Vanessa German: W E
September 1 - December 31Free
“And then there is art that changes you every time you see it,” said Wa Na Wari’s Curator and Co-Founder Elisheba Johnson. “When Vanessa German opened the door to the installation, I burst into tears. Tears of disbelief that we, Black people in the Northwest, could have the art that is so often shown in other parts of the country. And then immense gratitude! I’m so grateful that I can be in her presence throughout the rest of the year. She is an assemblage of so many things I love.”
W E is a sculptural power figure in an immersive environment created by artist Vanessa German. Members of the community contributed objects that were incorporated into the site-specific power figure that will be a protective force for people’s hearts and spirit.
Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and based in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, Vanessa German is a citizen artist who centers the exploration of human technologies. These technologies are a vital force in her artistic work that reckons and contends with the historical and ongoing dimensional catastrophes of structural racism, white supremacy, heteropatriarchy, resource extraction, and misogynoir. German creates sculpture, performance, communal rituals, immersive installation and photographic works that repair and reshape disrupted human systems, spaces, and connections.
Vanessa German is a self-taught citizen artist working across sculpture, performance, communal rituals, immersive installation, and photography, in order to repair and reshape disrupted systems, spaces, and connections. The artist’s practice proposes new models for social healing, utilizing creativity and tenderness as vital forces to reckon with the historical and ongoing catastrophes of structural racism, white supremacy, heteropatriarchy, resource extraction, and misogynoir.
A visual storyteller, German utilizes assemblage and mixed media, combining locally found objects to build protective ritualistic structures known as her power figures or tar babies. Modeled on Congolese Nkisi sculptures and drawing on folk art practices, they are embellished with materials including beading, glass, fabric, and sculpted wood, and come into existence at the axis on which Black power, spirituality, mysticism and feminism converge.
Based in Homewood, Pittsburgh, German’s artistic practice is intertwined with and inextricable from her dedicated role in activism and community leadership. In 2011, German founded the Love Front Porch, an arts initiative for the women, children, and families of the local neighborhood that began after she moved her studio practice onto the front steps of her home. Three years later, in 2014, German opened the ARThouse, which combines a community studio, a large garden, an outdoor theatre, and an artist residency.
Upholding artmaking as an act of restorative justice, German confronts and begins to dismantle the emotional and spiritual weight imposed by the multi-generational oppression of African American communities. As a queer Black woman living in the United States, German has described this as a deeply necessary process of adventuring into the wild freedom that the inhabitation of such identities demands. This activist instinct emerges in german’s work to postulate powerful narratives of freedom and love.
German has been awarded the 2015 Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Grant, the 2017 Jacob Lawrence Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the 2018 United States Artist Grant and, most recently, the 2018 Don Tyson Prize from Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. German joins Kasmin after working with Pavel Zoubok Fine Art, now private dealers, for the past ten years. Her work is held in private and public collections including the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the West Virginia University Museum, Everson Museum of Art, Figge Art Museum, Flint Institute of Arts, Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, David C. Driskell Center, Snite Museum of Art, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art and Wellin Museum of Art at Hamilton College. german’s fine art work has been exhibited widely, most recently at the Figge Art Museum, The Union for Contemporary Art, The Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia, Flint Institute of Arts, Mattress Factory, Everson Museum of Art, Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Studio Museum, Ringling Museum of Art and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.