Our co-founder, Aiesha, sat on a model panel for Tina Gutierrez‘s artist talk for her “Coronavirus Wearable Art Response Project” exhibition at Kennedy Heights Arts Center earlier this week. In this post, she talks about her thought process behind the costume.
In July 2020, I participated in a coronavirus-related art response project in which community members were asked to wear an outfit that represented how they feel about the pandemic. After four whole months of quarantining, it was a nice chance to get dressed up in a costume and get out of the house. While photographing me, Tina asked me what my outfit represented in relation to COVID-19 and I started making up a story right there on the spot.
I talked about dystopian narratives and how they usually reference some conflict/reckoning that took place long before the story starts. At the time, I felt like 2020 was that conflict so my outfit signified my life as the leader of my own colony. I’d have to run my own shit because as a Black woman, I know that I’d be fully responsible for protecting myself in any dystopian scenario. I’d also feel responsible for protecting others like me so in my dystopia, I’d run/manage the type of place where Black women support one another and keep one another safe. Black women of all walks of life would be welcome…as long as they could abide by the rules. I thought about the women who uplift me, who hold me together – my mother, my aunts, my cousins, my female friends – the women whose companionship and care and concern I hold dear.
Zora Neale Hurston once said, “there are years that ask questions and years that answer.” We will definitely look back on 2020 as a year of answers but what will those answers show us? As I told the audience during the model panel, hope is not my strong suit. I look at all of the fissures and cracks in the systems that govern us that have boiled over in the two and a half years since this pandemic started and I don’t see hope. But what I do still see joy. I still take every opportunity to find joy where I can and in a society that forever has its metaphorical foot on Black women’s necks, sometimes that’s enough.