Experiences growing up predominantly in the complex urban environment of New York City while also having lived in D.C., Miami, Chicago, Denver, and Dallas, inform my work for the e/Mergence installation. Economic, social, and political disparities between so-called black and white communities are profound and apparent. The e/Mergence installation hopes to provoke questions about the status of African-Americans in the context of American society and politics to confront marginalization, civil and social injustice, and the absence of adequate economic or political power within a society that professes a foundation of egalitarianism.
My work for this exhibition includes abstraction and surrealism to express humanity. It also brings into question the mergence of perceptions about African-Americans with news and entertainment media propagated and perpetuated stereotypes and misrepresentations and the powerlessness embedded in American society's systems. I am using a fundamental form that carries with it some inherent perceptions about its stability and its power. The pyramid has a long history of conversation regarding its inherent power and the symbological power and structure that it lends when applied metaphorically in analysis and rhetoric.
In his article, Deconstructing the Pyramid of Prejudice, author David Light Shields defines that the pyramid has its power in its structure; the pyramid's base provides stability. The base of the pyramid represents the many in a group. Though they may perpetuate bigotry and intolerance, their acts are often minimized. On the other hand, their position in the scheme supports actors higher in the pyramid architecture (Shields 2014, 22). I am employing the form using a variety of material in sculptural design and combining it with video to represent the physical and intangible together.
Shields, David Light. “Deconstructing the Pyramid of Prejudice.” Phi Delta Kappan 95, no. 6 (2014): 20–24. https://doi.org/10.1177/003172171409500605.
Other Artist's Statements
As we grow in our ability as artists, we also work toward expanding our ability to speak about our work. Toward that goal, I've collected statements made by or on behalf of 5 of my favorite contemporary artists:
Elisabeth Charlotte Rist, better know as Pipilotti Rist is a Swiss visual artist who works with video, film, and moving images which are often displayed as projections. Since her childhood, she has been nicknamed Pipilotti after the character from the novel Pippi Longstocking, by Astrid Lindgren. She believes that art should encourage the mind, destroys prejudices, and create positive energy. Her work is mostly related to gender, sexuality, and the human body. We can say she is a pioneer of moving-image art.
Carrie Mae Weems: Concerned with stepping out of the gallery and interested in reaching a broader public, what started as the naming of a flower for Du Bois has blossomed into A Proposal for The Du Bois Memorial Garden. For their project, visual artist Carrie Mae Weems and landscape architect Walter Hood have created a proposal for the design of a Du Bois Memorial Garden on the campus of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. In this exhibition they consider the planned site, its surrounding landscape, and its meaning. Consisting of drawings, large-scale photographs, small floral studies, and a video projection, the project suggests the possible directions for the final garden and considers types of gardens: formal, casual, floral, sculptural, and even vertical gardens. While Weems made the photographs and crafted the video projection based on Du Bois’s trip to China, Hood produced a series of imaginative drawings invoking the possible aesthetic dimensions of a contemplative garden space. Working closely with Hollingsworth Farms and the American Peony Society, Weems has named a new variety of peony in honor of Du Bois. This flower, which she calls the Peony of Hope, will anchor the garden. It will become available to the general public in September 2013, thereby allowing thousands of garden enthusiasts to engage in a lasting and sustained memory of Du Bois.
Rob J Phillips