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.
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.