On the “A” w/Souleo
Upon learning of the death of Sandra Bland, visual artist Kimberly Mayhorn recalls thinking, ‘It could have been me.’ Both identify as black women and have a connection to Texas. Mayhorn was born in Houston, and Bland attended Prairie View A&M University. Bland, who would have turned 29 on February 6, was found dead in a Waller Country, Texas jail cell last July after being arrested for allegedly failing to use her turn signal. Such race, gender, and geographic commonalities inspired Mayhorn’s new solo exhibit, Fictive Kinship, on view now through March 2nd at New Jersey City University.
“I had a very visceral reaction to her death and also everything that led up to her being brought to a jail cell in the first place,” she said. “I needed to do something artistically about her story and the relationships black women have with one another and individually.”
Works on view include “Lane Change No. 1 (mediation on Sandra Bland),” which invites the viewer into the physical setting where Bland was pulled over, as a means to reflect on the troubling circumstances surrounding her arrest and death. In a series of eight pieces on paper titled “Purge,” Mayhorn recreated images of black women crying from joy or sorrow with tears represented in an abstract fashion using silver Mylar and wire. In other works, such as her debut new media piece, “Release,” Mayhorn interviewed five women of color across different generations about their thoughts on self-care. Collectively, the works reflect Mayhorn’s mission of investigating the concepts of kinship and sisterhood among black women, especially under the weight of personal and societal issues or demands.
“I wanted to explore the type of conversations black women are sharing as friends in an intimate space. We are on a daily grind as wife, mother, partner, worker and all these things that require our attention. How does self-preservation of the body happen when it endures a lot? I think we have to be unapologetic for saying ‘I need time for myself right now’and honoring that space for ourselves as black women.”
The weekly column, On the “A” w/Souleo, covers the intersection of the arts, culture entertainment and philanthropy in Harlem and beyond and is written by Souleo, founder and president of event/media content production company, Souleo Enterprises, LLC.