Disperse Archives Opening x Daughters of Dust Artist Talk

Woo!! There is so much art happening in Baltimore; it’s hard to keep up! Last night and today Chappell and I went to two different art events that I am so grateful to write about it here.

Disperse Archives is a collaboration between Lawrence Burney, Joy Davis, and Jessica Douglas. At this point, I need preface that rather than listen to me write about, or archive the experience, you should just go to the exhibit. Why? Because this exhibition specifically centers black culture and how its narratives are constructed while empowering black people how to archive their own histories. It was a privilege to be at the opening and as a white woman, I would rather point to their genius so you can see it for yourself.

I did get to chat with Joy Davis, and as she is a professional archivist and curator, it was really inspiring to see her focus on the black people of Baltimore and their narratives. History and art history are sorely lacking the perspective of black people, especially when it comes to their own stories and histories. The Waller Gallery specifically highlights work by people of color. Located at 2420 N Calvert St., the work will be on display until March 2nd so you should check it out!

Today at the Parkway Theatre, we went to a special screening of Daughters of the Dust by Julie Dash. It closed with an artist talk by Delita Martin, whose work is inspired by the film and is currently showing at the Galerie Myrtis.

Daughters of the Dust has been on my to-watch list since I took Video Art in undergrad at UNC-CH – shout out to Professor Truong (artist website). The film was shot on the breathtakingly beautiful Gullah Island, or Ibo Landing, off the coast of South Carolina set in 1902. It centers black women – their sisters, cousins, mothers, grandmothers, and ancestors – in the midst of a debate about identity before some of their family embark for the mainland. Rather than create a protagonist, Julie Dash frames the narrative in a nonlinear, and nonWestern format, using the act of remembrance and dramatic monologues from a variety of characters to weave a story that is timeless and enduring.

Delita Martin is a printmaker and artist, whose work has been consciously and unconsciously shaped by this movie. As an African American woman, she explores her own identity through her memories and relationships with her mother and grandmother. From a variety of symbols of safety pins, birds, bowls, to textured layers and slave ledgers, she constructs a symbolic and spiritual expression of her being.

It was cool to first see Disperse Archives show, and then follow it with this seminal film. Daughters of the Dust has been so influential in Black culture and identity since its release in 1991, partly being that it was the first nationally released film to be directed by an African American woman. Julie Dash archived her perspective through narrative film and since it has inspired countless other great black women artists, include Delita Martin and Beyoncé. I know a whole class could be taught on this movie, so I leave it here. Comments welcome!

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