the burlap sacks are collected from corn deliveries to the grocery store where Cyle’s father works. The sacks are slashed open and discarded, Cyle recovers them and mends their wounds, rather than returning them to a sack, he puts them together creating one long continuous burlap. From the overlapping and interlocking of each bag, the texture of the burlap, it is clearly a materials that has lived; reminiscent of the molted skin of those 200 kilo anacondas that remind us that dinosaurs are still very much real. It’s a daunting object, yet, when limp, it felt to me like its life, its pulse, was missing. 

During our time in Norfolk I watched Cyle’s practice expand into sculpture and performance. I had the pleasure of participating in Cyle’s piece called X, which required 4 active participants to precariously balance 4 collapsable wood posts on their base, using only one string to tether their heads together. It was a ritual, we had partners and rehearsed it, and eventually performed it for our cohort for Cyle’s crit. I’ll never forget looking at my performance partner Raphael Hayes across the room, with this thought then wobbly string connecting us. Every movement would be exaggerated the other side of the line. I remember seeing Raphael’s big pointer finger sitting atop the 2x4. It didn’t look he was moving a muscle, but I could feel that he was. Our bodies would communicate across the string. Finding the balance was not only a physical balance but a social one. Teamwork in silence. Once all pairs of the post were balanced, the structure stood on its own. I remember stepping back with pride, and glancing over to Cyle (who did not participate in the performance), arms crossed, deadpan face as usual, but his eyes revealed the wheels turning. 

Lately Cyle has taken an interest in breeze blocks and site-specificity, as he spends more time in the Caribbean, with a stint of time in St. Kitts and Nevis. Cyle traveled there with one of his pieces, X, already complete. It was created by the hands of Coles inner most circle of friends night together in Brooklyn, with forms mirrored the breeze-blocks found in the architecture of Trinidad. He showed it in a group exhibition, with no price-tag. Not for sale. Cyle folded up the work, packed in his checked ikea bag, and flew down to St. Kitts. There, he installed the work under palms and Caribbean sunshine, letting the island breeze slip through the work. It danced like a magic carpet that had just gotten washed, enjoying drying in the wind, before flying off to her next destination. 

A couple weeks later, I got my monthly call from Cyle. He mentioned he was planning on coming to Austin. I promised him the warmest of welcomes. “Bring something to tinker with”, I left it at that. He arrives with his friend Melany who was organizing a film screening, who stayed with Ani, a badass neon artist and newly wed Austinite who chose Little Darlin as our destination for the evening. We played pool all night, cracked jokes. The next morning, like all Saturdays was a slow start. Under the muted gray sky that has been the protagonist of this last month in Austin, we eventually made our way to The Barn. The Barn is one of my top 3 places in town, only after my childhood home and Barton Springs pool. It’s the brainchild of a dear friend who goes by the pseudonym “Catdaddydog”, who has transformed what have been a regular residential plot in the neighborhood of Cuernavaca into a dreamer’s paradise. The Barn can’t be encapsulated in words, or photos, perhaps only by a deep sense of wonder, and the presence of a seemingly infinite amount of items, objects, materials. Admits the density and chaos, there is a deep sense of order, and care. I enjoy days there; tinkering, exploring, uncovering, moving, building, dismantling, collecting, cleaning, covering, questioning, combining.  I invited the crew to basque in that energy for the afternoon. The girls enjoyed a walk through, but left soon after. Cyle stuck around “Do you have any rope?” “I’m sure there is some here, we just need to find it.” I closed my eyes a prayed to The Pantheon of the Barn. The God of Coils responded in a quarter hour, revealing to me 2 study ropes admits a pile of over a dozen extension cords. 

Cyle chose to hang the blue burlap in the live oak tree, I sat underneath, watching his sillouhete through the blue-stained burlap, climbing up and down the branches, adjusting knots and taking photos. 
For the longer piece, the anaconda skin, Cyle chose two locations to install his work.

I watched the fall from the steel pavilion, realizing for the first time that the two ends were actually joined. As Cyle started coming down the later, I walked down the burlap hallway, feeling it brush against my arms, suddenly found myself inside and my world turn burlap.
For the following 30 minutes I activated the work…