Sam Vernon earned her MFA in Painting/Printmaking from Yale University in 2015 and her BFA from The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in 2009. Her installations combine xeroxed drawings, photographs, paintings and sculptural components in an exploration of personal narrative and identity. She uses installation and performance to honor the past while revising historical memory. Vernon has most recently exhibited with the Seattle Art Museum, Ewing Gallery of Art & Architecture at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, the Emery Community Arts Center at the University of Maine, Farmington, MoCADA, or the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts in Brooklyn.
The infusion of Afro Deco into my formal practice is unmodified in that I combine disparate objects and 2D media to develop a visual language influenced by pattern, graphic design, the human figure, and abstract shapes.
I create Xerox drawings derived from printmaking techniques, lithography and intaglio, to construct narrative. I draw, Xerox and print at each stage of an image’s evolution: deleting, adding and collaging until the image is complete. The result is subject to re- contextualization within an installation, a performance or a work to exist on its own.
I explore drawing as technology and question how the image is transformed when it is reproduced as direct digital media. The active “ghosting” of an image, copying and multiplying the original, subtlety exploits the notion of a pure identification of black and white and signifies the essentialism of symbolic meaning and all its associations. In addition, the subjectivity of an otherworldly psychic state or realm comes into play.
I look to Paul Lawrence Dunbar’s social lyric: “We wear the mask that grins and lies, It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes, — This debt we pay to human guile; With torn and bleeding hearts we smile, And mouth with myriad subtleties.” Tapping into the power of masks, or ghosts, as a timeless art form—and then translating that spiritual information for present-day audiences is complex.
The investigation of this irony fuels my work, an interdisciplinary approach fused to my meta-history, shaping a looser chronicle to explore postcoloniality and historical memory. Through site-specific, staged installations and urgent performances my goals are towards the production of Gothic visual art in which Black narratives are included in the expanse of the genre.