Family Ties
featuring Mary Edna Fraser, Labanna Babalon, and Reba West Fraser
MAY 25 – JULY 29, 2018
Opening May 24 from 6 – 8PM

Instagram @thesouthern.gallery , #FamilyTies #TheSouthern

The Southern gallery and The Vendue Art Hotel are collectively pleased to present Family Ties, an exploration of the interconnectedness of a family of makers: the matriarch, batikist, printmaker, and oil painter, Mary Edna Fraser, youngest daughter and multimedia artist, Reba West Fraser, and eldest daughter and performance artist, Labanna Babalon. The exhibition, curated by Erin and Justin Nathanson, will be housed at The Vendue Art Hotel’s Gallery 26 at 26 Vendue Range and be on view from Friday, May 25th through July 29, 2018.

Mary Edna Fraser, mother of two and renowned artist and activist, lives and works on James Island in the same house and studio that she raised her two daughters. Mary Edna is widely known for her batiks that speak to the waterways and rising tides in Charleston, South Carolina. At this time, she has completed an incredible 542 silks. Although her recently developed allergies to the chemistry of the batik process has inhibited her from fully continuing in that medium in with the same ferocity she had in the past, Mary Edna has more than found her groove with oil painting.

Mary Edna’s work notoriously sports bright, vivid colors as well as a birds eye view of various natural scenes, and her breadth of knowledge and experience in batiking has widely influenced her painting practice. The scope of her oil palate is on track to compete with the massive scale of her batik dyes (115 colors, divided into warm, neutral and cool hues), and Fraser says that “[oil painting] is really a wonderful and exciting medium, much easier than batik to me yet challenging [in it’s own regard].” For Family Ties, Mary Edna will present a new body of paintings as well as a new batik she and her daughter Reba recently created together for this show.

Mary Edna made sure to engage the girls in her batik process and educate them on the functionality of the art world. “It wasn’t until I made a batik with my mother recently, that I saw how much she included me in her everyday practice as a child”, Reba recalls. “ I would come into her studio and she would let me pick which brush she should use next, help her choose colors, wipe away the dye that bubbled on top of the wax and even name her work.” This constant immersion into the physicality and emotionality of the art-making process truly molded the two artists into the strong, creative women Labanna and Reba are today.

Reba West Fraser currently lives in Asheville, North Carolina and owns a thrift store named Hey Okay Good Goodies in addition to her studio practice. She graduated from Alfred University in Alfred, New York, with a focus in painting, printmaking, and ceramics. This multimedia approach can still be seen throughout Reba’s work through her beautiful use of collaged materials and myriads of mark making techniques.

Her work for Family Ties is a collection of pieces that reflect impactful passages from her childhood. Reba describes it as “a mix of many mediums –a combination of ceramics and painting, patterns that mimic textiles, and experimentation with materials. […] My mother has a large handmade ceramic and textile collection inspired by Japanese kimonos for their extreme attention to detail and elaborate patterns.”

“Becoming an artist with two professional and well-known parents is intimidating”, says Reba, “[…] but when creating, I am my happiest and truest self.” With her father, West Fraser, being a color theorist, and her mother being so bold with her 115+ color palate, Reba has plenty of incredible influence and guidance that can easily be seen in her work. “Most of my work is very colorful, and almost comical”, she claims. Throughout the mass of her work, the viewer picks up on hints of jest and lightheartedness where materials are concerned, but true knowledge and finesse when it comes to composition and color theory. The playful experimentality of Reba’s childhood has perfectly matured along with her, she says that “art is in my blood and anytime I try to escape it, I always find myself coming back and feeling at home in the chaos and comfort it brings.”

Labanna Babalon, the eldest daughter, sister, and practicing healer before birth. Her entrance into this world was greeted with death. Restoring her mother energetically to aid in recovering from the loss of her firstborn son, Daniel. Now settling into New Orleans, after a decade of performing across the globe. Some of which includes a performance in feature-length movie “Desire Will Set You Free” by Yony Leyser, and bringing her internet energy healing from her bedroom to life for Moma Ps1. She has 555 videos on YouTube where, if willing to participate, viewers witness other dimensions and do actively feel her energy uplifting their souls.

Coming from such a place of artistic privilege has allowed Labanna to think far outside of the box. Unconditional love is what has driven her to dive into spectrums of society that others hold intense shame. Knowing these are the parts of human consciousness that need the most love. Using dance, costuming, set design and installation, video art, food spells, and music she is able to set the stage for channeling the divine feminine. By using her body as a medium she is able to defy the male gaze, her hips become a weapon against patriarchy. Inspired by her mother’s activism for the planet, she focuses on liberating the act of ownership.

Focusing on the theme of “Family Ties” she wants to work with her families ancestors to start the painful process of healing the more traumatic southern legacies. With durational and interactive altars throughout the exhibit. She hopes that this will not only generate within the gallery space but will coil as vines in the directions it’s most needed. This is a process of revisitation: untying knots to gain the secret seed of wisdom buried in the hard skulls which have perpetuated enduring constructs of oppression. Unraveling is an unavoidable part of this journey toward awareness, accountability & healing.

Some say that a familial lineage of artists has genetic causation. Situationally, this could be seen as true, as in the case of Jane and Louise Wilson, identical twins who share a studio in London. Sometimes, however, it seems as though proximity is as good of a reason as any, like with Monet’s step daughter & daughter-in-law, Blanche Monet (an odd relationship, but not blood related, nonetheless). Then there are the Frasers, who, though genetically related, live in an undeniably perfect incubator for budding artists. Mary Edna fully immersed Reba and Labanna in a creative lifestyle and wholeheartedly endorsed individualistic expression and creative experimentation.


A portion of artwork sales from “Family Ties” will benefit an organization near and dear to the Fraser women:

We Are Family

Their mission is to provide direct support, resources, and leadership development opportunities for lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, questioning, asexual, transgender, intersex, and straight ally youth.

Learn more about and make a direct donation to We Are Family at https://www.wearefamilycharleston.org/donate/