UVA Arts, University of Virginia

Vol 10 Summer 19 Library
Vanessa German in Avery Court, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT, 2016. (Credit: Allen Phillips / Wadsworth Atheneum)
The Fralin Museum of Art

Vanessa German and sometimes.we.cannot.be.with.our.bodies.

Vanessa German, American, b. 1976. sometimes.we.cannot.be.with.our.bodies., 2017. Mixed-media installation.
(Photo: Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh, PA.)

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Visual and performance artist, activist, poet…Vanessa German’s artistic practice is richer for having embraced many media. Visitors to The Fralin Museum are experiencing this in the Pittsburgh-based German’s multimedia sculptural installation sometimes.we.cannot.be.with.our.bodies. German’s powerful multisensory installation of sculpture and sound combines figures without their heads, heads without their bodies, found objects and ephemera, and grapples with some of the most profound challenges of contemporary life, including violence, loss, and inequity, particularly in communities of color and the LGBTQ+ community. Originally presented at the Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh in 2017, the installation was reimagined by the artist and was organized for The Fralin by Matthew McLendon, the museum’s J. Sanford Miller Family Director. The artist describes her installation as “a dimensional living reckoning, the living reckoning in bold, eruptive, disruptive work against systems & pathologies that oppress and subvert overt & covert violence onto & into the lives & humanity of marginalized people on this land.” This installation at The Fralin, which addresses violence against LGBTQ+ people of color among other injustices, coincides with the 50thanniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City, which helped spark the LGBTQ+ liberation movement in the United States. It combines sculpture, soundtrack, and text across two galleries. “Vanessa German is a singular and supremely persuasive voice in the urgent cultural conversations around values and social justice in the world today,” McLendon said. The artist and the subject matter, he added, resonate deeply around the world and the University and the Charlottesville community. “As a leading university art museum with a global reach, and in light of the tragic events of August 2017 in Charlottesville, The Fralin is committed to providing a mediated space to explore the issues that the artist has been devoted to throughout her versatile and inspiring career.” Throughout her career, German has focused on the concept of community, and her own Homewood neighborhood in Pittsburgh remains a driving force in her work. Known as a “citizen artist,” German explores the power of art and love as a transformative force in the dynamic, often fragile, cultural ecosystem of communities and neighborhoods. She sources many of the cast-off relics that form the language of her sculptures there, and is the founder of Love Front Porch and ARThouse, a community initiative for the children of Homewood. In addition to her installation, German explored and contributed to the UVA and surrounding communities during a March residency, in which she worked one-on-one with students and community members of all ages through power figure workshops, evening salons for conversation and creativity, and special tours, designed to foster dialog and deepen engagement with the artist’s work. 

sometimes.we.cannot.be.with.our.bodies., is on view through July 7 in the J. Sanford Miller Family Gallery and Octagonal Gallery at The Fralin and is made possible through generous support from the UVA Arts Endowment, through the Office of the Provost and the Vice Provost for the Arts, and The Office for Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights at the University of Virginia.

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