February 19, 2021
By Leia Genis
Photography by Charlie Watts
Will To Adorn @ MINT
January 9th, 2021 – February 20th, 2021
680 Murphy Ave SW, Unit 2095
Atlanta, GA 30310
A historical examination of adornment is the subject of Danielle Deadwyler’s solo exhibition Will (to) Adorn at MINT in Atlanta, Georgia. The multi-media exhibition explores various ways in which garnishing a subject both creates and abstracts the potential for elevation and transformation of singular into collective histories.
In the center of the gallery, printed images are strung up from clothespins in a kind of ellipses-continuum. The installation, titled Lenticularities, consists of numerous xeroxed photographic portraits of the artist that are painted, drawn over, or otherwise modified. The embellishment of these photographs, oftentimes to the point of obfuscation, slowly degrades the image content via a process of accretion, relegating the specificity of photographic representation to a kind of abject generality. This abstraction, combined with the specificity of Deadwyler’s physical, visceral handling of the materials creates a cumulative effect on the viewer.
Citing the act of adornment as an integral characteristic of Black expression, this iterative process brings the portraits to a point of critical mass, while causing a chain reaction in the viewer, who’s own associations with Black identity begin to fill the voids created in the redacted facial features. The suspended nature of the photographic works offer additional insight, as the backs of prints reveal notes, marks, and paint strokes indexing their specific histories. The portraits no longer depict an individual, they are an edifice of Black women’s collective and ongoing struggles and perseverance throughout history.
The weight of history and use of adornment is most palpably felt in How to moisturize your head, an installation consisting of tree branches slathered in shea butter and human hair. These sculptures are suspended at chest height by clear wires attached to the ceiling, creating a floating installation separate from the floor yet still in confrontation with the viewer’s body.
These truncated limbs take on a corporeal feeling in both form and content, which is mirrored and affirmed in the artwork’s title. This feeling is further substantiated by the addition of human hair embedded in the coated branches, at once adhered and obscured by the gratuitous amounts of shea butter, which uphold the bits and strands as sporadic remnants and reminders of a haunting embodiment.
Seen as a parallel to the paint used in the portraits of Lenticularities, the shea butter becomes the adornment which abstracts the original. Here this formal strategy feels more macabre than when employed in Lenticularities. Composed of raw materials, these sculptures are continually decaying, announcing their eventual death. Yet this fatal reminder is not nihilistic. Just as these found and rescued materials have been reincarnated for the sake of creation and transformation, their memories will persist in history, ripe for future cultivation.
Leia Genis is an artist and writer based in Atlanta, GA. They are founder and editor of Under the Bridge (UTB) magazine platform.