Me, We, Women

LaRissa Rogers Bio:

Rogers is an interdisciplinary artist born in Charlottesville, VA. She holds a BFA in Painting and Printmaking and BIS in International Fashion Buying from Virginia Commonwealth University. She looks at the intersections of culture, identity, and embedded forms of colonization expressed through perception and psyche. Combining aspects of memory, history, and personal experience, she delves into what is her blackness by addressing ideas of hybridity, authenticity, and visibility as an Afro-Asian woman. Through performance, video, and installation she addresses the systems of commodification, representation, and female-identified subjectivity, as shaped by the experience of diaspora.

She has exhibited work in institutions such as ICOSA in Austin TX, Fields Projects in NY, Welcome Gallery in Charlottesville VA, Target Gallery in Alexandria VA, 1708 Gallery in Richmond VA, Second Street Gallery in Charlottesville VA, The Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative in Charlottesville VA, Art 29 in Doha Qatar, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Virginia Beach VA. [More at bottom of page].


 

 


 

title: I know there was a red twin size bed in the room (Red twin size bed cut in half and bound with yarn and a hand-embroidered handkerchief

“I was inspired by the resilience of women of color, especially as figures who hold families together. My Grandmother on my dad’s side was a single mother, and my great-grandmother on my mom’s side lost her husband early and didn’t remarry. They both raised multiple children and provided for the family single-handedly. Though my parents are together, growing up, my home was always filled with adopted and foster siblings, and through my mother, I was taught what unconditional love looked like. But, as a daughter, I also witnessed the juxtaposition that comes with a mother’s desire to protect the family and sometimes the inability to do so.

The twin-size bed is the heart of this body of work and is repeated in different ways throughout multiple works. The repetition becomes important because I am also interested in the slipperiness of memory, its ephemerality, fragility, and ability to continuously transform into new shapes and meaning. The repetition allows for the viewer to assume their own experiences as it relates to the bed and adolescence. For me, the bed draws from a childhood memory, while also referencing a photograph that was used as the basis of the story quilt ‘invisible weight.’ At the time, I was thinking through notions of safety and comfort. Symbols of protection and how sometimes these objects, memories, and spaces can also hold violent and traumatic connotations. The bedroom is a space of intimacy where you are allowed to navigate freely without being constantly surveilled. But, it can also be a place of vulnerability. The home space becomes this location to reflect on ownership, placemaking, exposure, care, and love. What does it mean to strip the comfort and protection off the bed to the point it loses its original function and becomes a hazard?

The bed is also used as a stand-in for relationships and the yarn simultaneously speaking to the blood ties that keep this ‘object’ together though fragile and precarious at times.  Strength, like love, can be shown in many different ways. In my opinion, the ability to let go, or unbind, is the greatest testament of both strength and love.”

title: A Mother’s Voice (Installation of six handkerchiefs hand-embroidered by the artist and her grandmother and great grandmother

“In ‘A Mother’s Voice’ I collaborated with my great-grandmother who has passed away. I use her hand-embroidered handkerchiefs that have been passed down from generations of women in my family. In the installation, I was interested in the ways heirlooms travel intergenerationally. What gets value and what gets discarded. “

title: Invisible weight (Hand embroidered and trimmed twin size quilt with photo transfer)

“Similarly, to the title ‘invisible weight’ I was also thinking about how women’s work, in general, and historically has been undervalued and underrepresented. Quilting for example has a long history within the Black community. My great-grandmother and grandmother both taught me how to quilt. But, for many years quilts were considered a craft within the fine art canon. Faith Ringgold speaks to the fundamental tie quilts have to the quotidian. The everyday practices that enslaved women used to protest and resist. In bell hooks An Aesthetic of Blackness– Stange and Oppositional she states, “The work of black women quiltmakers needs special feminist critical commentary which considers the impact of race, sex, and class. Many black women quilted despite oppressive economic and social circumstance which often demanded exercising creative imagination in ways radically different from those of white female counterparts, especially women of privilege who had greater access to material and time.” Enslaved women were given and sometimes stole their white owner’s expensive fabric leftovers to make “crazy quilts.” As fabric became more accessible, quilts began to tell stories charting the course of black lives.”

title: A Mother’s Voice (Installation of six handkerchiefs hand-embroidered by the artist and her grandmother and great grandmother).

“I remember the quilts my great-grandmother used to make, and they became objects to be admired but not used. This tradition of story quilts stems from oppression but was always an act of resistance within the Black community. What happens when you challenge the binaries of class, sex, race, and craft, through using materials associated with women’s work and highlighting them to become visible and valued? By putting my great grandmother’s embroidered handkerchiefs on display, I give her voice and a space to be seen and valued, to resist becoming another black woman who has been forgotten or erased. The embroidered handkerchiefs also speak to the task my great grandmother and many other black women took on of documenting the everyday livingness of black folk. The embroideries, though mostly text, become a visual archive of her interior dialogues, struggles, and daily words of affirmation to help her process and carry on.”

title: Before I’m a Mother, I’m a Woman (collaborative performance with Clara Cruz)

“Mothers have an intrinsic instinct and more times than not, the capacity to empathize and take on tremendous amounts of mental labor due to societal expectations as it relates to motherhood and reproduction. In this work, I was interested in tweezing out questions surrounding, how do we compensate for the invisible labor (mental and emotional)? How do we care and love others while also protecting ourselves? Having conversations with my mother now, I can see how much it pains her to realize that certain decisions made may have led to trauma. But, as a human, we have to be soft with ourselves and realize we are constantly growing and learning. This idea especially became important in “Before I’m a Mother, I’m a woman.” Clara and I were able to use our collaborative practice to speak on the complicated roles women in our families play and the tensions between personal sacrifice, care, work, and self-preservation. In the performance, we used the metaphor of binding and unbinding red thread to talk about kinship ties across generations and holding the family together. We began the performance by singing lullabies both our mothers used to sing to us growing up. We played off of similarities in our experiences with our mothers while embodying mother and other times daughter. As we bound together the red twin-size bed with yarn, we drew on phrases passed down from our mothers and grandmothers as a way to affirm, encourage, and express the intricacy of a mother.”

title: Before I’m a Mother, I’m a Woman (collaborative performance with Clara Cruz)

More broadly, this collaborative performance also speaks to sisterhood. Audre Lorde has a great quote where she states: “There are two different struggles involved here. One is the war against racism in white people, and the other is the need for Black women to confront and wade through racist constructs underlying our deprivation of each other. And these battles are not all the same.” I think this quote can extend past black women to all BIPOC womxn. I also keep coming back to a quote by bell hooks when speaking on creating home space that links directly to what Clara and I’s collaborations aims to do. She states:

“Black women resisted by making homes where all black people could strive to be subjects, not objects, where we could be affirmed in our minds and heal despite poverty hardship, and deprivation, where we could restore to ourselves the dignity denied us on the outside in the police world” adding, “ this task of making homeplace was not simply a matter of black women providing service; it was about the construction of a safe place where black people could affirm one another and by doing so healing many of the wounds inflicted by racist domination… we could not learn to love or respect ourselves in the culture of white supremacy on the outside; it was there on the inside in that “homeplace”, most often created and kept by black women, that we had the opportunity to grow and develop to nurture our spirits. This task of making a homeplace, of making home a community of resistance, has been shared by black women globally, especially black women in white supremacist societies.”

Through creating a link between labor and solidarity, community and communion; solidarity becomes an act of collective liberation and action. Through collaboration, Clara and I create this home space for black and brown women to commune together in sisterhood. A way to dismantle patriarchy. A form of liberation.

LaRissa Rogers Bio continued: As for recent interest, she said:” Lately, I have been working a lot with soil and using Saidiya Hartman’s theory of temporal entanglement to question how we narrate historical time when thinking about the afterlife of slavery. She calls us to examine the intersections where the past, the present, and future, are not discretely cut off from one another, but rather we live in the simultaneity of that entanglement.[1]

“This past summer I did a performance We’ve Always Been Here, Like Hydrogen, Like Oxygen that was recorded on the Richmond slave trail and african burial grounds in Richmond, VA. One thing that stuck with me while performing this ritual of self-care, was how the landscape had been turned into a place of recreation and leisure. When I moved back to Charlottsville, VA I began researching spaces of sports and leisure associated with whiteness and privilege, specifically Pen Park and Farmington Country Club in Virginia. The memory of these locations are not visible, but the soil holds the forgotten histories where Black life has been seemingly erased. Pen Park was an antebellum plantation and is now a recreation park and golf course where forty-three unmarked slave graves reside. On the property at Farmington, is the tree where John Henry James was lynched. I have been digging and planting on the soil to explore cultural amnesia, memorial practices, and what it means to be surviving. I ask, how can we unearth histories where Black life appears to have been erased using a language and gesture that is not linked to Eurocentric notions of what it means to remain. By using soil from these locations, I ask the viewer to consider how one becomes complicit in the erasure of histories through language, action, and spectatorship, while simultaneously showing the resilience, hope, possibility, and, radical care that has grown through living in “the wake.”[2]

Reference:

[1] Siemsen, Thora. “Saidiya Hartman on Working with Archives.” Saidiya Hartman on working with archives – The Creative Independent, February 3, 2021. https://thecreativeindependent.com/people/saidiya-hartman-on-working-with-archives/.

2 SHARPE, CHRISTINA. In the Wake: On Blackness and Being. Durham; London: Duke University Press, 2016.


 

 

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