BELLE JET AND CABINET CARDS
The Laband Art Gallery is delighted to feature the virtual presentation of Jessica Wimbley: Belle Jet and Cabinet Cards, an in-person exhibition organized in spring 2020 at the College of the Canyons Art Gallery. Merging memory, biology, culture and history, artist Jessica Wimbley investigates how identity is constructed through portraiture as well as inherited ideals and beliefs. Layering concepts as deftly as her materials, Wimbley remixes visual and cultural histories to reveal structures and expand understanding of Black identity as multiple, integrated, and intersectional.
Belle Jet and Cabinet Cards presents the extraordinary mixed-media works Wimbley has created over the past seven years, including new videos narrated by the artist that capture her in the process of making her artwork. Literary and popular culture references fuse with historic photographs, family pictures, microscopic images of melanin, printed media, drawing, and painting—resulting in compelling multivalent collaged portraits that explore the complexities of race and narrative in the American imagination.
Selection of Cabinet Cards, 2014-2020
Mixed media collage, various sizes: 6.5 x 4.5 in., 10 x 8 in.
In this ongoing series, Wimbley uses the 19th-century cabinet card as a source material and framework, serving both as a metaphorical and physical ground in the construction of her collages and drawings. Many collage elements come from vintage print media such as 1970s Ebony Magazine, and are mixed and indexed to create hybrid identities that transcend and shift through time and popular culture. Wimbley relies equally on additive and subtractive processes to produce surprising compositional and narrative tensions that disrupt notions of how we view and frame race.
The Making of Cabinet Cards
Listen to Jessica Wimbley discuss her fascination with the circulation of 19th-century cabinet cards and her working methods as a collector and artist.
Video with audio, 2:27 min.
Wimbley’s 2020 video Fieldnotes exalts the groundbreaking research and documentary film footage contained in Zora Neale Hurston’s 1928 film, Fieldwork. Hurston (1891–1960) is best known for her creative writing, but she was also an anthropologist whose research was pioneering in its efforts to theorize the effects of the African diaspora. Hurston employed her anthropological fieldwork to debunk stereotypes about Black people and to dismiss the idea that Black cultures were inferior. In departing from convention in her choice of subject matter, Hurston radically proposed studying her own people––an idea that ran counter to anthropological method of the day.
The Making of Fieldnotes
Jessica Wimbley escorts us through her homage to Zora Neale Hurston’s Fieldwork and shares how she connects with and translates Hurston’s imagery through nearly 100 years of time and space into her own artwork.
Belle Jet, 2016
Eleven mixed media collages on panels, 57.75 x 28.25 in. ea.
The Belle Jet series continues the investigation of the formation of identity by integrating images of Wimbley along with her grandmother, great-grandmother, and other relatives dating back to the early 1900s, along with historical stereographic images of Native and Black American women from the same time period. The incorporation of portraits from JET Magazine’s “Beauties of the Week” in the Belle Jet series speaks directly to the formation of African-American representation of the ideal African-American woman through the dissemination of image and text. For Wimbley, the mixing of multigenerational photographic depictions of Black women, widely sourced from family albums and printed media, emphasizes the complexities of inherited ideals and beliefs in our construction of self.
The Making of Belle Jet
Jessica Wimbley shares the conceptual origins of her large-scale, multi-media portraits and reveals how she builds the multiple layers and compositional elements contained within each piece.
Video, 1:00 min.
This stop-animation video combines performance with imagery from U.S.-Civil-War-era stereographs, cosmic panoramas, microscopic cells, and Wimbley’s own family portraits. In Americana, Wimbley references distinct photographic histories, linking 19th-century stereographs with current digital technology. The performative figure—who moves seamlessly through the multiple historical settings—invites us to transcend notions of time, history, memory, past, present, and future. Within this work, Wimbley reflects on how some of our nation’s histories are romanticized while others are left incomplete or invisible, and challenges us to consider what or who is deemed an American?
Video, 3:37 min.
In Masking, we bear witness to sequences of clips of Black Lives Matter uprisings, protests, and marches of mourning that took place across the U.S. and the world over the last year. As viewers, we are captivated by the gripping scenes as they flow across the negative space that is created within the outlines of the protagonist’s face and head coverings. Enhanced by meticulous collage work, the animated cloth coverings also function as a quasi-psychic window, thus seeming to reveal, or bare, an inner spirit. As we watch her, she stares back at us with an unrelenting gaze. She implicates us within her personhood, creating a site filled with memory and trauma that is both particular and shared.
Image courtesy of Glen Wilson
ABOUT JESSICA WIMBLEY
Jessica Wimbley is a Sacramento-based visual artist, curator, and educator. She earned an MFA in Visual Arts from UC Davis (2005), and a BFA in Painting from the Rhode Island School of Design (2003); she also completed an MA in Arts Management from Claremont Graduate University’s Peter F. Drucker and Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management (2013). Wimbley has been an artist-in-residence at College of the Canyons, Santa Clarita, CA, in 2020; University of La Verne, CA, in 2016; and Ripon College, WI, in 2013. Wimbley recently completed her first public art project in collaboration with the Northeast Sculpture’s “Social Justice Billboard Project” in Minneapolis, MN; her billboard Masking: Testament was installed near the corner of 38th and Chicago, the site of the George Floyd murder. Currently, Wimbley is working on a Covid-19 Awareness Public Art Project in the City of Sacramento. She has been included in dozens of group shows across the country and has received critical reviews in Hyperallergic, Art and Cake, LA Weekly, Huffington Post, and the Los Angeles Times.
Jessica Wimbley: Belle Jet and Cabinet Cards was curated by Pamela Bailey Lewis, Gallery Director of the College of the Canyons Art Gallery in Santa Clarita, CA. The exhibition was on view at the College of the Canyons Art Gallery from February 3 through mid-March, 2020, when it closed early due to Covid-19. The Laband Art Gallery is grateful to Pamela and her colleagues at the College of the Canyons for enthusiastically supporting the proposition of virtually “traveling” this exhibition to the Laband. We are very pleased to include Denise M. Johnson’s thoughtful essay about Jessica’s work on our virtual platform. Early consultation on this venture was provided by Kate Shirley, Associate Director, Academic Communications, College of Communication and Fine Arts. Laband Art Gallery volunteer Danniel Sumarkho ’20 assisted with photo editing.
It has been a wonderful adventure to collaborate with Jessica Wimbley on this virtual exhibition. Jessica’s resourcefulness and resilience brought this project to life. All artwork and videos are copyrighted © by Jessica Wimbley. Installation images are provided by the College of the Canyons Art Gallery.
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