Nina Chanel Abney Reflects on 15 Years of Honing Her Dynamic Painting Practice
In sharp, angular, geometric shapes and forms, the colorful paintings, created using spray paint, acrylic, tape, and stencils, focus on the daily activities of blacks who live in a fictional oasis based on the idea of black queer social utopias . The show explores the relationship between blacks and nature, property and land, an issue that is fraught with a painful and complex history in America itself. But in Abney’s visual world, male, female, transgender, and non-binary characters are reaping the benefits of their deliberate black community. In their work we see figures feeding chickens, riding horses, catching prize fish, canoeing on a river, cutting flowers from a field, cooking cakes, watching TV, roasting marshmallows over a campfire or riding bikes along the forest.
Abney said the idea for this work came to her while she was spending a lot of time in New York state during the quarantine. She was reminded of how relaxing and rejuvenating nature can be. But even amid these beautiful, natural spaces, she still came across Trump signs and other reminders that someone like her could never feel completely free of toxic ideologies against her personality. “It took me on a deep dive, thinking about buying all this land and what it would mean to do it all alone or with friends permanently,” Abney said. “Because I am black and queer, I was thinking about my community, and so I initially viewed this imaginary place as black, queer and trans-arcadia because these people have even fewer opportunities for this type of space. But in the end it is a room for everyone. I wanted to see how important it is for us to identify the lack of these security and belonging spaces. We almost have the feeling that we are in rooms with people who feel like family and who can look like many different things. But I wanted to imagine a place like this that always feels like this. “