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Tree of Life: A Curatorial Talk with Cydney Pickens, Curatorial Fellow at Houston Center for Contemporary Craft

October 18, 2023 @ 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm


Tree of Life: A Curatorial Talk with Cydney Pickens, Curatorial Fellow at Houston Center for Contemporary Craft | Wed, Oct 18,2023 | 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm EDT | ZOOM

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Join us for a discussion with Curatorial Fellow Cydney Pickens on the exhibition Tree of Life, on view now at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft (HCCC). Tree of Life showcases sculptural objects made from the African blackwood tree, also known as mpingo or Dalbergia melanoxylon. Native to Tanzania and the territory surrounding Mt. Kilimanjaro, this tree has a naturally dark, nearly black, colored core and other unique properties that make it a preferred choice of material for ornamental turning, carving, and use in woodwind instruments. This exhibition features figural sculptures carved in the Makonde tradition by Tanzania-based artists, Joseph Singombe and Pius Mtembe; ornamental turning by the late Texas-based artist James Harris; and woodwind instruments that explore the different methods artists are using when approaching this material.

Image above: James Harris, Clock Tower, No. 4, African blackwood, mother-of-pearl, brass inlay. Photo by James Harris courtesy of Bette Harris.

James Harris, Wave Series Box, No. 18, 2007. African blackwood, acrylic, colored plastic laminate veneers, yellow quartzite. Photo by James Harris courtesy of Bette Harris.


Portrait of Cydney Pickens by Sarah Darro

Cydney Elaine Pickens (she/her) is a curator, appraiser, and avid supporter of the arts currently based in Houston, Texas. While attending the University of Houston, she successfully completed a dissertation investigating the relationship between traditional and modern performance art in Africa and Europe as vehicles for metaphysical understanding. This research continues to inform her craft-centered and community-engaged curatorial practice celebrating the interconnectivity of society through creative expression in raw and synthetic materials such as wood, glass, fiber, and metal. Through her personal art collection, relationships with artists, collectors, and institutions, she displays her devotion to sharing the influence of heritage and cultural identity on contemporary art.


Founded in 2001, Houston Center for Contemporary Craft (HCCC) is a nonprofit arts organization dedicated to advancing education about the process, product and history of craft.  The Center’s major emphasis is on objects of art made primarily from craft materials: clay, fiber, glass, metal, wood or found/recycled materials.

HCCC serves as a treasured resource in the Houston arts community and the region by showcasing exhibitions that span a diversity of artists and concepts, introducing visitors of all ages to contemporary craft through a variety of educational programming and events, and supporting the development of working artists through its artist residency program.

HCCC showcases the best in contemporary craft in a welcoming environment that invites you to stay for a while or drop in often. We hope that you’ll visitfollow us online, and become a supporter.  Free Docent-led tours are available for groups, if scheduled in advance.


The Museum for Art in Wood interprets, nurtures, and champions creative engagement and expansion of art, craft, and design in wood to enhance the public’s understanding and appreciation of it. A suggested donation of $5 per person enables us to provide programs and exhibitions throughout the year.


Questions? Please contact Katie Sorenson, Director of Outreach and Communications, at [email protected].


October 18, 2023
7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Event Category:


Museum for Art in Wood
Huston Center for Contemporary Craft


Museum for Art in Wood
141 N 3rd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106 United States
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