unearth

Thesis Installation, Urban Arts Space, The Ohio State University – February, 2021.

Generations of my bloodline settled across Appalachia, down to the swamps of Florida, and out past the hollows of Tennessee. While researching where my kin has been, I looked past the stories that have been passed down and digested, and instead sought the stories kept alive in census records and jail files and gravestone decor. Accounts of tempering, enslaving, preaching but never learning. Moonshining, fighting, sinking under their vices.

 

I wanted their dirt.

 

I smashed and swirled and compressed the soil from their farms and homesteads with porcelain, and pinched each blended wad between my thumb and palm. Sterilizing their dirt with heat, purifying it from growing anything again, I wanted to wipe clean their stolen sustenance through the ceramic process— to petrify them in some small way. I craved a retort bigger than my body, one that would stretch out past my lifespan and last for millennia. This process archived the lot of them in a heap too big to carry, but too labored to leave.

 

After the frenzy of finding and rolling and pinching dirt from across the country together with pure porcelain from Florida, I digested my unearthing by spinning and looping and tugging thread into patterns, by holding tension in a distinctly muliebral way. I attempted to lace it all up— though I know this is just the start.

Winding and twisting my wrists while I wove, while I untwisted the tales passed down as truth.

These frail threads — small gestures— when amassed, have begun to tug at the grounded heap I’ve collected.