Allana Clarke Talks Support to History
In 2014 Kara Walker presented A Subtlety, additionally often called the Honorable Sugar Child, on the Domino Sugar Refinery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It modified into a enormous sculpture of a Shaded lady in a leonine crouch, naked moreover a scarf wrapping her hair. Walker describes the work as “an Homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who bear delicate our Candy tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the Fresh World.”
Two years earlier than this, twenty-5-year-primitive Allana Clarke made Performing Histories: Sugar, a efficiency for video at some level of which she sits stark naked against a sunless backdrop and licks sugar off her breasts. The absurdist work, esteem Walker’s, speaks to a history of colonialism, sugar plantations, and consumption. However where Walker’s sphinxlike sculpture orients its viewers toward the previous, Clarke’s efficiency confronts the most modern. The artist centers herself as a descendant of these who labored for sugar, residing with the aftermath of their history. What occurs when she, as a Shaded lady, is now no longer being consumed, but slightly is the one drinking? This question is arguably the anchor level for a ways of Clarke’s art, which contains video, pictures, and sculpture. When Shaded ladies folks grapple with history, it’s in most cases by means of the prism of things being done to us: rape, exploitation, captivity, demolish. Clarke subverts this. She examines the positions of the agent and the recipient, and doesn’t hesitate to reverse them.
Born in Trinidad and raised in Fresh York, Clarke repeatedly had an hobby in avenue pictures. She studied pictures at Fresh Jersey City College, and visited Chelsea galleries on class trips. The work she saw in these places seemed too “conceptual” and “insular.” After graduating, she reexamined her chosen medium: “I started to feel unhappy with this notion of me, a particular person with company, going out into the arena and shooting the photos of others,” Clarke said in an interview. “Even the language of pictures is predatory. There were so many complications [with it] that I needed to attain one thing else.” She subsequently studied on the Skowhegan College of Portray and Sculpture, earned an interdisciplinary MFA from Maryland Institute College of Art, and taught at Wayne Insist College in Michigan and Williams College in Massachusetts.
Clarke’s recent work specializes in troubling norms and practices she encountered in her childhood, exposing their broader social ramifications. These kinds of worrying reminiscences are linked to hair. As a girl, she felt compelled by her family and pals to assimilate by the utilization of hair bonding glue to stable weaves and extensions. Hair care is a minefield for Shaded ladies folks and girls. Recently, Clarke asks what hair bonding glue could perchance very effectively be when it’s now no longer pulling her a ways from notions of Shaded beauty. She “performs with the subject subject” by stretching and manipulating the glue until it thickens into a leathery pores and skin. On her webcam, Clarke showed me her working set in Fresh Haven, where she has a yearlong fellowship at NXTHVN, a residency program basically based by artist Titus Kaphar. She retail outlets hundreds of bottles of hair bonding glue in orderly containers. On Instagram, Clarke posts short clips of her fingers and toes intuitively shaping grooves into the glue skins, whereas the song of Sampha, Solange, and Erykah Badu plays in the background. “I went by means of a essentially lengthy route of of experimenting with the subject subject to sign what it does and what I will create it attain, and what sort of dialog we can bear collectively,” Clarke said. She takes what has signified damage to her and plays around with its physical properties to meet her curiosity.
Clarke has additionally adopted cocoa butter as a sculptural self-discipline subject, seeing it as a section of her early “ritualistic indoctrination” into white-influenced beauty requirements. For “Relative Semblance,” her 2019 exhibition on the Women folks’s Darkroom + Gallery in Brooklyn, she solid cocoa butter into letters reading: “Meh muddah disclose me to abominate blackness in myself & in others.” Role against a chocolate-covered wall, the statement modified into a brash yet somber reminder of how internalized racism is passed from one generation to one other.
Clarke considers every interplay with cocoa butter and bonding glue an “vitality transfer” at some level of which she releases the article from the “burden of expectation.” Her route of creates a collection where she will be able to be able to expend her chosen self-discipline subject in an intimate dialogue with none stress to conform to hegemonic requirements. Now these offers could perchance very effectively be susceptible for healing as a substitute of trauma. Her work explores the sexy terrain that opens up when the oppressed order reduction to history.
This article appears in the Would perchance well also simply/June 2021 drawl, pp. 94–95.