Tameka Jenean Norris: Cut From the Same Cloth

25.11.2016 | Art , Blog | BY:

At a time of gross political uncertainty, American artist Tameka Jenean Norris’s new exhibition at the Ronchini Gallery is timely. Opening today, the exhibition sees Norris employ an expansive range of mediums, from video installations to painting and photography, to explore vital themes of black, female identity and self-image in today’s society.

Having grown up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Norris later moved to L.A., a transition that influences her new exhibition, in which the artist uses portraits to reconnect with distant relatives. The new collection of work illustrates the pivotal role of history in informing a sense of self, exploring the tension between discovering and owning one’s image and how identity is inherently linked to the past. Throughout, the work forms an engaging critique of contemporary social issues surrounding the appropriation of black culture and female-identity.

Tameka Jenean Norris, Marilyn No Matter What He Do, work in progress, 2016, fabric, canvas, acrylic paint, thread, 55 x 50 in, courtesy the artist and Ronchini Gallery

Tameka Jenean Norris, Marilyn No Matter What He Do, work in progress, 2016, courtesy the artist and Ronchini Gallery.

Speaking to Twin about the influences behind the exhibition and her work, Tameka told us:

The exhibition is a continuation of my first show at Ronchini Gallery ‘Almost Acquaintances’, and the works were mostly created at the MacDowell Colony in summer ’16, Peterborough, New Hampshire, and during this fall at The Grant Wood Fellowship, University of Iowa, where I am a Visiting Assistant Professor. Both the residency and the fellowship offered an opportunity for me to concentrate on a new body of work and have some space from the larger, more complicated world. During these periods of isolation, I spent some time contemplating about success in general, ‘black striving’ and missing my ‘family’ on the Gulf Coast and the surrounding areas.

Tameka Jenean Norris, Joel Want a Hamburger, work in progress, 2016, fabric, canvas, acrylic paint, thread, oil pastel, 50 x 50in, courtesy the artist and Ronchini Gallery

Tameka Jenean Norris, Joel Want a Hamburger, work in progress, 2016, courtesy the artist and Ronchini Gallery

Although I have been making progress as an artist and academically, I feel that I have become disconnected from my family/community/tribe/village in the southern US, and this show is an attempt at reconciliation and reaching out to them. The reference photos I have worked from are mainly taken from Facebook, and some of the family members are deceased, incarcerated and others I have only ever been able to reach via social media. 

The exhibition also displays abstract fabric works created by Tameka, as well as an installation of a large woven braid – both serve as metaphors for the memory. “My goal with this exhibition is to create a family tree of sorts and attempt to untangle the line of systematic oppression that has burdened my family and black American culture at large.”

Tameka Jenean Norris, Meka Jean Too Good For You, 2014, video still, courtesy the artist and Ronchini Gallery

Tameka Jenean Norris, Meka Jean Too Good For You, 2014, video still, courtesy the artist and Ronchini Gallery

 Tameka Jenean Norris: Cut From the Same Cloth, Ronchini Gallery, London, 25 November 2016 – 21 January 2017, ronchinigallery.com. 

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