Jen Everett: Inimitable Blackness and A Blues for Saint Louis
There is a distinct difference between presence and representation in art and in culture. For African Americans, the distance between speaking and being spoken about is sometimes as far as that distance separating being understood or misunderstood, free or incarcerated, alive or dead. In Jen Everett’s work, the artist explores notions of Black identity, especially in response to America’s tendency to see only in terms of the extremes of black or white, those exhausted stereotypes with no exemptions for the shades of gray that are most often closer to the truth. Further, the artist holds up the notion of Blackness as something that is purer and more faceted (with a history that goes deep, though is still unfolding) than society’s debased, simplistic representation of it.
The artist on her series Inimitable Blackness: “Through a series of portrait based collages I seek to explore Blackness and defy the gaze that others use to view and/or appropriate Black culture. This gaze vacillates between a ferocious consumption of Blackness and an effort to shrink it so that it may be contained. The constructing and building of the sculptural components of this work speak to how our image, identity, and Blackness are constructed. The cutting and piecing together, layer after layer, the covering and revealing reinforce this notion. I have also considered the sculptures emerging from the photographs and how they are read. How they cannot be taken at face value, much like our identities.”
The artist on her series A Blues for Saint Louis: “A Blues for Saint Louis is an ongoing series culled from news articles, headlines, conversations, images and other information that we consume and take into our bodies, knowingly and unknowingly. This work, this blues, stems from the grief of living in traumatic times of state sanctioned violence and hashtag death rosters. This work was an interruption to my other work. It was and is uncomfortable and agonizing. It interrogates the uncomfortable silence that plagues Saint Louis and America. A discomfort that some would rather bury like a body than face. But it isn’t all sorrow. The work is a conversation, a dialogue of resilience, and transcendence. As Langston Hughes put it, ‘[T]he blues are about the crossroads between good and evil and tragedy and comedy.’”
-Jason Gray, Curator