Artist Spotlight: Becci Davis

Roots United.

becciorange

Photo Credit: Danielle Klebes

Rebecca ‘Becci’ Davis, an interdisciplinary artist originally from Columbus, Georgia now residing in Wakefield, Rhode Island, has established herself as an artist who has created work she believes should be received universally, pieces that on some level could be understood by everyone. While attending Lesley University College of Art and Design in Cambridge, Massachusetts pursuing her MFA, she began thinking about her practices and goals she set in place, creating and talking about artwork that was very personal to her was a way to reach the masses. “It was something that happened very naturally, not on purpose…I was still making the same kind of work but I wanted to put more personal narratives in my work.”  I think it should go without saying, when an artist creates a body of work it’s developed with a personalized aspect coming from within, drawing you into their personal narrative to better understand their work and who they are as an individual artist.

As cosmic energies and stars would begin to align, around Thanksgiving 2015 Becci received a promotional email from Ancestry.com for a free trial to discover more of her familial heritage, ‘I thought to myself, oh this will be fun but I probably won’t find anything.’ Like many African-Americans who are descendants of slavery here in the United States, records of family history are usually few and far between, but with adamant research and “completely obsessing,” Becci stopped making her other work and began to focus more of the efforts on her family history. “As the days and weeks passed, I realized I can’t continue making the work I was making and I found myself thinking about it [family history] all the time because there was so much. And I thought what I was doing outside of my practice at the time was so much more rich and complex and it was more ME, it was like…not discovering myself because I’ve always known these stories but realizing that my story had value to someone other than me.”

In 2017, Becci created a video, “Isaiah’s Inventory (Fog Follows Rains)”, one of the pieces she submitted that resulted in the 2018 RISCA Fellowship in New Genres. This piece details the inventory and appraisement of the estate of Isaiah Parker from Harris County, Georgia. Isaiah Parker was the slave owner of Becci’s ancestors. This video was a depiction of how the value of life could be broken down to a simple dollar amount. Having value in one’s family history can come with great pride and reverence. However, as Becci recites the name, race, and monetary value of each slave on the Parker Plantation, it is a feeling of worthlessness. Keeping true to the times, as the video progresses, take notice of the objects used in this piece such as the fountain pen with black ink on cotton rag paper, the unwritten names of the slaves along with their prices is very telling of the erasure and disregard of human life that can be so easily purchased and then forgotten about like an inanimate object.

Going forward, Becci continued her work drawing on themes of American-Black culture, crafting ideas and choosing different mediums to get her narrative across in pieces like ‘Collard Archive of Modern History’, the process of creating ‘life-like’ collard greens by casting handmade paper into molds and using library catalog cards under the subject heading of ‘modern history’ as pulp. A staple vegetable used in soul-food/southern cuisine, collard greens have a cultural connection with Black Americans. Becci Davis has what she calls a complicated relationship with the food, and the greens have been the source of rich culture and significance to her work.  Through her art, Becci finds ways to bring forth both cultural histories and significance by dispelling the notion that Black History is separate from the American History narrative: “because Black history is American history – it’s our shared history, it’s not separate from US history. It needs to be one people, I think that the idea we have two separate histories, we are two separate people and worlds is a lie.” 

Collard Archive of Modern History

Collard Archive of Modern History

In addition to being the recipient of the 2018 RISCA Fellowship, Becci is also the 2018 Creative Fellow at the Providence Public Library, where her work centered around the exhibition program & series, Hair Brained.  This series collection and interactive performances, which is being held at the Providence Public Library from March 1st – June 30th, focused on hairstyles throughout history and the ways in which hair defines and reflects culture, self-identity, agency, and politics.  The interactive performance piece, ‘Beacon Beauty Shop’ created by Becci was “‘something that sort of honored the idea of beauty shop culture and African-American culture but also served as a bridge or way of access in to Black hair for people who didn’t understand.” Walking into a beauty salon is an experience that we’ve all had at some point in our lives, “this isn’t something that divides us, this is something that we have in common.” The real cross-cultural experience came from her salon menu options from a wash-n-wrap, press-n-curl, and a relaxer/perm where some of the “clients” weren’t familiar with some of the hair techniques. In the African-American community a perm and relaxer are one and the same, a process to permanently straighten/relax your roots to become very straight. “Culturally our process is different – although I grew up saying “perm”, I made sure to put it as “relaxer” because culturally there’s a difference. When white people think “perm”, its turning already straight hair to curly and when we say “perm” we are PERMANENTLY straightening the roots.”  The goal of this interactive piece was to demystify Black hair and Black beauty shop culture, the creation of ‘Beacon Beauty Shop’ was the first step in trying to make that happen. “I think people came in expecting me to play in their hair, which is fine but when they realized there is this moment that we shared together listening to other people’s stories was something I got a lot out of – I enjoyed that exchange.” 

WhoseNameWasWritInWaterFilmStill_BDavis

Rebecca ‘Becci’ Davis, an artist who honors personal experience, oral narratives and events from past, present and future. “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” – Thomas Merton

Artist Spotlight: Katherine Chavez

Death Becomes Her. The Intimacies of Death. Death is Healing.

27880071_1670680746359723_1127433463570366464_n(1)“Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul.” Artist Katherine Chavez – who prefers Kat –  dives into healing, self-care, and what it means to be intimate with death through painting and printmaking. A native of Los Angeles, Kat is in her third year as an undergrad student at Brown University with a focus in Art History (Latin American Art) and Visual Art (Printmaking). In LA, Kat jumped into the art world working as an intern at The Box Gallery, Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater, and NOW Art LA in Los Angeles, California. She spent five weeks as an artist assistant for Soy Artista Youth Arts Program, working with youth ages 5-24 in printmaking and photography during the summer. Soy Artista is a program based at Self-Help Graphics & Art in East LA. “While working with Soy Artista, it was great to be in a space where the community can come in and think about what is meaningful to them through art making; also learning that creating art is not something just for a few people but for everyone.”

cuerpoAs the daughter of artists, her father a sound engineer and mother who studied dance in college, she grew up creating art. She grappled with the idea of what it meant to be an artist and whether she could apply that label to herself. “I think growing up I never really saw myself as an artist because I never thought I was the best drawer or the most incredible painter. It wasn’t until I moved to Rhode Island, when I took an art class which I really enjoyed. But then I would see other people who were much talented than me, and I thought ok, I can be interested in the arts but I don’t think I’m going to be an artist.”  While trying on her new label, Kat continued to struggle with finding her place in the community: “I only really found my place there since leaving California, part of that is because I didn’t really discover myself as an artist until I got to Rhode Island; so now when I return to LA I’m finally able to engage with communities that I didn’t think I could.”  Growing up, Kat was fascinated by a variety of art disciplines, and was drawn to the possibility of learning how to make the pieces she loved. Her interest in learning went into overdrive when she took a printmaking class taught by Lara Henderson. For Kat, the fascination with printmaking was not only the process, but linked to this history of printmaking in the Chicano community. As a Mexican-American, the heritage of this artform is important to her culture and artwork. “Printmaking was something I latched onto – it has my heart. I think it’s because it’s based on this kind of not being focused on just making one object but many. It’s not limited, a multitude of things can be shared.”

all prints

Through her printmaking and painting Kat Chavez has used her artwork as an exploration of healing, “the repetitive process of printmaking is therapeutic to me, so is painting but sometimes I feel more drained putting all my energy into a single thing.” One of her professors at Brown suggested she submit her work to an open call for a show at AS220’s resident gallery, ¿Se Aculillo? | Are you scared?, curated by Benjamin Lundberg Torres Sánchez.  It was month long multi-discipline show exploring a variety of artist’s reckonings with fear. “This was the first time I ever submitted my artwork, having my first two pieces in a gallery and it was a validating experience for me.”
Hasta Luego (2016), a crafted box and print project, explored her relationship with her grandparents who passed away before she was born. This piece challenged the idea of celebration versus sadness in death, to contemplate what it means to have kinship with family in the wake of their passing, and losing the last generation of family who spoke Spanish fluently. “In making this project it was kind of like; how do I get to know these people [my grandparents] that I never knew and can I know them as being dead – how can I grow to know despite never really knowing them. It made me feel like death is the end of a physical form and not the emotional or spiritual form. Not sure how to describe it, but I definitely feel an emotional presence from my grandparents.”

Kat’s interest with becoming intimate with death and a celebration of those who’ve passed on connects with her culture and heritage, especially Dia de Los Muertos – a Mexican holiday which focuses on the remembrance of family and friends who’ve died and to help support their journey to the afterlife. She believes it’s important to engage with death because it is an inevitable thing, “I’m very interested in flushing out what exactly death is and one of the main things I say is, I want people to be intimate with death. Lots of us are afraid of it and some are not. I’m not at peace with it but I think in creating work around it and asking people to kind of think about it, I am seeking to find a way to be at peace with death. My artwork is an exploration of healing.” Kat will be graduating from Brown University in May of 2019 and her hopes are to work in community-based art practices that look at art more of a healing practice than any business element.

“The focus is healing and art can do that.”

Meet Bristol Garden Club and Diana Hoffman

Raincatcher Kennard parkProject Grant for Individuals
Project Name: Garden Sculpture Project – “RainKeep”
Organization: Bristol Garden Club
Project: Allison Newsome will create an aesthetically pleasing and functional garden sculpture for Mrs. Perry’s Garden in Bristol’s Thomas Park at Silver Creek. It addresses a critical need for water in gardens not served by any municipal source. The rain harvesting sculpture will stimulate and enhance a wide range of educational opportunities for children and adults in the community.
Exploring the purpose and function of the rain harvester will complement the learning of sustainability, conservation practices, and environmental science and climate topics for adults and children. As a focal point to raise public awareness, the rain harvester will be integrated into the Bristol Parks and Recreation Department’s rain barrel campaign. This program is aimed at developing understanding and encouraging the use of rain barrel technology for water conservation and environmental improvement.
About the Organization: The Bristol Garden Club is an educational and charitable organization promoting knowledge of gardening and flower arranging, protection of the environment and encouragement of civic planting as well as charitable activities that further these objectives.

Diane Hoffman project picTeaching Artist Roster
Artist: Diana Hoffman
Discipline: Visual Art
Artist Bio: Diane’s professional artwork is inspired by the environmental concept that the more disorganized, over grown and rambling “nature” appears, the more life it can sustain. Her studio practice explores animal typologies, layering and pattern blocking to contemplate buoyancy, fecundity and collapse. She uses multi-media to make her work including paint, silkscreen printing, digital printed fabric and found textiles.
Diane has over twenty years of experience in undergraduate education. She has taught art classes at Brown University, Rhode Island School of Design and Leslie University of Art and Design and others. Diane loves teaching drawing, painting, digital collage and more.

Meet Butler Hospital and Kirsten Volness

Butler Hope Healing Community ExhibitionArts in Healthcare
Organization: Butler Hospital
Project Name: Multi-Disciplinary Healing Arts Residencies
Project Coordinator: Wendy Grossman and Laura White Carpenter
Participating Artists: Len Cabral, Christopher Johnson, Teri Pimley, and Kerri Peterson Weaver

Project: Butler Hospital’s Healing Arts 2017-2018 Multi-Disciplinary Residencies Program, a nine-month project (September 2017 – May 2018), will host a variety of artists and expressive arts therapists for a series of workshops and short-term residencies on each of the hospital’s eight inpatient units. The goal of the residency is to provide quality arts experiences to our inpatients, their caregivers and staff, which help patients move forward with their treatment.

Through a series of groups in movement, music, visual arts, creative writing and storytelling, we strive to create a comfortable space for creative self-expression to take place. This in turn allows for connection, joy, a sense of peace and hope.

More concretely, we also will use the arts as a tool for engagement in treatment for mental illness and addiction recovery during the short stays that our patients experience, which typically last from five to 10 days. This allows for a broad integration of the arts into the culture of Butler Hospital and permits us to serve as many patients as possible.

About the Organization: Butler Hospital treats psychiatric, substance use and neurological disorders and serves as the flagship mental health teaching hospital for Brown University’s medical school. Butler is a member of Care New England Health System. The hospital’s mission is to: Provide treatment for psychiatric illness in an atmosphere of dignity and respect; Contribute to knowledge through education and research; Continuously improve the ways we serve our patients and our community.

Kirsten Bio picProject Grants for Individuals
Artist Name: Kirsten Volness
Project Name: Verdant Vibes New Music Concert Series
Project: Verdant Vibes is a new music ensemble and concert series bringing together artists and musicians creating new work in a variety of genres and media, acoustic and electronic. This season we will present a three-concert series of music selected from our international call for scores, local and regional guest artists, and collaborations with young writers from the Manton Avenue Project, an afterschool playwriting program based in the Olneyville neighborhood of Providence. We will work with the students on composition and performance of a new project, Olneyville: the Operetta!

18055642_776072662571353_6649634511345034880_oThis summer we posted our public, free, and inclusive call for scores for all types of new music that fits our core ensemble’s instrumentation, regardless of style or genre. We encouraged submission of electroacoustic and multimedia works, as well as proposals for collaborations from artists of all disciplines that do not fit the mold of a standard call for scores. opened this summer and received 750 submissions from around the world. We received over 750 submissions from around the world, and have been very fortunate and successful in attracting fantastic local, national, and international composers and other collaborative artists to work with us and present their work to local audiences.

We will continue to emphasize the work of RI artists (one show will feature local composer/performers) while including music from composers from all over the world. We believe combining local music with music from outside Rhode Island on our concerts helps expose our growing audience to exceptional new music from a variety of communities. We will encourage composers from out of state, who are able and willing, to attend our rehearsals and concerts, with the aim of providing a fruitful exchange between these creative communities.

Artist Bio:
Kirsten Volness is a musician, composer, and teacher who has been involved in the creative community of Providence and greater Rhode Island for eight years. She is co-founder/director and pianist of Verdant Vibes, plays piano with NYC-based ensemble Hotel Elefant, collaborates on unique multimedia projects such as Meridian Project (astrophysics+new music/media), Tenderloin Opera Company (homeless advocacy music/theater group), and is an affiliate artist of Sleeping Weazel. As inaugural Composer-In-Residence, Kirsten also curates the First Fridays chamber music series at the Music Mansion in Providence. She teaches privately and at the University of Rhode Island. kirstenvolness.com

The mission of Verdant Vibes is to present opportunities for a diverse group of composers, performers, and audience members to come together to experience new music. We aim to accomplish this not just through our call for scores and performances by our core ensemble, but through our collaboration with unique and diverse guest artists, accessible and eclectic performance venues, talented students, and curious and enthusiastic audience members. We hope to grow on the successes of this project thus far, and to continue to strive toward the goal of a strong and inclusive new music community in Rhode Island.

Rose Weaver: The arts help us to heal, in community

When art conveys an aspect of human experience, it can touch people’s lives in profound and meaningful ways. Rose Weaver tells a story of how her artistic work helped her and others to deal with difficult and complicated family losses.

Writing plays, storytelling, composing songs, and singing are analogous to food and water for me. Without them I would not have survived an abusive past living under Jim Crow laws or gender discrimination since birth. Looking forward, I know I cannot endure the future if being an artist and receiving artistic grant support is forever taken from me.

Spruced physically, spiritually, and mentally in their abundant guises, performing and writing provides me the artistic means through which I find personal and professional freedom and salvation.

“Memories are the lifeblood of a family’s identity.” My play, Skips in the Record, a RISCA 2004 Fellowship winner, is a tragic comedy about a southern black American family coping with Alzheimer’s disease. Through three generations of women, it focuses on the fear of losing memory, history, thoughts, ideas, recognition and the urgent desire to preserve all of these. I witnessed my grandmother’s steady decline and death from complications of Alzheimer’s. I saw my mother’s struggle as a caregiver who could barely read prescription labels.  A few years later, as my friend and colleague Sylvia Ann Soares’s mother moved deeper into Alzheimer’s disease, again I saw first hand how devastating the disease is to the caregiver, the patient, the whole family. I needed to write and capture my experiences in order to better understand, ease my fears, heal, and to help my community comprehend the scope of Alzheimer’s whole body deterioration.

Skips in the Record was one of my thesis plays at Brown University as a mature MFA student of fifty years old. A one-act play in the beginning, it was not until I was awarded the RISCA Playwriting Fellowship in 2004 that I was able to have the time and resources to create focus groups, do extensive research, and expand the one-act play into a full length script. Performances were welcomed by hospitals, churches, community organizations and even First Night Providence at Trinity Rep.

A few months ago, another dear friend, Pamela Lambert, who acted in Skips in the Record along side Sylvia Ann Soares, confided in me that as a result of her acting in the play over the years, she is presently able to better care for her own mother who is losing the battle to the disease.

An executive who worked with an Alzheimer’s organization said, “Skips in the Record is successful and highly regarded by the audience as an excellent and innovative approach to educate the community about Alzheimer’s disease.” Education using the arts allows a person with no education or one with multiple degrees to benefit on a visceral as well as intellectual level from the messages in artistic representations.

ROSE WEAVER is a playwright, vocalist, and performer. She is currently Artist-in-Residence at Brown University’s Rites & Reason Theatre.
To read more art stories, visit Rhode Island Art Stories. To contribute your own, email: mka [at] mkimarnold [dot] com.

Meet our Fellowship Recipient in Photography!

Each year, RISCA presents a fellowship and a merit award in 13 disciplines. These grants encourage the creative development of artists by enabling them to set aside time to pursue their creative work, and celebrate the amazing artists that make Rhode Island home. In the spring grant deadline, fellowship and merit award recipients are selected in 7 disciplines: crafts, film & video, fiction, poetry, play & screenwriting, photography, and three dimensional art. Over the past week or so, we have featured the 14 recipients.

Barboza-GuboJuan Jose Barboza-Gubo
Fellowship Recipient in Photography

Juan submitted 10 images from his series Virgenes de La Puerta, which honors the transgender women of Peru. Panelists described this work as political and important and human, as well as praising the technical aspects, especially the lighting and composition, of the works.

Juan Jose Barboza-Gubo (Peru, 1976) received his Bachelors Degree at Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru. He has received MFA degrees in both painting and sculpture from Massachusetts College of Art and Design. He has had numerous exhibitions in the US, including shows at the Nielsen Gallery; The Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University; Chazan Gallery, Providence; The Fitchburg Museum; the06_Carol Attleboro Museum; and the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center. His work has been featured internationally in galleries and museums in Tokyo, Athens, and Italy, as well as the Cecilia Gonzales Gallery of Lima, Peru. Recent awards of note include first prizes in the 2008 Ceramic Biennial of the New Hampshire Institute of Art, and the 78th Regional Exhibition at the Fitchburg Museum in 2014. Also in 2014, he was named the Breakout Artist of the Year by Artscope Magazine. He is the recipient of two previous RISCA fellowships: painting in 2015 and sculpture in 2016. Barboza-Gubo currently teaches at Rhode Island College. www.barboza-gubo.com

 

Meet our Merit Recipient in Photography!

Each year, RISCA presents a fellowship and a merit award in 13 disciplines. These grants encourage the creative development of artists by enabling them to set aside time to pursue their creative work, and celebrate the amazing artists that make Rhode Island home. In the spring grant deadline, fellowship and merit award recipients are selected in 7 disciplines: crafts, film & video, fiction, poetry, play & screenwriting, photography, and three dimensional art. Over the next week or so, we are pleased to introduce you to the 14 award recipients.

brian bio picBrian Ulrich
Merit Recipient in Photography

Brian’s submission of ten images was described by the panelists as a layered depiction of wealth- the work feels both attracted and repulsed by it. The panelists appreciated the subtlety of the photographs, and that the series encompassed multiple facets of one main idea.

Brian Ulrich was born in 1971 in Northport, NY. His photographs examining consumer culture have been in solo exhibitions at the Eastman Museum; the Cleveland Museum of Art; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego; the North Carolina Museum of Art; the Julie Saul Gallery; the Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago; and the Robert Koch Gallery; as well as in group exhibitions at the Walker Art Center; the Museum of Contemporary Photography; the San Diego Museum of Art; the New York Public Library and The Art Institute of Chicago.

He is a recipient of a 2009 John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship. The Aperture brian picFoundation and the Cleveland Museum of Art collaborated to publish his first major monograph, “Is This Place Great or What” in 2011. In 2013, the Anderson Gallery published the catalog “Closeout: Retail, Relics and Ephemera”. His work has been featured in the New York Times Magazine; Time Magazine; on National Public Radio programs; Orion Magazine; Vice Magazine; Mother Jones magazine; the Chicago Tribune; Artforum; Harper’s; Politico; Vice; Leica World; Yvi Magazine and Adbusters.

He is currently an Associate Professor and the Graduate Director of Photography at
the Rhode Island School of Design.

Portrait by Dawoud Bey