2018 - Present


Without Borders Festival IV: Between You and Me, Lord Gallery

1200 Afro picks, gold leaf, rocking chair, book of poetry

Southern trees bear strange fruit, (Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,) Black body swinging in the southern breeze, Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant South, (The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,) Scent of magnolia, sweet and fresh,(And the sudden smell of burning flesh.)

Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck, For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck, For the sun to rot, for a tree to drop, Here is a strange and bitter crop.

– Abel Meeropol, 1937

 

Strange Fruit serves as both installation and performance space and explores the relationship between historical and contemporary political race relations in the United States.

Approximately 1,200 Afro picks, purchased from a wholesale supply company that provides goods for institutions and organizations, have been gilded with copper-based gold leaf. The combs define the boundaries of the work and the space between the performer and audience. The picks hang with no apparent pattern, yet are uniform and sway gently until disturbed. Their origin, quantity, and uniformity comment on the regulation and institutional control of Black bodies, while referencing the Jim Crow south and the violent practice of lynching and abuse once exercised to maintain power and control over Black communities. The picks are disposable and worthless, yet are undeniably iconic to Black culture, identity, and hair care.

Gold, prized for its value and beauty, is donned with the intent to see and be seen. It has a rich history in Black and African mythology, religion, and popular culture but also revels in a turbulent relationship with mining and slavery – mirroring the history of race relations in the U.S. Repulsion/fascination, object/subject, animal/human, Other/White shape the ideas of Blackness in America. While ‘Blackness’ as a brand is exploited for profit and readily consumed, thousands of Black Americans remain under state control and/or institutional marginalization.

The artist sits in the white rocking chair. She mourns, celebrates, and muses for several hours while humming, singing and reciting prose, lyrics, and notes from a small book. The book remains in the space for audiences to experience and/or recite after the performance. The space may serve as an altar, a mythological Ancestral plain, or even a shrine.


#safetywork, AP/PE Space, Orono, ME

#safetywork manual is a collaborative durational spoken word performance. Several male identifying performers stand in the gallery space wearing nude tights and high heels for the duration of the piece with their bodies, their fatigue, and discomfort on display. Throughout the performance, they recite from a small paper pamphlet entitled #safetywork manual, a poetic instruction of the work that women do to protect themselves from sexual harassment and assault.

The content of the manual was curated by a group of Black female identifying women that live, work, and study in the Orono community. Together they discussed and created the 15-foot banner that hangs in the space, accompanies the performance, and instructs women how to protect themselves against harassment, assault or abuse based on the work that they do to protect themselves in the workplace, their homes, and localities. The aesthetic, orientation, and language were solely determined by the female collaborators; they decided how best to articulate their safety work.

This particular collaborative approach could be adapted to any community. It is entirely reflective of the space in which it is created, and by the individuals who collaborate to bring it to fruition.


Brown Paper Bag Test

2018 / multi-site installation

University of Maine Black History Month

  • Estabrooke Hall

  • Fogler Library

  • Innovative Media Research & Commercialization Center

  • New Balance Recreation Center

  • Memorial Union

  • Nutting Hall

  • Wells Dining Commons

In observation of Black History Month portraits of Women of Color are suspended in seven public locations across the University of Maine. Accompanying each installation location is an a respective webpage housing the narratives of the photographed women recounting their experiences with hair politics, colorism, and their identity.  

Paper bags were once used as a point of comparison to determine which slaves would work as field slaves, and which would be house slaves, with favor given to the fair-skinned. These were often women who were required to raise the master's children and keep the home, as well as serve as mistresses. This resulted in the birth of additional light-skinned children who would also serve as slaves.

The paper bag test continued within Black communities long after slavery was abolished. These standards of beauty are still perpetuated both interracially and interracially through media, popular culture, and in educational and professional settings, and define contemporary forms of colorism. Colorism is defined as discrimination towards individuals based on the shade of their skin, typically between members of the same race.

Photography by Eleanor Kipping