ISCP Pollock-Krasner Residency Application Work Samples


untitled, 2018 work in progress, digital video, 00:05:06

In development, this piece seeks to examine and perhaps challenge America’s understanding of the Blackness. Black culture is historically rooted in agriculture, rurality, and landscape, yet Capitalism and racism are heavily founded and perpetuated by a stereotypical representation of Blacks in urban and/or dismal spaces. I am interested in this dichotomy both on a personal biographical level, as well as how it pertains to the national imagination on race. The video depicts Black bodies, primarily alone, in lush, beautiful rural outdoor spaces in Maine and examines the aforementioned relationships through video portraiture that plays in slow motion and evokes a commercial aesthetic.

I began this piece while in residence at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. As Black mixed-race female and Maine native, much of my formative experiences and understandings of race and gender were informed by discovering myself as an ‘Other’ in a state informed primarily by an overwhelmingly White culture. This took place in striking contrast to my experiences had while visiting my family in Jamaica, Queens in New York, a predominantly Black and diverse community.

 

The American Weight, 2018 work in progress, digital video installation, continuous loop

The American Weight is an audio/video installation comprised of dozens of found footage clips of various lengths that have been sourced through social media (YouTube, Facebook). They play asynchronously at the same time, each in their own time and on a continuous loop.

This work employs the notion of waiting and queues as a means to explore the relationship between the institutional regulation of the Black body, commodified exchanges, cultural production, and labor in the United States. Throughout history, the presence of Blackness has played a pivotal role in shaping global economies and institutions. Be it a queue, a dance line, or a funeral procession, the line serves as a means of organization, production, streamlining, giving, receiving, aesthetics, viewing and exhibiting, as well as consumption and movement. Additionally, it serves as a source of anxiety, anticipation and/or hope. Thus, it reveals underlying relationships between and within individuals, groups, the dominant and minority.

 

Strange Fruit, 2018, performative installation: 1200 Afro picks, gold leaf, rocking chair, 2 hours

 Photo by Jim Winters, Lord Hall Gallery, Orono, Maine, 2018

Photo by Jim Winters, Lord Hall Gallery, Orono, Maine, 2018

Photo by Jim Winters, Lord Hall Gallery, Orono, Maine, 2018

Photos by Jim Winters, Lord Hall Gallery, Orono, Maine, 2018

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 the 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 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.

 

i will not say nigger, 2017-2018, performance, 2 hours

Photo by Amy Pierce at the Innovative Media Research and Commercialization Center, Orono, ME, 2017

Photo by Jessa Carter at the Yellow Fish Durational Performance Festival, Seattle, WA, 2018

The artist begins the performance before audiences enter the space; she is writing the words 'i will not say nigger'  on a large sheet of brown paper that has been nailed to a wall and is covered in charcoal, referencing a chalkboard. She is conservatively dressed. She writes lines for a period of time determined by the performance space and performance duration. For example, at the Yellow Fish Durational Performance Festival, duration was determined by the length of an audio recording which played in the space on a tape-cassette. The audio was a 30-minute recording of poetry and prose performed by the artist. Upon completion of the playback, the artist stops writing and turns to address the audience in a spoken confession.

She begins her monologue by asking the audience and herself who the word 'nigger' belongs to, who has the right to use it; she wonders who exactly is a nigger. She concludes that she is a nigger and begins to remove her Eurocentric makeup, jewelry, and dress. She stands in her underwear before the audience, revealing her natural braided hair and dark skin color, speaking in open confession on the reasons that her 'light skin is not right skin'. She redresses into an outfit stereotypical of a Black female. She pushes play on the tape cassette and returns to writing lines. This cycle can be repeated as appropriate for the venue.

i will not say nigger explores the language and exchanges that take place between dominant and minority cultures/races, but often go unaddressed. The unspoken is present in relationships, the workplace, and other social encounters. They are subtle, difficult to define, and are often brushed under the rug, yet reveal that we are far from the post-racial society that so many insist exists. The structure of the work also examines the intersections between durational performance, theatre, and spoken word and improvisation.

 

Brown Paper Bag Test, 2017, 2018, installation: 7-13 24”x48” digital photographs, audio recordings

Photo by Eleanor Kipping, Estabrooke Hall, Orono, Maine, 2018

Photo by Eleanor Kipping, Fogler Library, University of Maine, 2018

In observation of Black History Month portraits of Women of Color are suspended in seven public locations across the University of Maine campus. Portrait backs are exposed and covered in brown paper. Accompanying each installation location is a respective webpage housing the narratives of the photographed women recounting their experiences with hair politics, colorism, and their identity. This iteration of the work was accompanied by a series of WOKEshop®️, lectures, and panels designed and facilitated by me and concentrated primarily on allyship.

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.