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Jeffrey Gibson: To Feel Myself Beloved on the Earth

Jeffrey Gibson, a Choctaw-Cherokee artist, is best known for his abstract painting, sculpture and prints which carry an autobiographical cultural inflection. Gibson’s influences range from 19th-century beadwork and Native American iconography, to contemporary street art. This exhibition, To Feel Myself Beloved on the Earth takes its title from “Late Fragment”, the final poem in the poet and short story writer Raymond Carver’s last published work, “A New Path to the Waterfall.”

Gibson’s eponymous video To Feel Myself Beloved on the Earth was produced in 2020, amidst both the coronavirus pandemic and a time of civil unrest as citizens took to the streets to demand equity and justice for BIPOC communities. This sixteen-minute video features six different performances, exploring themes of identity, sound, community, and resilience through rhythm and movement. Local performers from a variety of cultural and dance backgrounds were filmed in both urban and lush, natural locations, including the grounds of Art Omi. Enveloped in a fugue of ambient sound and drumming, each performance emphasizes the transformation of chaos to stability, and the balance between harmony and tension.

Featured in To Feel Myself Beloved on the Earth are the performers’ garments created by Gibson’s studio, vibrant in color, material and movement. Exhibited alongside their debut performances are also seven new drums, bringing these elements together to provide visual, rhythmic connection. Gibson utilizes language as a strategy to investigate issues of race, sexuality, religion, and gender. His own writing is imbued with the power of political statements, and is prevalent throughout this series of drums, colorful prints, and new quilts on display.

The large-scale quilts accompanying this exuberant collection of multimedia work feature messages that range from poignant to proud and celebratory. With titles ranging from His Love is Deep, to SHE KNOWS OTHER WORLDS, Gibson’s use of language taps into the welcoming and inclusive aura of house music and dance, specifically for BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities, while recognizing the power of words and continued significance of these messages today.