Christie Neptune: Unpacking Sameness
NURTUREart is pleased to present Unpacking Sameness, a solo exhibition by Christie Neptune. Neptune uses photography and filmed performance to unpack and dismantle the social and psychological constructs of race in America. In developing a visual language comprised of motifs from mid-seventeenth century Dutch painting, daguerreotypes of American slaves, and the low-fi films of consciousness raising black artists of 1970s New York, Neptune creates a narrative that oscillates between construction and deconstruction, oppression and liberation.
In Unpacking Sameness the social construct of structural racism is given symbolic form in The Colorline, a sculpture comprised of mirror, industrial chrome articulated armature, and heavy green velvet curtain. The sculpture appears in a series of self-portraits in which Neptune is framed, restrained, and inhibited within the construct. The composition of Exposing My limits Behind America’s Curtain mirrors Girl Reading a Letter by an Open Window by Johannes Vermeer. Vermeer’s 1658 painting was created at the height of the Dutch colonial empire and slave trade, during the Dutch Golden Age. Just as the young woman in Vermeer’s piece is in profile, so is Neptune. But instead of an open window surrounded by a luxurious interior, Neptune sits atop a metal stool, facing an acrylic sheet held in position by the chrome mechanical armature, her hands pressed flat against its surface. The green velvet curtain hangs from an unseen rod partially obscuring her body.
The video Dismantling Man-Made Constructs, shot on Super 8 film and HD video in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, features an interactive performance. During the performance, participants of the group were divided into groups of two: white participants as “Colonizers” and non-white participants as “The Colonized.” Participants of the performance were provided a strict list of rules and instructional guidelines on how to assemble or disassemble The Colorline sculpture. The rules:
A “Colonizer” is allowed to construct the assembled piece.
A “Colonizer” can deconstruct the assembled piece only when in collaboration with the “Colonized.”
The “Colonized” can have a portrait taken of them within the gaze of the construct.
The “Colonized” could take a self portrait within the gaze of the construct.
The “Colonized” can deconstruct the assembled construct.
The “Colonized” can choose not to deconstruct the assembled construct in collaboration with a “Colonizer.”
Sitting like Delia with bare top and indigo is a self-portrait in which Neptune mimics the posture and dress of a slave woman in a mid-eighteenth century photo-portrait: the Daguerreotype of Delia, which is one in a series of slave photographs as part of Louis Agassiz’s race studies in 1850. Neptune, a free black female, is bare topped in blue denim with the shutter release in hand, conveying intentful control over her own representation and presentation.
Unpacking Sameness maps a social history as it has been embodied and portrayed symbolically. Neptune, when embodying these symbols, takes steps to nuance and complicate their reading, to dislocate their place in time and space, and to pull loose the knots in our mental web of ideas about race and gender in America.
Christie Neptune (b. 1986, Brooklyn, NY) is an interdisciplinary artist working across film, photography, mixed media and performance arts. Neptune investigates how constructs of race, gender, and class limit the personal experiences of historically marginalized and stigmatized individuals. Critically aware of both self and subjectivity, Neptune illuminates the personal and emotional aftermath of a society that disregards and delegitimatizes those that endure the brunt of historically upheld supremacies.
Neptune holds a BA from Fordham University (New York, NY). Her films and photography have been included in shows at VOLTA, New York, NY (2018); The Rubber Factory, New York, NY (2017); A.I.R. Gallery, Brooklyn, NY (2016); Union Docs, Brooklyn, NY (2015); and Rutgers, Institute for Women and Art (2014). She has been featured in publications including Artforum, Hyperallergic, The Creator’s Project, Juxtapoze Magazine and The Washington Post. Neptune is an alumni of More Art’s Engaging Artists Residency, the Hamiltonian Gallery Fellowship Program, The Bronx Museum of The Arts: Artist in Marketplace (AIM) and Smack Mellon studio residency through the New York Community Trust Van Lier Fellowship. She is a 2018 Artadia New York Finalist and NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowship Program Recipient. She has received an Emergency Grant from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts to partially fund the production of artworks featured in Unpacking Sameness. christieneptune.com
Image: Head Bowed in Assembled Construction, 2018. Digital chromogenic print. 36 x 24 inches.
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