Posted on / by bwva2021 / in Journal Entry

AN EXHIBITION REVIEW: HERE. THERE. EVERYWHERE.

Written by: Jasmine Wilson

In a past and present world where Black women resist and wander in the name of freedom, they collectively imagine a future where ancestors, the living, and the not-yet-living coexist through art. Sierra King’s here.there.everywhere. comprises this reality. It is the place where Black women stand in their individuality and gather to form a community free from racial and gender norms. Their paintings, books, food, sculptures, and ancestor altars reflect their commitment to display their gifts. These women are dancers, writers, filmmakers, and archivists. With King as keeper of their work, every artist has a distinct purpose to fulfill. Jazmine Hayes, Chandler Stephens, Ebony Blanding, Ellex Swavoni, Mwandisha Gator, Sierra Bush, Jasmine Nicole Williams, Rita Harper, Natrice Miller, Stephanie Brown, and Toya Beacham serve in this community by way of Atlanta’s MINT Gallery. Their creative offerings, honoring of the Self, and commitment to one another fill the gallery’s facade. Freedom is their collective purpose, and each of them strides towards it in King’s curatorial debut.  

This show is not for the weak. It requires confrontation, humility, and reckoning with conventional notions of identity. Jasmine Nicole Williams’ woodcut print Everything I Am (2020) greets visitors at the front door, where they must recognize the dynamics of sisterhood, friendship, and womanhood at play. In Williams’ print, we find her surrounded by her sisters, Dartricia Rollins and Sierra King. These women are adjoined at the crown, looking in different directions but connected nonetheless. Whether they are gazing into the future or looking outward to protect one another is a secret kept between them. Scattered across the print are the words, “I Am A Woman,” “I Am A Woman,” “I Am A Woman,” “I Am A Woman.” In its repetition, we receive the mantra that governs their existence and affirms their humanity as women.  

Gallery visitors viewing Chandler Stephens and Jazmine Hayes’s collaborative installation, Coded (2020). Courtesy of John Stephens.
Detailed view of Chandler Stephens and Jazmine Hayes’s collaborative installation, Coded (2020). Courtesy of John Stephens.

In the next phase of the show, King takes visitors through even deeper levels of interiority and communication. We meet artists Chandler Stephens and Jazmine Hayes in Coded (2020). With Stephens’ mural traversing the wall in smooth black lines, her piece is complimented by Hayes’ iteration of Black womanhood through the weaving of Earthly-colored braids and low-hanging patterns of hair. At first, the piece suggests disparate meanings. One moves in multiple directions on the wall, while the other exposes the three-dimensional possibilities of abstraction. King reminds us that this is what community thrives on. It is energized by the differences between one another and the ability to honor each person’s character at all times. Through their distinctive qualities, Coded symbolizes the many languages of abstraction and the layers of tone, texture, and color all Black women possess. It centers individuality as the essence of community and affirms Black women’s ability to radiate in their variance. 

 
The basket filled with cards for people to write notes to plants and a note from Ebony directing them to Talk to Plants (2018). Courtesy of John Stephens.

Taking us through the remainder of the show, King summons the ancestors with Ebony Blanding’s Talk to Plants (2018). Blanding embellishes her altar with plants and a white cloth to fill the front wall of the gallery. Visitors are encouraged to water her plants and write notes of gratitude as an offering of appreciation. Beside the altar is Blanding’s experimental film, featuring artist and actress Danielle Deadwyler. Viewers can sit, reflect, and receive its southern motifs as it projects on the gallery wall. An homage to Blanding’s late grandmother Daisy, the film offers the movement and motion necessary to make the ancestors feel welcome, honored, and respected. It is as though nothing passes through this space without acknowledging that which gives life. Through Blanding’s offering, the ancestors are exalted and are in good company beside Natrice Miller’s photographs, Revival, Rebirth, and Reset (2018, et al.). Floating on fabric above the gallery floor, Miller’s photographs depict a woman in white and pink clothing. Her locs lapse the time and whip in every possible direction between the three staggered photographs. In her photographs, Miller evokes the many phases of transformation Black women experience and depicts the stillness and movement required to heal. 

 
Detailed view of Ellex Swavoni’s Call on Your Ancestors 5 (2019). Courtesy of John Stephens.
Ebony Blanding sitting and watching her film Talk to Plants (2018). Courtesy of John Stephens.

The remaining offerings in this community comprise delicately crafted sculptures, intentionally set dinner tables, and a painting of a Black woman sitting nude and unbothered by the world around her. These works are not to be missed, nor do they lack significance, as they, too, contribute to the overall freedom of the space. It is King’s personal archive, however, where we see her curatorial aim and mission come to life. Atop multiple white shelves are books by her literary mothers, Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, Saidiya Hartman, and Pearl Cleage, among others. Each of these women provide the intellectual nourishment to put on a show of this magnitude. Between these texts are vintage polaroids, photos of friends and loved ones, and a monumental sign that reads: “PROTECT THE BLACK WOMAN.”

 
Wide view of Sierra King’s archival Installation as Sierra and visitors onlook Jazmine Hayes’s I’ll always place treasures in your hair (2018). Courtesy of John Stephens.

In its width and declaration, the piece towers over its viewers and grounds the work of King as the sole protector of the women in this community. This is the role of a curator. It is not placing works or arranging objects beautifully, but standing in one’s truth and honoring the work of the women who unequivocally nourish her. These are the women who King surrounds herself with and chooses to imagine new possibilities of existence. These women help her to know herself, as she encourages them to explore their nuances and welcomes their variance. While here.there.everywhere. is King’s curatorial debut, her masterful construction of a multidimensional world for Black women artists tells us this is surely one of many exhibitions to come.


Jasmine Wilson is a writer, critic, and Graduate Research Assistant for the AUC Art History and Curatorial Studies Collective. Originally from Atlanta, GA, Jasmine is currently pursuing her Master’s in African American Studies at Clark Atlanta University.

 

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