The Hankersons (2012-ongoing) is a portrait series that connects the relatively small number of people who share my last name to the shared history of slaveholders and slaves spanning 260 years. Currently, there are fewer than three thousand people with the name Hankerson, all of whom live in the United States, while fewer than ten percent of whom identify as white. Through this project-in-progress, I am following the direct line to the Hankerson ancestors, with the aim of visually joining a fractured family narrative that has been stolen, lost or misremembered. The result is a deconstructed family of individual portraits that are reconstructed to mirror a defining national experience.
Dark Mondays (2011) explores the Minneapolis Institute of Art in a state of quiet that the public will never see—the museum with its lights off. Areas that are not intended to be highlighted are illuminated and artworks that are meant to be regarded are masked in shadow. A psychic parallax occurs between the intended view of the museum and a the museum in the dark.
’twas only a balloon
Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel’s book Evidence is very influential in my work. It wasn’t until I was introduced to Evidence as an undergrad, that I thought about the how the sequencing of images can transform the meaning of a body of work. ‘Twas Only a Balloon is comprised of materials found in the public domain: a poem by Emily Dickinson published in 1863 and images from the Library of Congress acquired by searching the word “balloon” in their online database. The balloon in Dickinson’s poem is a metaphor for how society changes its view of a woman’s value as she ages. In the first stanza, an admiring crowd gazes upon the soaring balloon. In the following stanzas, the balloon slowly descends toward its eventual death while the increasingly disinterested crowd looks away. Dickinson ends her poem “‘Twas only a Balloon” as if to say there is no reason for sadness as the crowd did not lose anything of value. The images of various balloons (party balloons, parade balloons, hotair balloons, military balloons and weather balloons) in their sequencing and proximity to the poem’s five stanzas are transformed into a narrative about multiple roles played by women and their perceived value within society. The visual narrative also evokes the film The Red Balloon (1956) by Albert Lamorisse, starring an admired anthropomorphized balloon that expires at the end of the story.
All images and text are in the Public Domain.
You’ve seen Balloons set — Haven’t You?
written by Emily Dickinson, 1863.
All images courtesy of
Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress.
Heads of the Hills (2014)
A bust of each of the forty-four U.S. presidents, weighing as much as twenty-four tons and standing as tall as twenty feet resides among the pine trees in the Black Hills in South Dakota. Presidents Park opened to the public in 2003, pridefully celebrating the United States’ legacy, but closed indefinitely in 2010, due to diminished tourism in a struggling economy. The presidents’ busts are set against a land that was, according to the 1981 US Supreme Court ruling in the United States v. Sioux Nation of Indians, taken illegally from the Lakota/Sioux peoples. The disputed land in the Black Hills is sacred to Lakotas, Cheyennes, Arapahos, Kiowas and Kiowa-Apaches.
By photographing at night, the spectacle of the park is not only reinforced, but augmented. A psychic parallax occurs between the originally intended view of the of the park and a current view of the park at night--a closed park that is no longer accessible to the public. In the dark, the figures appear grotesque, in some cases unidentifiable. But for now, in this exhibit within an exhibit, the lonely decaying figures remain residents of the hills.
Visual Association (2010-ongoing) is the ability to relate a visual image to other visual images in a meaningful way. In this series, I investigate formal and thematic relationships of images that precede and follow each other.