Vanessa German: de.structive; dis.tillation
Based in the Homewood neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a community devastated by poverty, Vanessa German creates work in response to her life experiences. German’s work confronts the presence of racism, violence, and brutality. She constructs her work using a wide range of materials: paint, found objects, glitter, tar, and toilet paper – just to name a few.
Installed in three spaces of the Museum, de.structive dis.tillation focuses on the breadth of German’s artistic output. The exhibition demonstrates her interest in spoken word poetry and her ability to sculpt language, as well as objects to create visual rhythm, cadence, and movement.
The title, de.structive dis.tillation is taken from the chemical process involving heating organic material and withholding oxygen to create tar, which is a material German uses to create the flesh tones of her sculptures. Reflecting on the title, German states:
“I am thinking about Eric Garner crying out, ‘I can’t breathe.’ I am thinking about the metaphor that Black Lives Matter created being real breath and psychological breath. I am thinking about withholding oxygen and the process of destroying to create.”
The Everson is a space for communal storytelling, opening and increasing our awareness of our responsibility in the stories we write about, pay attention to, and pass on. German’s artwork brings her stories into the museum and gives her a voice when she can not be present to speak or perform.
The Everson Robineau Gallery features a smaller army of six power figures, an installation of twenty-two adorned paddles, and four photographs from German’s ongoing photography project titled The Blacks. Presented together the works form a monumental installation of protectors that recall the power and beauty of Byzantine Icon paintings said to contain the magical power to answer even the most miraculous of prayers.
Vanessa German, the featured artist of the Wadsworth Atheneum’s 174th MATRIX installation, shares her creative process and performance with museum visitors and students at local Connecticut schools as part of her artist residency during Summer 2016.