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Jireh L. Drake

Nominated by DePaul University

My mixed media drawings and sculptures starts with a conversation around Blackness and systems of power, with community and myself. I aim to invite the viewer to engage critically with ideas around race, whether that is questioning how are we invested in whiteness, finding more questions, or reaching some sort of understanding through empathy.

In my most recent work, a black on black diptych, Because you also survived, I am questioning how mourning and abundance are related in the context of the Black experience. This work questions how Blackness is expansive, yet folks die for existing as Black people. It uses a number of removal, ghost-like and etched-in marks, along with embroidery thread and dirt. Reconfigured Anxious is a series, which centers my experience of mental health as a Black and Queer Femme. It questions where my anxiety comes from and how is it manifested. It also invites the viewer to reflect on how they hold their negative thoughts and where those thoughts stem from. While both works center Blackness, I hope that they pose questions as to where the viewer and I stand in relation to an oppressive system and/or if they are reinforcing the monolith of Blackness.

A major theme in my work is looking for how ideas, people and systematic structures are interdependent and interconnected; after recently traveling to Ghana and learning about Ghanaian worldviews of interdependence and interconnectedness, this theme has become more amplified in my work. I am constantly looking for ways as to how art can be a tool to unpack and challenge systemic issues--such as racism, colorism, ableism, fatphobia and transphobia--in intersectional and nuanced ways. I use art as a tool of liberation and healing.

Image: Contextualizing Duhumanization: Lynching, 2016

Resident year: 
2017
Cohort Group: 
Artist Resident