Virtual Studio Tour with Former Old No. 77 Artist in Residence
In the summer of 2019, Provenance and Old No. 77 Hotel welcomed St. Louis-native interdisciplinary artist Donny Bradfield – known as Shabez Jamal – to our home in New Orleans as a part of the Artist in Residence program. The annual program invites student creatives from around the country on a cultural exploration of the Crescent City – to live, learn, observe, and create. In culmination of the month-long experience, the artists showcase the work completed during a special public exhibition.
Jamal’s work, rooted in portraiture and experimental video, interrogates and documents the journeys and narratives of the Black LGBTQ community, drawing on the connections that challenge communities across the U.S and exploring intersection of race, class, sexuality and gender.
So, we caught up with Jamal who recently moved to New Orleans to start his MFA at Tulane University where he was awarded a Mellon Community-Engaged Research Fellowship. He is also an inaugural member of Harvard University’s In The City Fellowship.
Here, he gave us a Virtual Studio Tour of this thought-provoking work – produced since his Residency – and an in-depth look at his process, inspiration and personal experience that brings his art to life.
“For as long as I can remember my grandmother’s photo albums have served as a portal into a world long gone by,” says Jamal. “I vividly remember sitting around the table with my family as the images that filled the aged, tacky, yellowish, plastic-covered pages elicited a myriad of stories that included the comical as well as the heart-rending.”
“During these retellings, I would sit and listen in earnest as they reminisced on things, places, and people that have ceased to exist,” continues Jamal. “This book, comprised of pieces of physical information, supplemented with oral histories revealed to me at an early age the performative and multidisciplinary nature of the photo album and currently serves me in my approach in understanding the archive and archival practices, as well as my relationship to them as a queer Black man.”
“My understanding that the album (archive), as thorough as it is, could never be truly representative of the complex familial dynamics that it sought to represent, and it is this understanding of the transformational and transgressional nature of the archived images that brings me to where I am now.”
“Centering on my grandmother’s mode of archiving allows me the opportunity to center her practice within my own, thus citing her practices of archiving as canon within the work that I plan to produce. My goal in doing this is to reframe the photo album, especially within the context of Black households, as a Black Feminist tool of survival against erasure. Drawing upon the multidisciplinary nature of the photo album, I’m engaging in a range of mediums that include photography, video, performance, as well as sculpture, resulting in an immersive photo album experience. Through the appropriation of images directly from my grandmother’s album juxtaposed alongside newly made images, videos, and performances I hope to invoke an inter-generational conversation that centers on Blackness, queerness, and the Black household/family.”
For more about Jamal and his work, visit http://www.shabezj.com/.