Jamaican-born mixed-media fiber artist Michelle Drummond has kicked off the Cultural Council for Palm Beach County’s season with a solo show running through Dec. 3.
Michelle Drummond: Systems can be seen at the Cultural Council’s headquarters on Lake Avenue in Lake Worth Beach.
Selected through a competitive application process, Drummond is one of six Palm Beach County artists whose work was chosen for a solo gallery exhibition. Her work has been featured in the council’s 2021 Biennial exhibition and Karibu: A Celebration of Black Artists in Palm Beach County, as well as other shows throughout South Florida.
The artist, 46, who trained as a mathematician and worked as a project manager, employs various weights, textures and colors of yarn to build three-dimensional forms on and off canvas and wood panels. Incorporating acrylic paint, her creations are both whimsical and socially conscious.
“Michelle’s work is very striking,” says Jessica Ransom, the council’s director of artist services. “Her art is effervescent, bright and deeply thought-provoking. Each piece tells a story. We’re honored that her exhibition will be kicking off our 2022-23 season in our Solo Gallery.”
Drummond, who also runs the Drummond Fine Art Gallery in Delray Beach said she was “honored and happy to be chosen for this exhibit at the Cultural Council.”
Alternating between her right and left brain – her business and artistic sides – Drummond says utilizing the medium of fiber and yarn came to her organically.
“It chose me,” she says. During her last year at St. Lawrence College in Canton, N.Y., Drummond enrolled in an elective sculpture class and had her “eureka moment.”
Remembering the Jamaican artisans who visited Kingston selling handicrafts such as birds made from strings and nails, Drummond created a piece using nails and string on wood. The piece was well-received and Drummond continued to experiment using glue, yarn and acrylic paint, and creating 3-D sculptures.
“I like to experiment with the media and push the boundaries of the material,” she says. “How far to manipulate the yarn and glue to create sculptures which will have an impact and convey messages of hope and optimism.”
She describes her work as “unique, outside the box,” created with methodical layering of multi-weighted and multi-colored yarn and glue to create an original work designed to evoke a variety of emotions.
Growing up poor in Jamaica, Drummond says there was a lack of access to basic services, including water, which has led to her passion about access to systems of basic needs. Her latest series, Flow of Water, is based on these experiences from her childhood.
Last March, Drummond made history when her large-scale, hand-layered fiber sculpture The Metamorphosis was installed outside the Mandel Public Library in West Palm Beach. It marked the first time a Black female artist has had a solo, permanent artwork commissioned by the city through its public art program, ArtLife WPB.
Symbolizing life, knowledge and organic growth, the sculpture honors the library as a resource for everyone and a civic space that aims to advance society.
Her latest piece, titled Restless, refers to the drive to pursue opportunities to achieve one’s goals. It depicts the mind churning, assessing and questioning and is a vision of thoughts translated into action. These and other philosophical ideas are the foundation of Drummond’s work in this series of “Systems.”
“With ‘Systems,’ I hope to introduce my unique medium and technique to a broader audience and showcase new aspects of my work,” Drummond says. “I’d like to shine a light on the subject matter that inspires my work, including accessibility of water, transportation systems and overcoming obstacles.”
An artist-in-residence at the Arts Warehouse in Delray Beach, Drummond works every day in her studio, producing works for her gallery. With a master’s degree in project management from DeVry University, Drummond finds herself constantly switching hats from her business side to her creative side. Business in the morning and art by noon. Once an idea is sparked, she can’t get it out of her head until the piece is created.
She takes a strategic approach to the business side of her artwork, focusing on marketing, promotion, relationship- building, connecting with curators and applying to exhibitions. For fun, she plays field hockey with other expats and once competed in the Pan American games for Jamaica.
She credits her drive to the desire to work hard and elevate herself and family from a challenging environment where she says she didn’t feel like she belonged. “I realized at a young age that I was the one who could get my family out of that environment,” she remembers. “I’m proud of having these values instilled at an early age and of being the responsible person.”
“I strive to leave a mark in society where my work can positively impact an individual and inspire them to see that you are your only limitation,” Drummond says.
She admires Jamaican sculptor Edna Manley, who was the wife of the late prime minister Norman Manley, and American fiber artist and quilter Bisa Butler for her ability to manipulate textiles and bring an image to life.
Highlights to date include the installation at the Mandel Library; exhibiting at the Red Dot Art Fair in 2018; at the Muse Art Fair in 2019; and the current exhibit at the Cultural Council. In 2021, her work was featured in a solo exhibition at Delray Beach’s Cornell Art Museum, and she won Best in Show at West Palm Beach’s Continuum Palm Beach Art Fair in 2020.
Long-term goals include being content emotionally, spiritually, physically and financially and having her work exhibited internationally and collected at a high level.
“I hope to continue creating art, pushing boundaries and to have my work in someone’s home or commercial space so it can be admired and at the same time be impactful and inspiring,” Drummond says.
Michelle Drummond: Systems runs through Dec. 3 at the Council’s headquarters in Lake Worth Beach. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. Admission is free. Visit palmbeachculture.com/exhibitions for more information.