Reclamation is the essence of artist Nastassja Swift‘s work. Through her trademark wool sculptures, Swift works to honor the body of the black woman—both in the past and present. Historically, the black woman has been seen as a sexual object…existing only (in the world’s eyes) for the gawking gaze of Eurocentric culture. As one of the many products of colonialism, stereotypes drenched in racism, sexism, and misogyny have plagued black women for centuries. From being carted around like a zoo animal (e.g., Saartjie Baartman) to being publicly shamed and blacklisted (e.g., Janet Jackson), black women have dealt the brunt of society’s hand.
And anytime a black woman celebrates who she is and the body she was born with, you can guarantee that there will be backlash because that black woman is establishing autonomy over her body…and that ultimately disrupts the power that the world thinks they have over her.
Swift recognizes this and uses her art to redefine the black woman and her body as is with poignant pieces (e.g., “I Wanted to Give You the Ocean,” “A Party for Sojourner,” and “Passage”), collaborative works (e.g., “Remembering Her Homecoming”), and exhibitions/residencies at national and international institutions (e.g., The Urban Institute of Contemporary Art in Michigan, The Colored Girls Musuem in Philadelphia, MASS MoCA, and the VCUQATAR Gallery in Doha, Qatar).
Featured image courtesy of Marlon Turner
You can see more of Nastassja Swift’s art at one of the last two showings of Black Spirituals, get your tickets here!