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La Vaughn Belle Flyer 2_edited.jpg
La Vaughn Belle Flyer 2_edited_edited.jpg

LA VAUGHN BELLE

Being of Myth and Memory

CURATED BY ERICA MOIAH JAMES, PHD

DEC 2 - JAN 13, 2024

RELATED PROGRAMMING:

Artist designed exhibition catalog available here

December 27, 6-7:30 pm

Artist/Curator Talk @ CMCArts

Walk the exhibition with artist La Vaughn Belle in person and Curator Erica Moiah James, PhD virtual.

View the talk HERE

January 5, 6-8 pm

We Were Never Meant to Meet

Film Screening and Artist Talks @ CMCArts

Within the context of La Vaughn Belle’s solo exhibition “Being of Myth and Memory”. The event is organized in collaboration with the international network Reparative Encounters and the Virgin Islands Caribbean Cultural Center (VICCC).

 

Reparative Encounters is a project that brings together artists and researchers from the United States Virgin Islands, Ghana, Kalaallit Nunaat (Greenland) and Denmark to exchange knowledge and foster artistic collaboration across these locations differently impacted by coloniality.

 

The participating artists and researchers are La Vaughn Belle (USVI), Julie Edel Hardenberg (GL), Dorothy Akpene Amenuke (GH), Bernard Akoi-Jackson (GH), Katrine Dirckinck-Holmfeld (DK) and Daniela Agostinho (PT/DK). 

Living requires us to remember. But how does one live, thrive, dream about futures when so much of one’s memories have been erased; when remembering requires our bodies to relive the violence and shame of the past, making forgetting a form of protection? How do we live fully when the landscape we encounter daily holds histories of our subjection? And how might we craft postcolonial futures in this landscape, the same arena as our abjection?

 

In the wake of catastrophic histories, La Vaughn Belle’s generative practice is activated by a belief that myth and memory are not only foundational to collective identity but are necessary for life. While memories tend to be tethered to an event that has been directly experienced, myths are negotiated, may have multiple versions and are capable of reinvention. They are open and continual discourses that are alive.

 

Belle’s art takes form amidst memory and myth being as lieu de mémoire. In recent years her multimodal conceptual art practice has been concerned with creating myths, maps, monuments, and memories through aesthetic forms that work to draw the past into the present while gesturing towards futures we can imagine and inhabit. The work that comprises this exhibition is grounded in this ethos and in process, asserts a similar claim to life. The videos, sculptures, digital collages, and paper collage paintings, all draw on decolonial practices of refashioning, reimagining, and rebuilding in process and content. They invite audiences to imagine a world where the weight of history is lighter and one can step into a liberated future, unbound.

 

Curated by Erica Moiah James, PhD

Art Historian, Curator, and Assistant Professor at the University of Miami

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Sovereign (how to pull a spear from your throat)

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Storm (how to imagine the tropicalia as monumental)

 

Belle’s artist studio was damaged during Hurricane Maria in 2017 and instead of throwing away the paper that was salvaged she chose to incorporate them as an archive to the storm. Storm (How to Imagine The Tropicalia as Monumental) pieces together the torn fragments and explores the aesthetic possibilities of land, sea and storm. It is an attempt to formulate new geographies and new conceptions of space and self. Belle also incorporates cuts and burns into the paper, a gesture that has been a part of her vocabulary since 2016. Belle works to memorialize the dual states of violence and repair that are endemic to the Caribbean.

For Those of Us Who Live At The Shoreline

Taking the first line of Audre Lorde’s poem, “A litany for survival,” this work explores the relationship between the body, landscape, history, and memory. The topography is constructed by blending plant species that grow specifically at the coastline and function to both hold in and feed the soil. Species such as sea purslane, sea grape, manchineel, and mangroves are the keepers of boundary, constructing a kind of living archive as the root systems hold in the erosion of memory and time. They also protect, filter, and some even poison as they are a part of dynamic marginal ecosystems. Belle considers how for those of us who live at the shoreline, at the liminal spaces between subject and citizen, that survival is based on the crucial decisions of what one remains rooted in and what must be allowed to wash away.

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Every Island Is An Effort At Memory (western horizon) St. Croix

In dreamlike washes of color, Belle meditates on the complex identity of islands. Most often conceived of or idealized as small and isolated, Belle reveals islands as expansive, shifting and even mobile. The nature of watercolor painting ensures that the artist must work quickly, moving the water and pigments with care and intention across the paper. Belle layers island-mountain tops with their monumental bases across vibrant sky and seascapes. Intervening into the museum and the western horizon Belle creates and gestures to multiple of new horizons from the small framed watercolor paints to the window filled walls as a way of reframing our past, present and future selves

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