Ja’Tovia Gary (born 1984, Dallas, TX) uses documentary film and experimental video art to address representation, race, gender, sexuality, and violence. Gary was at the Terra Foundation for American Art’s residency program in Giverny, France during the summer of 2016 when several widely-publicized police involved killings of African Americans took place in the United States. An immersive, three-channel film installation, The Giverny Suite, (2019) was developed out of Gary’s consideration of the disjunctive nature of her experience that summer, reckoning with feelings of both privilege and precarity. Incorporating historical and archival found footage alongside Harlem Street interviews and scenes of the artist exploring Monet’s famed Giverny Gardens, Gary centers the voices and bodies of Black women in this experimental film essay that is a meditation on the interconnected themes of insecurity/ safety, isolation/respite, autonomy, and love. The work includes archival clips of African American performers Josephine Baker (1906-1975) and Nina Simone (1933-2003) who famously expatriated to France; Diamond Reynolds’s real-time narration of the events around the 2016 shooting of Philando Castile during a traffic stop; and interviews that Gary conducted with Black women and girls whom she engaged on the streets of Harlem by asking them the question “Do you feel safe?” With The Giverny Suite, Gary presents a complicated and nuanced portrait of the diversity and complexity of Black women’s relationship to physical and emotional security.
The Giverny Suite is the third and final media work in a series exploring the same themes including Giverny I (Négresse Impériale), 2017, and The Giverny Document, 2019.
Image: Ja’Tovia Gary (American, born 1984) THE GIVERNY SUITE. 2019 Three-channel high-definition video and 16mm film transferred to video (black and white and color, stereo sound; 39:51 min.); 16:9 aspect ratio; settee; 25 white painted frames; altar to Yemaya (candle, sea shells, anchor, fruit, plate, vase, flowers, glass jar of molasses, glass jar of rum and fabric); and altar to Oshun (candle, mirror, cowrie shells, fruit, cinnamon sticks, plate, vases, flowers, glass jar of white wine, glass jar of honey and fabric), Installation view, flesh that needs to be loved, Paula Cooper Gallery, New York, NY, February 15 – March 21, 2020. Photo: Steven Probert.