10 Years ago I was asked by Danish curator Jacob Fabricius to contribute to a zine he was starting about everyday items. He asked artists from around the world to contribute and I was honored to be on the cover of the first edition with an article I wrote about "food". The edition was about food-in a kind of way (to borrow a phrasing from Jamaica Kincaid in "A Small Place"). I chose to write about the holiday "Bull and Bread" which is also named David Hamilton Jackson day on November 1st. It is mind blowing to think that 10 years later here I am working in an art studio on a property that was his childhood home. (This is something we discovered earlier this year on another project www.thehousethatfreedombuilt.com) Only with time and reflection can you see how the currents of destiny will direct your life. But here below is the article. And here is the link to the entire zine if you would like to read it.
I see my art practice as an investigative tool, as a way to engage in dialogue, a platform for thinking and a means to develop knowledge. My work has evolved from figurative and symbolic explorations in painting to a variety of modes that include drawing, video, performance, installation and public intervention projects. Therefore, the emphasis of my work does not lie in the medium, but in creating a space to explore social contexts and collective narratives. History, film, soap-operas, fairy-tales and mythology all inform my work in that they are both narrative modes that I use as well as sites of investigation. I look for the narratives inscribed in various objects and places and find ways to add to them and at times subvert them. Because I live in the Virgin Islands, a place that has changed colonial hands seven times, the longest being Denmark and the last being the United States, I am particularly interested in the colonial and neocolonial narrative and how it shapes identity, memory and reality. (return to website)
Tuesday, November 1, 2016
Wednesday, October 26, 2016
LEDGERS FROM A LOST KINGDOM
It was inspired by summarizing the two main impressions from my trip this summer 2016. The first impression is about the documents. There is this overwhelming amount of written information, photographs, records that is becoming available in the next few months leading up to the Centennial of the transfer of the Virgin Islands from Denmark to the US. But as I had the opportunity to look at some of the information and archives in various institutions what struck me was how imbalanced the records are. To use an accounting term, how “unreconciled” the accounts are. There was all of this transactional information about the colonies. Even the way the Virgin Islands is still currently presented in the Danish National Museum is in a section that talks about the colonial trade posts. And there was this feeling that the people were missing, the souls were missing, our stories were missing, how we were affected was missing. And I wonder how could that be in the ledgers too? When learning about the archives in the Danish National Museum that dealt with the Virgin Islands I learned that there exists a collection of items that were made by the enslaved population. Things like a hammock, a drum, various gourds that were beautifully decorated and guitars. I realized that it was the first time I had ever seen anything that was made by them. In museums the enslaved are generally represented by imagery, chains, torture tools, things like that. The humanity gets lost. But seeing these beautiful objects was really life changing for me. It shifted something inside of me. And I want to find a way to document that.
The second impression was that this time around I was overwhelmed by many Danes making statements about a "lost paradise", lamenting that they "sold us", suggesting that maybe they should have "kept us". It was particularly jarring to have someone suggest “we should buy you back”. Apparently a Danish scientific blog had an April Fools Day joke that included showing a manipulated version of the 1916 check for 25 million dollars with a disclaimer on the back saying that in March 31, 2017, the Danes could buy the Virgin Islands back from the US for the same amount. Interestingly enough many people did not realize that this was a joke and somehow it got into the collective consciousness as many people talked to me about it upon meeting them. I don’t think it helps that with the increased tourism between Scandinavia and the Virgin Islands with direct flights on Norwegian airlines and tour companies like Bravo the marketing has centered upon the resurrection of a mythology of the “lost paradise”, a "Danish West Indian playground". So I wanted to find a way to talk about these things and center my exhibition on these concepts. There is a need to "reconcile the books”, the ledgers, both the financial accounts and the social narratives of what was truly lost, where the imbalances occurred, where the discrepancies are. I am so grateful for the opportunity and look forward to March 2017!
And on a side note, because I love side notes. I live for them, they are everything! I obsessed a little over which preposition to use in the title: “of” or “from”. Upon researching the definition of both I realized that I preferred to use “from” which denotes distance and location as opposed to “of” which denotes belonging. This is “our” shared history, not just the history from some isles in the Caribbean, but European, American and African history. So I chose to focus on the location and the distance that “from” implies.
Monday, October 24, 2016
Honored to participate in this exhibit at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco. I am showing two pieces: Cuts and Burns and an installation that includes my Chaney paintings.
To see more, click here:Where is Here
Sunday, July 31, 2016
I am currently at a residency at the Danish Arts Workshop. It is the most well resourced art space I have ever been to or even heard of. It encompasses a metal workshop, wood working shop, photo darkroom, graphic design facility, library, 3-d printing studio, printmaking studio, textile studio and almost 2 dozen artist studios of various sizes but many to do large scale projects.. Oh, and it's free. Paid for by the Danish government. International artists can apply if they have a project in Denmark, and housing is provided. I'm here because I have been invited by curators Louise Lassen Iverson and Rie Hovmann Rasmussen for a solo exhibit in their new art space "meter", slated to open later this year. My show will be in March-May 2017. I'm currently in Denmark from July 25-August 16, 2016 and I have jumped into intense studio work. I am working on my "cuts and burns" series and realized I can actually make a project that I have had in my sketchbook for over a year due to the equipment and technical support that is here. It's related to the "cuts and burns" series I have been working on in that it references the fretwork designs in historic towns on St. Croix.
Friday, April 29, 2016
Interview that aired on Danish National TV this week for a program called Kald Mig Bare Brun (Call Me Brown)
I was interviewed sometime last year in my studio to talk about my artwork in the context of the relationship between the Virgin Islands and Denmark. My sections starts at 22:47 and the part that starts in the Virgin Islands (and with English interviews) is at 12:10ish. Dr. George Tyson (historian), Shelley Moorehead and myself are interviewed respectively.
I love the question that Anna Neye asks me: What kind we use that kind of knowledge for today?
"That kind of knowledge" refers to history.
I like my response. Check it out here:
Call Me Brown- Kald Mig Bare Brun
Saturday, March 5, 2016
The show opened March 3, 2016. I showed two series of work: the "Cuts and Burns" series I have been working on for about a year and this newer series of photo-montage work that consists of juxtaposing images to create alternative narratives.
“Fatalism and Fairy Tales and the Predictable Magic of Everything” is a photo-montage that uses two images: one of a story written by the artist’s brother as a young child and saved by their mother; and two of the same brother as a teenager captured in the middle of the act of dunking. The piece questions which of these images in the fairy-tale, the act of the boy attempting to fly, or the story of the boy with the fatalistic future, surprisingly imagined by a young boy himself. The piece re-creates a tension between the hope and hopeless often experienced in the growing up of black boyhood.
These photo-montages are a series that explores images from the Danish archives of the Danish West Indies and juxtaposes them with images from the personal archives and albums of the artist. They included images of the artist as an infant in the Virgin Islands and young child in Wisconsin while her father went to seminary school. There is an image of her mother carrying her youngest brother and an image of her father who was a Moravian and later an Anglican priest. The narratives embedded in the images become collapsed, converted, contested and re-imagined in the simple gesture of juxtaposition and/or adding captions to the images. Most of the captions are directly from the archives and then text is added to incorporate another layer to the narrative.