The Refracted Saints
The refracted series reflects the experience of black womxn in America. The saints are "refracted" or fragmented to represent the way Black womxn are seen through a societal lens, as bent, broken, distorted. This draws a parallel to how light refracts around an object as it moves through water.
The saints envision the differences between how Black womxn view themselves and the ways others see them. The works depict female figures body as a “whole saint” adorned with only a halo. They are set against a vibrant, at times gilded backgrounds, They occupy space with her refracted reflections. “
As we pass through an intolerant society, our image is distorted, our light and our sainthood refracted – but we are somehow still whole,”
“Real saints are not gilded, they are pained, flawed, and beautiful people.”
In the Press
The Henry Art Museum
Refracted Saint No. 1 - This was the first saint. She depicts a young black woman, staring off into the distance. She is pensive and strong - we do not know what the subject is thinking, but that is less important than the power and calm she conveys.
The piece would be become the corner stone of the series focused on the way black women in America, their image and personhood are often, refracted.
Place a stick in a pool of still water and to the eye it may appear, distorted and broken. Pull it from the water and you see it was always whole. Here the stick is the black woman, the water is America.
Our images are distorted, bent, broken, shattered, but somehow, we are able to put ourselves back together, stronger every time. We are multifaceted, code-switching, strong backed beasts able to breathe under that water and still come out powerful, calm and somehow, whole.
All the saints will be broken and whole, in pieces and sound, all at the same time... Because that is what I must be.
Refracted Saint No. 2 is a muslim woman in a hijab -- because Christianity does not have a monopoly on Sainthood.
The shattered version of herself, crown singed shows how black women, regardless of the god they worship, or do not, are still pieced together and beautiful in their sainthood.
The "whole" version of herself on the right has 7 red and gold spears adorning her halo. They represent the christian representation of 7 arrows in the heart of the Virgin Mary from Christian iconography. The spears are a part of her sainthood, and their color shows through in the shattered version of herself. They aren't lost. Only displaced.
Refracted Saint No. 3 - The Evolution of Hattie is a portrait of performer and all around badass Trae Harris. A woman known for starring in the adaptation of the book BodyMore Murdaland - a book which tackles the murder epidemic in Baltimore City, Maryland.
Here Ms. Harris is depicted with a yellow head wrap, a symbol of power and beauty in the black community now, but many years ago, the headwrap was often worn by Mammie.
Mammie is a the caregiver, the maid, the happy subservient, but as black folx are want to do, the headwrap she wore has been repurposed and rebranded to signify royalty.
This piece shows the evolution of black women from brittle, plastic mammie figure, to powerful, goddess in America.
Refracted Saint No. 4 - "They All Have Names" is an homage to the hundreds of black womxn and girls that go missing each year, without fanfare or proper media attention.
The woman featured here is a tribute to the goddess Oshun in flowing yellow garb. Here she is the Patron Saint of our Lost Girls -- and all those girls have names.
The halo around her head is comprised of photographs of 214 actively missing black womxn and girls who have gone missing from the 70's - today. No media coverage. No outpouring of support.
The photos were taken from the website www.OurBlackGirls.com. The site, run by a California reporter, is dedicated to bringing visibility to this pandemic and providing any information available about the missing to bring the community that surrounded them together.
The women all have crowns of royal red to match the reflection of Oshun in the heavens that mirrors the main Saint. Oshun's fact is cut out, slightly askew to represent the fact that any of these missing womxn could have been a saint. That sainthood wouldn't absolve her from being on of the faceless girls that she watches over.