Kemper Museum’s fifth commissioned installation in the Atrium Projects series is Divergences by Dominican Republic-raised New York-based Black Latinx artist Joiri Minaya (born 1990). Minaya’s work often focuses on decolonizing imposed histories, cultures, and ideas. For this Atrium Project installation, she was inspired by the idealized Midwest, complete with lush greenery and river scenes, having made a site visit to Quindaro Townsite in January 2020.
In Divergences, Minaya investigates constructions of identity, diverse cultural social spaces, and hierarchies by employing digitally abstracted wallpaper layered with digital photographic collages of female figures as a means to reclaim agency and visibility. The custom wallpaper resembles an abstracted landscape inspired by an archived image of a mid-century sidewall repeating pattern of a lush green forest landscape from the J. C. Eisenhart Wallpaper Company and a vista view of the overlook of the historic Quindaro Townsite, a significant area of the abolitionist community that was part of the anti-slavery resistance movement in Kansas City, Kansas. In this newly formed image, Minaya highlights the complex history of idealized places, both for early settlers and self-liberated African peoples in the post-Civil War years. Collaged images of abstracted and camouflaged female figures from the artist’s 2017 Containers performance are placed on top of this newly formed landscape scene. These women wear body suits adorned with tropical imagery, drawing attention to the contested connections between nature and femininity, idealized bodies, and the stereotypes and exoticization of the Caribbean female body.
A key element of Minaya's ongoing practice is making installations that speak to the reclaiming of agency through landscape. Her layering of imagery in Divergences does this by simultaneously connecting, blurring, and expressing variances in notions of freedom.
Divergences wa organized by Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art and curated by Jade Powers, assistant curator.
This exhibition was made possible in part by a generous gift from Christy and Bill Gautreaux.
Click here to learn more about Kemper Museum's Atrium Project.