Oasa DuVerney

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Artist Statement

James Baldwin said: “I have been described by you for hundreds of years. And now, I can describe you. That’s part of the panic.” My practice as an artist and activist is invested in the issues of race, class and gender in an oppressive capitalist society.

My work produces the uncomfortable and difficult conversations that most people prefer to avoid; this is the panic that James Baldwin referred to. Through drawing, I question what it means to describe and articulate the existence of “the other.” Working with the modest and portable materials of graphite and paper, my practice is continuous with my life as a mother, and a working class woman of color. My work is connected to the Western art historical tradition of portraiture. But by making drawings rather than paintings, many rather than few, my work speaks to the broader, systemic nature of oppression rather than emphasizing the singular, transcendent, historical figure. I create drawings continuously, and the physical process of mark-making serves as a meditative practice. The activity of representation is never neutral, but is always inflected by the mediation of my body and my hand.

One body of work, “Thoughtful White Men,” reshapes and deconstructs the myth of the white male and his powers. Drawing images from the media I retell his story through my eyes and manipulate his image with my hands using traditional portraiture as a starting point to deconstruct the figure and its identity.

For the last year, I’ve also been creating work in response to the death of Renisha McBride, a 19-year-old woman who was murdered when knocking on the door of a home after a car accident. My large graphite drawing, “…For Renisha McBride,” compares the invisibility of the Black woman to the invisibility of the universe: something that so big and complex it cannot be comprehended and therefore its importance is easily ignored and dismissed.  The drawing depicts the blacking-out of a universe full of possibilities for Renisha, and the denial and subsequent confirmation of its existence.

As a mother of a teenage Black girl I have been forced to come to terms with not only the growing pains of my daughter becoming a woman but also with the pains of watching her come to terms with her oppression as woman and person of color. This has led to many heartbreaking situations for both of us. In response to the heart-breaks I have been creating anatomical hearts using materials found around my home and studio. For example, My Heart As A Drain Clog consists of a year’s worth of our hair that I collected from the bathtub. I then felted the hair into a heart on a broken hairbrush. This process of collecting discarded materials from our life to shape into a heart has pushed my artistic practice into the unfamiliar. Playing with a material, forming it, learning to understand it, and ultimately succumbing to it and accepting it for what it is. Because a drain clog can’t be my heart and be it self; this process mirrors the experience of parenting.

My studio practice is continuous with my work as an activist, and for 5 years I have created public art projects, artist books, and other actions to draw attention to issues of gentrification and the criminalization of black and brown bodies. Much of this work has been developed in collaboration with Mildred Beltre and performed in my immediate community in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. My identity—as a mother and a working class woman of color—is not unique, and I reject the social pressure to work towards assimilation and acceptance by the oppressor rather than the elimination of oppression.

 

CV

Born in Queens, NY

EDUCATION

2012 MFA, Hunter College CUNY, New York City, NY
2007 BFA, Fashion Institute of Technology, SUNY, New York City, NY

EXHIBITION RECORD

Solo and Two Person Exhibitions

2013
MYLFworks Revenge, Momenta Art, Brooklyn, NY
Vox Populi Gallery, Philidelphia, PA

2012
Superheroes and Antiheroes, Amelie A. Wallace Gallery, SUNY College at Old Westbury, NY

2006
Wired, United Nations, New York City, NY

Selected Group Exhibitions

2015
RESPOND, Smack Mellon Gallery, Brooklyn NY
In Search of One City, Sensing (in)equality, The Old Stone House, Brooklyn NY

2014
We seemed to be unanimously elected…, Cindy Rucker Gallery, New York, NY
Thanks For Writing, 601 Artspace, New York NY
Peristalsis, Air Circulation Brooklyn NY
Surveillapocalypse, Five Myles Gallery, Brooklyn NY

2013
March On!, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Brooklyn, NY
Me Love You Long Time, Boston Center for the Arts Mills Gallery, Boston, MA
The Goddess Claps Back, CUE Art Foundation, New York, NY
Crossing The Line, Mixed Greens Gallery, New York, NY
“PHATT-­‐B”, the Pratt Arts and Technology Brooklyn Festival, Pratt Institute, Brooklyn NY

2012
Invagination, Night Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
Salon II, Masion Le Fleur, Detroit, MI
Get It On The Record, The Visceglia Gallery, Caldwell College, Caldwell, NJ
Me Love You Long Time, Aljira Art Center, Newark, NJ
Through A Glass Darkly, Postmasters Gallery, New York, NY

2011
Hunter MFA Thesis Exhibition, Hunter Times Square Gallery, New York, NY
Crown Heights Gold, Skylight Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
Paperwork, Kravetz/Wheby Gallery, New York City, NY

2010
Planet of Slums, Mason Gross Gallery at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
Whats Your War?, Load of Fun Gallery, Baltimore MD
Repetition A-­‐LAB Forum, Crossing Art Gallery, Queens, NY
Security, Root Division, San Francisco, CA
Dance Ghost, Vaudeville Park, Brooklyn NY
The Pink Elephant Speaks, MoCADA Brooklyn, NY
Rompe Puesto, Bronx River Art Center, Bronx, NY

AWARDS, GRANTS, RESIDENCIES

2014-­‐2015 Smack Mellon Artist Studio Program, Smack Mellon Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
2014-­‐2015 New York Community Trust Van Lier Fellowship as part of the Smack Mellon Studio Program residency
2012-­‐2013 Artist-­‐in-­‐Residence, Workspace, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, New York City, NY
2013 Citizens Committee For NYC Grant Award
2012 Tony Smith Award, Hunter College CUNY, New York City, NY
2011 Brooklyn Arts Council DCA Grant to individual artist, Brooklyn, NY
2011 Citizens Committee For NYC Grant Award
2007 Emerge 9, Ajira Center for Contemporary Art, 2007

SELECTED PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

2015 Raging at Racism, From Streets to Galleries Smack Mellon and Grey Art Display Art Sparked by Politics, By Holland Cotter, The New York Times
2015 Respond: artists offer bold, urgent take on #blacklivesmatter, By Steven Thrasher, The Guardian UK
2013 Art and Civic Activism BK LIVE Brooklyn Independent Media
2013 Artist Interview Palestine News Network
2012 Art In Review, ‘Through a glass, darkly’: Postmasters, By KEN JOHNSON, The New York Times
2012 Through A Glass Darkly at Postmasters Gallery, By Dan Tarnowski, Whitehot Magazine
2011 City Room, 20 Years Later, Artist Apply A Healing Touch, By Tim Stelloh, The New York Times
2010 Brooklyn Artist Dare To Discuss Gentrification That Rock Borough, By Elizabeth Lazarowitz, The Daily News
2010 Arts, Artist Offer a Visual Dialog On A Changing Brooklyn, By Nicole G Anderson, Gotham Gazzette Artist

LECTURES AND PRESENTATIONS

2015
“The Gentrification of Brooklyn…5 Years Later,” Brooklyn Historical Society, Brooklyn NY

2013 Art Table, Mixed Greens Gallery, New York City, NY
New York Wellesley Club, Mixed Greens Gallery, New York City, NY

2012
Me Love You Long Time, Aljira Arts Center, Newark, NJ
Superheroes and Antiheroes SUNY, College At Old Westbury, Westbury, NY
Drawing Class, University of Vermont, Burlington VT

2011
Focus And Motivation Hunter College, New York City, NY

2010
Gentrification of Brooklyn: The Pink Elephant Speaks MoCADA, Brooklyn, NY