“There is a force of exultation, a celebration of luck, when a writer finds himself a witness to the early morning of a culture that is defining itself, branch by branch, leaf by leaf, in that self-defining dawn…. Then the noun, the “Antilles” ripples like brightening water, and the sounds of leaves, palm fronds, and birds are the sounds of a fresh dialect, the native tongue. The personal vocabulary…joins in that sound, with any luck, and the body moves like a walking, a waking island.”
-Derek Walcott, The Antilles: Fragments of Epic Memory; the Nobel Lecture, 1992
Inspired by the prose of Saint Lucian poet Derek Walcott, “Leaf by Leaf” presents three Chicago-based artists examining geography’s connection to power, placemaking, and cultural identity. Through the media of photography and installation, Whit Forrester, India Martin, and Yasmin Spiro explore how experiences specific to diasporic communities are inscribed into postcolonial topographies and their natural ecosystems. In “Leaf by Leaf,” portraits of house plants referencing botany’s colonial history are in dialogue with sublime landscape photographs of Hawaiian foliage, or contrasted against repetitive grids patterns woven into sculptures inspired by urban development in Kingston, Jamaica. By exploring elements from organic environments–wood, gold, sunlight, bodies of water, plant life–and human-made materials from urban cities, they forge connections across transnational borders and ancestral homelands.
Whit Forrester, India Martin, and Yasmin Spiro draw from the frameworks of decolonization, systemic power structures, postcolonial ecology, social politics and ritual to understand cultural diasporas as networks of connected identities, not fractured communities. Together, artists in “Leaf by Leaf” challenge narratives surrounding colonialism and imperialism to demonstrate how our relationship to the living world is the conduit that has allowed us to exist as a moving organism of interdependent, diasporic relations.
“Leaf by Leaf” is curated by Sabrina E. Greig.
THIS EVENT IS FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.
Working in installation, sculpture, film, drawing and mixed media, Yasmin Spiro (b. Kingston, Jamaica) explores issues of body, culture, and socio-economics, often through the lens of Caribbean culture. The late art historian Petrine Archer Shaw has written that in her work “performative body parts and delicate drawings are tethered with umbilical-cord-like ropes as a way of charting personal journeys between different geographies and urban locations.” Spiro’s work has been shown at galleries in the US and Jamaica, and she is a founding member of the tART women’s collective in NY (F2004). Her work has been covered in Art News, Washington Times, The Miami Herald and other publications. She attended Pratt Institute.
Whit Forrester is a multi-disciplinary artist whose range of aesthetic interests that include: practices of accumulation, manifestations of power, human discourses around the transcendent and the material relationship between self and world. Forrester’s attention to the natural world and its agential capacity for queer subjects unites these diverse investments and provides the means with which he interrogates the implications of queering as a spiritual practice which is ultimately connected to ideas of decolonization.
Forrester received his BA in Environmental Studies at Oberlin College and his MFA in photography at Columbia College Chicago.
India Martin: My photography emerges at the crossing of community, blackness, feminism and culture. Layers, reflections, and barriers are conceptual preoccupations of my work as well as narratives about access. I often use a double exposure effect to illustrate possibilities and imagination. I create visual art as an offering to communities when I capture the often over looked beauty of the urban landscape and the people who traverse it. I am most inspired by sacred spaces and black nostalgia.
Sabrina Greig is a Chicago-based art critic and curator from New York City. At the intersection of social activism and Art History, her curatorial practice uses exhibition spaces to showcase experiences that are unique to Diasporic communities on the margins. She graduated with a B.A from Carleton College and M.A in Art History from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) with a focus on representations of the Black diaspora in pop culture, fine art, and urban space. She is a 2017-2018 resident curator in the Chicago Artists Coalition’s HATCH Projects program. She has curated exhibitions at ACRE Projects, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Haitian American Museum of Chicago. She has published essays in Arts.Black, Contemporary And, Sixty Inches from the Center, Bad at Sports, Chicago Artist Writers and has been featured in the Chicago Tribune, Hyperallergic and The Observer.
She is the Arts Learning Program officer at the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation.