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June: Story Stitchers

Saint Louis Story Stitchers Artists Collective piece WADE is a work from the multi-year project titled, The WHY of MY City. The WHY of MY City captures and documents black history through written word and art and gives audiences insight into neighbors’ lives. The WHY of MY City and WADE were presented in 2020 with support from Mid-America Arts Alliance and the National Endowment for the Arts, Missouri Humanities Council, a state agency, National Endowment for the Humanities, Missouri Foundation for Health, and Kranzberg Arts Foundation. Story Stitchers published an album titled The WHY of MY City which contains WADE and a podcast series, StitchCast Studio Special Edition: The WHY of MY City in spring 2021.Saint Louis Story Stitchers Artists Collective was founded in 2013 to combat gun violence. Incorporated as a charity in 2014, Story Stitchers creates a platform for community engagement through an artistic lens to shift perceptions and inspire hope for the Saint Louis community. Through a unique form of “urban storytelling,” Story Stitchers promote peace, understanding, and civic pride.

WADE

Saint Louis Story Stitchers Artists Collective, WADE, 2020; digital video, time: 5:48; Courtesy of the artists.Music by Ntegrity and KP Dennis, with Stitchers Youth Council members Emeara, Branden, AnnaLise, Shawn, Cali, Rachel and She’Kinah Engineering and Mixing by Ntegrity, Mastering by Preston Jones, Sawhorse Studio Videography by Troy Anthony, Editing by Susan Colangelo

JOSHUA D. WILLIAMS

I am an African American / Biracial visual artist from Baltimore, Maryland, currently living in Saint Louis, Missouri. I work in drawing and painting through mixed media. I create narratives through characters that reflect my cultural, racial, and political identity and views. The work is graphic and rough, displaying conditions in my world in an honest fashion.

This body of work is about understanding of self and black bodies as an African American man through multiple sources and collaboration. It covers possibilities for healing especially in urban and underinvested communities.

“City Dance” explores the beauty and innovation of the human form in a rough and difficult landscape. The work was created in a collaboration between St. Louis crump dancer Anthony Rhodes and myself and artists at Saint Louis Story Stitchers. The video was created at a block party event near my neighborhood in St. Louis. After seeing the live dance performance, Anthony and I started to work together and I photographed him dancing at the studio and then interpreted his movements through charcoal drawing on paper. A Story Stitchers videographer helped us put the final video together with original music from the Stitchers’ library of beats. The piece was created in 2020 for Saint Louis Story Stitchers’ “The WHY of MY City” program, which was funded in part by Mid America Arts Alliance.

“Cinderella Story” explores a fantasy aspect, appropriating beauty as described by others and transforming it to fit my own narrative. Two figures are seen, a woman in front with the shadow of a large male that acts as her protector. At the bottom, a blue flower, a piece of cotton with thorns attached, and a picture of racial stereotypes, help to define the setting and environment in which the figures live, as a rough, difficult landscape. Cinderella, the main character, is based on the folk tale, and in the drawing our heroine finds her true love and prevails over cruelty.

Joshua Williams (drawings) in collaboration with Anthony Rhodes (dance) and Saint Louis Story Stitchers (beats and videography), City Dance, 2020;  video, dance, charcoal on paper, time: 2:01; Courtesy of the artists.

oil painting on canvas

Joshua Williams, Cinderella Story, 2021; oil on canvas, 24 x 18 inches; Courtesy of the artist.

JORDAN LEE

Jordan Lee is a printmaker, sculptor, and digital artist based in St. Louis, MO. He is a B.F.A. candidate in Studio Art at the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis.

My work is often experimental in approach and possesses a growing focus on the politics behind the violative use of surveillance technologies. More generally, my practice is centered around themes of surveillance, dehumanization, fracture between the self and the body, and white control of historical narratives. I explore the emotional experience of what it means to be monitored instead of seen. My process often involves using my body to simulate the experience of being observed through an inherently biased and reductive digital lens. I am deeply interested in how we respond when aware of how we are surveilled.

UCU is an interactive site-specific installation piece that was installed in the Walker showroom at the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts. It was open to viewers for a single day from 8 am to 5 pm. For the piece, a semi-hidden camera was fixed to the ceiling above and slightly in front of the monolithic form attached to the wall. It was continuously recording and live-streaming to a computer hidden within the monolith. The recording was then displayed on a monitor, but with a delay.

The visual similarities between the faux-concrete material and the displayed image of the floor invite the viewer to examine the monolithic form more closely, and to ponder the connection between the artificiality of material and the translation of the physical space into digital space. One might assume that the monitor is displaying a static image. However, upon approaching the work, one discovers that they are being surveilled from above. The delay in the video makes this realization sudden and more unexpected. In order to investigate and approach the work, the viewer unintentionally participates in the piece. The process of observing is therefore inextricably tied to the experience of being observed. The delay and perspective of the surveillance camera combine to create a feeling of disorientation, as the space and body of the viewer are flattened, and they must observe their movements and actions after the fact. Some participate in the piece by making separate and distinct movements and waiting until they can observe them on the screen. The situation creates a somewhat destabilizing sense of time and removes the ease at which one can act and observe themselves simultaneously. The surveilled image of oneself may be experienced as more of a separate entity.

UCU explores the defamiliarizing and alienating experience of unintentionally entering a situation where you participate in your own surveillance.

Jordan Lee, U C U, 2020; enamel paint, acrylic paint, wood, insulation foam board, iPhone, laptop, and computer monitor, 80 x 25 x 5 inches; Courtesy of the artist.

Jordan Lee, installation view of U C U, 2020; enamel paint, acrylic paint, wood, insulation foam board, iPhone, laptop, and computer monitor, 80 x 25 x 5 inches; Courtesy of the artist.

collaged digital scans

Jordan Lee, Swimming, 2021; collaged digital scans, 300 x 375 inches; Courtesy of the artist.

charcoal on wood panel

Jordan Lee, Down beat / Beat down, 2020; charcoal on wood panel, 16 x 21 inches; Courtesy of the artist.

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