My work is being featured in CROWN HEIGHTS GOLD, an exhibition that commemorates the 20th anniversary of the Crown Heights Riot. Check out the invitation, press release and my artwork & statement for the exhibit. CROWN HEIGHTS GOLD opens July 28, 2011, and runs until October 30th, at the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Center’s Skylight Gallery. To view a larger image, click on the image.
ARTIST STATEMENT FOR CROWN HEIGHTS GOLD Exhibition
As a native Brooklynite, I feel intimately connected to the Crown Heights Riot. I was only 9 years old in the summer of 1991, but I remember the tension that gripped the city and the fears the permeated every public exchange. Brooklyn was transformed under martial law; police lined the hot August streets and we were transfixed by endless reports of violence, of blood, of anarchical terror.
I created One of the Cars that Got Burned as a testament to the class-driven, religious and racially fueled eruption that forced New Yorkers, Americans and the world at large to critically analyze the ‘Melting Pot’ euphemism and to confront the conflicting voices that were straining to be heard. I gathered newspaper articles and headlines from the Daily News spanning from August 19th to the 26th of ’91. I chose the Daily News deliberately, in favor of The New York Times or other national papers that covered the riots. As “New York’s Hometown paper,” I found it a strangely reliable if vulgar conduit of the true energies, conflicts and factions surrounding the event.
The piece is done in bold strokes of newspaper black and white and red – paralleling the violent shrieking energy and the starkness of the issues: White Jew versus Black Caribbean, and joined in blood and rage, while smaller subsets in shades of gray focus on the more ambiguous human elements at play – quotes from neighborhood residents; observances from community members highlight the similarity of frustration, of struggle, of fear and of love. The numbers represent an attempt to piece together a story; map a linear progression; understand the roots of violence; the expression of “hatred.” The story has 20 parts, representing the two decades that have passed since the riots, and ends with a quote from a Jewish woman which begs the question of responsibility. Via the explosion of all these elements in Brooklyn, a city that brings together in intimate association the people of all nations of the world, we are asked the questions: What is the nature of community? Are we our brothers’ keepers?
In September 2010, at the Gallery at Harlem PoP, 23 dope photographers, including yours truly, converged on the issue of love. A montage of images investigate how we love, who we love, and why it seems to be an enigma at times. The exhibit was curated by Laylah Amatullah Barrayn. I had three photos in this show, seen below.
In honor of Women’s History Month 2010, the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute presented a multimedia exhibition honoring the power of the feminine present in African Sacred Traditions, curated by Shantrelle P. Lewis. I designed the invite, and I had work in the show. Just to mix it up, here’s my artist statement for the exhibit just to give you some insight into my process. My pieces were 3 video installations. You can view them at the links below.
Valerie Caesar: Artist Statement for Wearing Spirit: Aesthetically Personifying the Feminine in African Sacred Traditions Multi-Media Exhibition
The three short films presented represent emanations of three of the most powerful orishas in African spirituality. the orishas represent elemental manifestations: they are simultaneously the wind and the dandelion spores in the breeze; the warming sun and the scorched treetops; the earth’s revolution and its quake; the ocean and the flood waters. all powerful and ever-present, we can designate the largest of phenomena, to the most minute of occurrences, to the realm of a particular orisha. they are texture and personality; emotion and spirit; color and mood.
Through these short pieces, entitled reunion; closer to the sky; & vishuddha, we experience the essence of orishas Oshun, Obatala, and Yemaya, in seemingly mundane and everyday encounters that pay homage to the inexplicable flavor of our recollections. in reunion: OSHUN, a chance encounter liberates a flood of golden memory that laps up on itself like water on a river bank. vishuddha: YEMAYA explores the idea of creation via embryonic-like pulsations. closer to the sky: OBATALA explores the legacy of frustrated love and the inheritance of a yearning for freedom and flight. By way of the reflection of the sky in a dripping faucet; the effervescent rising of bubbles in a glass of ginger ale; the hypnotic, almost oceanic rhythm of a DJ’s hands and arms while spinning, a parallel world is created. The simple events in these three short pieces dwell in the magical landscape of remembrance, where dreams, memory and desire coexist, and where the feminine spirit of the orishas dominate.
reunion: OSHUN: the return of love. the magnetism of attraction. the golden effervescence of chance encounters.
vishuddha: YEMAYA: the ether of expression. the rhythm of life. the miracle of birth. the susurrus of nourishment.
closer to the sky: OBATALA: the desire to be loved. the purity of freedom. the yearning for flight.
In February of 2010 I was lucky enough to have work in this huge exhibition in Brooklyn entitled “The Gentrification of Brooklyn: The Pink Elephant Speaks.” Here’s the press release. Anyone who knows me knows that as a Brooklyn native, the issue of gentrification here is a huge sore spot for me. As welcome as I am to the development of the communities in which I grew and thrived, I am not psyched to see neighborhood fixtures bulldozed for the profit and convenience of white folks previously uninterested in this great borough. Ahem, before I get off on a rant, here’s an excerpt from the press release of this show:
BROOKLYN, NY – The Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA) is proud to launch its highly anticipated first exhibition of 2010 “The Gentrification of Brooklyn: The Pink Elephant Speaks” curated by Dexter Wimberly. “The Gentrification of Brooklyn: The Pink Elephant Speaks” is the first exhibition of its kind on the subject of Brooklyn’s gentrification in that it presents the work of over 20 artists of diverse ethnicities, utilizing varied media and approaches including painting, photography, drawing, mixed-media, video, sculpture, poetry, music and theatrical performance.
The images I had in the exhibit were entitled I Am Not Scared and Protect and Respect, seen below.
Over a blustery weekend in October 2009, Society HAE hosted Harlem Pop: the Parlor Session. The project, geared towards art/fashion/music enthusiasts, consists of an installation that will house new works from emerging artists and designers for one day only. The event, featuring live music, took place at Harlem’s Indigo Arms Guest House. I had two pieces of photography featured at this showing.
Back in 2009, I had my work exhibited for the first time in a public gallery. I was pretty psyched. It was at the Gris Gris Lab in New Orleans, Louisiana and the title of the show was Women and Magic: Reclaimed and Redefined. They used my image for the postcard invite. In the first image, the two images on the right are mine, entitled Jump Nyabinghi and Intergalactic, respectively.
Mention was made of me and my work in this Brooklyn: The Borough feature about The Gentrification of Brooklyn Exhibition. The featured photograph is my piece Protect and Respect. I was also mentioned with regard to this exhibit in The Gotham Gazette.
I was featured in the Liberator Magazine. I liked the interview so much, I posted it in my bio section. Here it is again! And here are the scanned images from the print edition, which featured the entire interview [unlike the digital one, which was excerpted] and some juicy images that are among my favorites.