Give and Take
Photo Credit: Pierre Le Hors
Give and Take, a new series by interdisciplinary artist Shervone Neckles, weaves together concepts of nature and science with objects and practices rooted in Afro-Caribbean tradition. Together they create a fantastical interpretation of a creation myth – a matriarchal character that reclaims, recovers, and recasts her image.
Through the use of book arts, printmaking, sculpture and multi-media techniques, the exhibition serves as Neckles’ ethnographic study on the implications of language and image, and investigates the social meaning of beauty, identity, and cultural authenticity within black womanhood.
The title of the series derives its name from a rare tree species native to Central America that contains both a powerful toxin and its own antidote – a concept that is reinforced throughout the work with the use of snakes, whose venom can be used as both poison and remedy.
Give and Take centers on Red Rag Rosie, an all-black figure from whose perspective the viewer follows from childhood to motherhood, and is a narrative descendent of the Jab Jab, a Grenadian tradition where masqueraders cover themselves in molasses, burnt cane, or black grease – as a display of racial pride – and march through the streets during Carnival with chains, ropes and serpents. The Jab Jab performance references the emancipation of slaves in the Caribbean.
Neckles connects this historical act of resistance and rebellion to her own coping strategy in response to contemporary instances of violence against the black body. With Tools, Weapons & Rituals, she manipulates metal and existing tools to construct her own survival kit as a means to protect her and her family against acts of discrimination and injustice.
Give and Take fully explores the concepts of religion, consumption and survival to examine the tensions between cultural expectations and preservation. The ineffable spirit of black womanhood, often rendered invisible, is exalted here as vessel, armor, and chrysalis.
Special thanks to the Queens Council on the Arts, Queens Art Fund Grant and the Foundation for Contemporary Arts Emergency Grant for their generous financial support of Shervone Neckles' exhibition.