For the past decade, I have worked as a public health researcher analyzing health data in search of patterns of death and disease and then attempting to put these findings into context, piecing together a story of the lives of individuals and communities, how they live and how they die. In my artwork, context, specifically “story”, is essential. I care deeply about the history of our present day dilemmas of racial, economic and social inequity. What are the roots? What is the cause? Where are the injuries? Who are the injured? Who are the injurers? And most importantly is there a cure? I use the mediums of painting and collage undergirded by rigorous historical and epidemiological research to help me interrogate these questions. In my current work, I am tackling gentrification, specifically from my personal vantage - a women of color and Harlem native, displaced.
Gentrification fascinates and frightens me. I’m fascinated by the subtly of it all - a new market here, some new trees there, a new luxury condo springing up overnight, lots of new faces. And frightened by the deliberateness of it all - a public-private apparatus building a whole new neighborhood around you, without you and not entirely for you.
It happened to Harlem, my home of more than 25 years. And if “what’s past is prologue," it will happen to Cuba.
I conceptualized the Cuba Polaroid Project to be an ongoing visual art project that will document via images, videos and first person stories the ways in which Cuba is changing. The current goals of The Cuba Polaroid Project are simple (for now):
- Use one of the oldest photographic media - Polaroid - to archive present-day Havana, Cuba as seen by me, a woman of color impacted personally by gentrification
- Use the images as the focal point for a new body of collage paintings that explores gentrification (abroad and home) and its impact on the built environment and black and brown bodies
- Create an open-source online repository of the unedited images and stories that can be used by other curators, artists and activists interested in Cuba - the place, politics and people
The Cuba Polaroid Project, like all of my self-directed art projects, is inspired by the previously stated questions that anchor my art practice and informed by research. As an artist, it’s my responsibility and privilege to unearth the processes that connect and shape us and to provide a point of reflection, response and remedy.
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