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Phylicia Ghee: 2020 Janet & Walter Sondheim Artscape Finalist Exhibition - 3D virtual exhibition by Phylicia Ghee

Phylicia Ghee: 2020 Janet & Walter Sondheim Artscape Finalist Exhibition

Sa, 06/06/2020Mo, 08/31/2020

curated by:

My work documents transition, explores healing, ritual and ceremonial rites of passage. I’m interested in the intersection between the physical and the spiritual, as well as the transitional space between birth and death.

This exhibition is an exploration in both grief and self-directed healing. It all evolved from a desire to see liberation for black lives. To see us healing and thriving; to honor those we have lost. The energy of transition and death is definitely present in the space, but it is in conversation with this idea of windows and portals. For me, the video works on the two opposite walls, “The Site of Memory” and “8:46” function like windows into moments from my life. Most of those moments were documented during this pandemic period; gardening with my Grandfather, paying reverence to my ancestors, writing prayers for my mother, making herbal remedies, exploring how I care for myself and how we care for one another during these deep challenges and moments of grief and bereavement. The large-scale earth spiral “The Immeasurable Truth”, made of sea salt and compost from my Grandfather’s garden — which he made with dried leaves from this past Fall — appears to flow in or out of the alcove in the center of the room. This is to reference the veil between worlds; the physical and the spiritual. It’s not evident whether the spiral is going or coming. This simultaneous ebb and flow, this collapsing of time and space, to me, is like a complex poetry representing the lives and the unknown truths of history living in the soil and in the sea; making manifestation both in this realm and beyond. So it’s not so much a question of living or dying, but of traversing physical, psychological and spiritual realms; and living on through re-memory with a cyclical understanding of life. In this space I wanted to be able to touch on the inter-dimensionality and spiritual power of black lives, and to honor black, brown and indigenous lives ripped from us by the continual violences committed against us, both presently and historically.

This exhibition is entitled “WE ARE THE INFINITE, DISGUISED AS THE FINITE”. This title functions as a declaratory statement, a reclamation and a threat. In other words, you cannot kill us or erase us; you cannot silence us, we are infinite, we will thrive.

I share various photographs documenting a rite of passage and hair cutting ceremony entitled “Grounding Ceremony” in addition to a mixed media (in-progress) quilt and collaboration with my Grandmother entitled “Genetic Memory”. My hair, which I cut during “Grounding Ceremony” ( and its seen laying on the earth beside me in the panoramic photograph on the left as you first walk into the space) is sewn into the quilt (7 years later) amongst photographs of my family and my mother’s brain scans printed on fabric, framed by Bògòlanfini and hung on drift wood. This demonstrates how narratives, materials and elements continue over various works, sometimes spanning years.

I created five new works for this exhibition. One of my favorite moments in the exhibition is a photo I took of my Grandmother, called “Grandma”. It is situated above a poem by Lucille Clifton entitled, “I am accused of tending to the past.” This makes me think of my lineage and of black women being at the forefront of tending to falsified histories and constant erasures, but remaining strong in the midst of challenges sprouting from seeds they did not plant.

8:46 is a visual prayer named for the approximate amount of time the officer kneeled on George Floyd's neck ultimately killing him. Moving images that overlap are anchored by one image depicting me breathing. Other images of moments from my life both during the pandemic, and some from years prior, are layered together creating a montage of inherited and learned restorative healing practices. These are seeds of longevity, acts of protection, catharsis and self, family, community and cultural preservation. These overlapping moving images are overlaid by the sound of me breathing and praying for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.

Essentially this is 8 minutes and 46 seconds of reverence. A visual and auditory medicine for times of grief.

My hope is that by breathing for this time, this encourages the viewer to breathe as well; activating the parasympathetic nervous system and shifting the internal state of the body from one of stress to one of calm. This is also cleansing, clearing and oxygenating the cells, ultimately having a positive effecting on the heart, the brain, the digestive system and the immune system. This is reinforcing that we need to be well to show up fully in this revolution (breathing, taking care of self etc.), especially in the face of such brutality, sickness and hatred.
also my grandfather’s, my grandmother’s, my mother’s, and that of those who came before us.

Ultimately, I am here to unearth the deep well of ever-replenishing strength, resilience, and joy that lives in our bones and in the back corridors of our hearts. To ritualize the mundane, and to rediscover peace, wonder and happiness for us all. We are healing.

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