I AM SHE celebrates The Divine Black Feminine of The 21st Century
As Women’s History Month comes to an end we’d like to highlight Brooklyn based mixed media painter Imani Shanklin Roberts. An artist who focuses on uplifting, inspiring, and encouraging women of color through large scale murals that illuminate the streets of Tribeca and George Mason University windows to her current exhibition titled I AM SHE. Collaborating with set designer Alicia Delarge— the two creatives showcased seven paintings accompanied by solo installations to emphasize variations of femininity and represent the present-day woman while celebrating women of the past. Each artworks title embodies women and their archetypal traits which allows the audience to identify as the “Lover” who wears red lingerie, hangs roses from her suitor, and romances to Barbara Mason’s music or the unapologetically black “Rebel Woman” whose installation illustrates the hardships of slavery and revolution.
I AM SHE is being exhibited at Brooklyn’s Weeksville Heritage Center for its last week before the Washington D.C. debut. Cop your tickets here to check out artworks of the 21st century divine black feminine along with sounds by femme DJs Tru Viiolet, Shyvonne, and Cam Wink for the closing celebration Wednesday, March 27th from 6-9pm.
Will you tell us your vision and concept behind your current exhibition I AM SHE?
I AM SHE is a visual exploration of black womanhood in the 21st century. I encapsulated popular characteristics of women I know and see in media to create seven different archetypal expressions of the modern-day African American woman. These characteristics are also the most dominant expressions that I identify with as I move about the world. This exploration took me beyond oil and canvas and inspired a collaboration with set designer Alicia Delarge, to create charging stations for each woman. This allowed the I AM SHE show to be an experiential and fully immersive art experience where the audience can become apart of the installation–offering love, tending to and care in written form to each of the seven representations.
What was your creative process for your paintings and installations?
The journey of creating these works first pushed me to go inward and check in with ideas of womanhood I hold true. It took for me to recognize truths around my modes of being to acknowledge and give respect to all the partial dimensions of my greater whole. Then to bring this work into a visual space, I had to identify women in my world who stand in these expressions authentically and vibrate boldly in the world as “Carefree & Black”, “Rebel Woman” or “Bruja/Priestess”, etc.
I AM SHE illustrates womanhood through your experiences as a black woman, mother, and artist. Will you describe the meaning of your artwork as it relates to Women’s History Month?
In the celebration of Women’s history month we remark on notable women of our past and what they’ve contributed but the present and now somehow gets lost amidst this conversation. It is relevant to know how we’ve gotten here and gravely important to our narrative to acknowledge the female contributors who are often lost in HIStory. For me, It’s important to also to congratulate and give us shine in the now. “Give us our flowers while we are still alive to smell them.” Having a show celebrating black women in the 21st century who step in their power in the present is all about that.
Who are the most influential women artists who have empowered you through their art? Which elements of their work or their being had the largest impact on this exhibition?
Carrie Mae Weems, Mickalene Thomas, Toyin Odutola, Frida Kahlo, Betye Saar and so many more. They each capture their experience as women and minorities so candidly and unapologetically. They each are artists that create figurative work which directly connects to my process and orientation as an artist. Whether compositionally, within their chosen palette or their use of mixed media I compounded a style that is my own but seeded in the HERstory of femme art languages before me.
Are there any themes you explored for I AM SHE that are different from your previous works?
In my previous work I’ve explored Black women laughing, and Black hair. I also centered in on the album, Miseducation of Lauryn Hill which was the ultimate encasement of a black woman in her 20’s dealing with love, self, and relationships. This series, I AM SHE, is more about who women stand to be vs. what they do and how they emote. This series captured the aesthetic and mood of the dominant tropes I found in just one still painted moment.
What are your views on the ever-changing concepts of femininity and how does I AM SHE express this?
I think femininity is becoming much more inclusive and intersectional. It is no longer one dimensional, poised, prude and private. It is loud, unafraid, assertive, sexually confident, masculine and so much more. I AM SHE captures Black women embracing who they are as lovers, healers, nurturers, rebels, professionals, artists and FREE. It bluntly shows our multidimensionality but also challenges us to tap into all of these expressions as true within each of us. That like chakras, one of these expressions can be overactive and another underactive and I AM SHE calls for us to truly recognize our fullness like the growing definition of femininity.
What are the next few moves we should anticipate from Imani Shanklin Roberts?
This question is one that I have in the past been challenged by and became cowardly in stating my desires onward as an artist and professional. Today, I am pushing through this and aiming for more shows globally and nationally, and larger institutional representation. I desire more publications and to facilitate more public art experiences that challenge normative societal structures and offer healing to us all. For the I AM SHE exhibition, the closing artist talk March 27th from 6-9 featuring Yogi Sihnuu Hetep, Sirius XM’s Tracy G, Attia Taylor Founder of Womanly Magazine and Myself. Moderated by Syreeta Gates. There will also be high powered femme DJ sets by Tru Violet & Cam Wink.
Next stop for the show is Washington, DC!
Photos courtesy of Yasmina Safi and Natiah Jones
Stay tuned to Milk for more art.