Shana M. griffin:
ERASED//Geographies of Black Displacement
June 19 – October 30, 2023
Artist talk with Shana M. griffin: Thursday, October 5, 5pm
followed by a reception for the show
The Visual Arts Program at Fordham University is pleased to present ERASED//Geographies of Black Displacement, an exhibition of over sixty works created and curated by Shana M. griffin, and organized by Associate Clinical Professor Casey Ruble.
Combining found objects, photographs, text, paintings, and ephemera, ERASED explores geographies of Black displacement, dislocation, containment, and disposability in land-use planning, housing policies, and urban development. It focuses on two locations: griffin’s home state of Louisiana, and the City of New Orleans where she lives, and New York City—including the area surrounding Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus, which was a working-class Black and brown neighborhood known as San Juan Hill before Robert Moses spearheaded its razing in the 1950s in the name of “urban renewal.”
Among San Juan Hill’s many notable residents (including jazz legend Thelonious Monk) was Alice Dunbar-Nelson, a writer, teacher, feminist activist, and civil rights leader who was born in New Orleans in 1875 and lived in the San Juan Hill neighborhood in the late 1800s. It was there that Dunbar-Nelson met and began working with feminist activist, writer, abolitionist, and national Black women’s club organizer Victoria Earle Matthews, who founded “a Christian, non-sectarian Home for Colored Girls and Women” called the White Rose Mission. The mission offered food, education, and job placement to newly arrived Black women from the South and the West Indies. griffin’s installation San Juan Hill, A Feminist Remembrance: Victoria Earle Matthews, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, and the White Rose Mission (2023) pays homage to these extraordinary women by reimagining the parlor of the late-nineteenth-century mission.
Also on view are a selection from griffin’s Cartographies of Violence (2020–present), which began as a series of black-and-white paintings incorporating maps of New Orleans and, for this show, was expanded to include maps of New York; SOIL (2021–present), which combines black-and-white photographs of Louisiana plantation sites with over a hundred jars filled with dirt, water, plant matter, debris, bricks, and minerals found at those sites to construct an unconventional monument of remembrance and create a counter-archival narrative of the carceral spaces where enslaved people worked, died, created families, disappeared, and witnessed loved ones born and sold into servitude (a portion of the jars are featured here); a scroll highlighting the names of enslavers and slave traders commemorated in public space with street names, parks, universities, schools, and neighborhoods across New York City; and three powerful sculptures comprised, respectively, of seventy-five pounds of handmade square iron nails and related metalwork from the 1800s displayed in a pile on a low platform, fifteen pounds of tools contained in a glass jar, and a heap of chunks of concrete and other building material that references the destruction of Black and brown communities like San Juan Hill.
Together with the other works in the show, these pieces examine the multiple ways displacement takes place, how it shapes Black life, and how sites of displacement become ones of everyday violence, subjectivity, resistance, and possibility.
The Development of the Exhibition
ERASED was made possible by a Teaching Race Across the Curriculum (TRAC) grant offered by the Office of the Chief Diversity Officer at Fordham University. Associate Clinical Professor Casey Ruble organized the exhibition and was the lead author of the grant; it was coauthored by Professor Mark Street and Adjunct Professors Matthew Lopez-Jensen, Tochi Mgbenwelu, Oscar Oliver-Didier, and Adriana Warner.
As part of the production and curation of the exhibition, griffin made site visits to places in and around the Lincoln Center campus, met with community leaders, built relationships with members both within and outside the Fordham community, presented to classes, and collaborated with students in Ruble’s Visual Justice course and Advanced Lecturer Diana Kamin’s Photography, Identity, Power course. The students contributed research during the conceptualization phase of the project. Programming associated with the show and a closing reception will take place in the fall.
Many, many thanks go to Clinical Professor Abby Goldstein for her critical support in the production of the show, to Renee Royal and Velda Griffin for supporting griffin in delivering her artwork to Fordham University, to Allyson Spellacy for assisting with installation, and to Associate Clinical Professor Stephan Apicella-Hitchcock and Adjunct Professors Vincent Stracquadanio and Anibal Pella-Woo for their help. We are indebted to the many people who met with, collaborated with, or invited griffin to speak to their classes, or otherwise supported the production of the show, including Professor Mark Street; Adjunct Professors Matthew Lopez-Jensen and Adriana Warner; Advanced Lecturer Diana Kamin; Assistant Professor Catalina Alvarez; Julie Gafney, Kujegi Camara, and Surey Miranda-Alarcon at Fordham’s Center for Community Engaged Learning; David Shuffler and Siddhartha Sanchez at the Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice; Margarita Curet, former President of the Amsterdam Houses Tenants Association; Rebecca Popp and Anna Troester at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, who co-created the Legacies of San Juan Hill web platform; and Dean Laura Auricchio, Chief Diversity Officer Rafael Zapata, and Professor Anne Fernald.
A huge thank you to the students in Ruble’s Visual Justice course:
Alexandra PupoJulian Sites Pistor
And in Kamin’s Photography, Identity, Power course:
Mariana Lopez Ramon
Finally, we are very grateful for everyone in Security and Facilities Management and in Custodial Services for their generous help in making the installation process a smooth one.
Shana M. griffin is a New Orleans–based Black feminist activist, independent researcher, sociologist, abolitionist, and artist. griffin’s practice is interdisciplinary, research-based, and decolonial, centering the experiences of Black women most vulnerable to the violence of poverty, incarceration, polluted environments, reproductive regulation, economic exploitation, housing discrimination, and climate change. Her work exists across the fields of sociology, geography, Black feminist thought, digital humanities, and land-use planning, and within movements challenging displacement, carcerality, reproductive control, climate impacts, and gender-based violence. She is a 2022 Andy Warhol Curatorial Research Fellow, 2022 New Orleans Center for the Gulf South Monroe Fellow, 2021 Creative Capital Awardee, and 2020-21 John O’Neal Cultural Arts Fellow.
Casey Ruble teaches courses in the Painting & Drawing and Art & Engagement areas of study in Fordham’s Visual Arts Program. She is represented by Foley Gallery in New York and has received grants and fellowships from the Smithsonian Institution, Warhol Foundation (through the arts residency Parse Nola), New Orleans Center for the Gulf South, New Jersey Council for the Humanities, and New Jersey Council on the Arts. Influenced by minimalist literature, documentary photography of the 1970s, and true-crime television, her multidisciplinary work focuses on history, memory, and place, often as they pertain to racial inequity. She is currently at work on an independent experimental documentary film set in New Orleans.
For more information on this exhibition, contact Casey Ruble at firstname.lastname@example.org and Shana M. griffin through her website, www.shanamgriffin.com