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Art by & About African-Americans

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Giverny I (Negresse Imperiale)


Ja'Tovia Gary
United States

Object Type: Time-based media art
Medium and Support: Single-channel video with sound, in color and black-and-white
Credit Line: Marion Stratton Gould and Herdle-Moore Funds
Accession Number: 2019.15
Link to this object
Location: Not currently on view

Ja’Tovia Gary is an American artist and filmmaker whose work investigates the ways in which visual and media cultures shape our perceptions around race, gender, and specifically Blackness. Her poignant and distinctive visual language combines documentary elements, direct animation, and archival footage.

Gary created Giverny I (NÉGRESSE IMPÉRIALE) during a 2016 residency at Claude Monet's historic gardens in France as part of the prestigious Terra Summer Fellowship for emerging filmmakers, scholars, and artists. While in this bucolic setting, surrounded by the ponds and water lilies that inspired Monet’s celebrated late paintings, Gary learned about the Pulse nightclub shooting in Florida, as well as the deaths of Philando Castile in Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Louisiana by police gunfire. With its combination of images and quick, crisp editing, the work of art encourages viewers to consider these tragic events in relation to the luxury of the garden, the role of the artist throughout time, and the vulnerability of Gary’s own body.

Giverny I (NÉGRESSE IMPÉRIALE) interweaves images of Monet’s garden with archival materials and excerpts from Diamond Reynolds’ Facebook live recording of the death of her boyfriend, public school worker Philando Castile. By contrasting the harrowing experience of Diamond Reynolds and her daughter during the aftermath of Castile’s death with the artist’s own body in the gardens, Gary connects her everyday experience as a Black woman with art history. Other archival footage features slain activist and Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton discussing the concept of Negro Imperialism and how political education should be a part of organizing efforts towards Black liberation. As Gary has explained, her work recontextualizes archival images to show how connections between colonialism, state violence, and media affect visual perception: how we see, experience, and understand the visual world.

(Wall text 2019)

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