Un|Fixed Homeland, Aljira Center for Contemporary Art, 2016 Catalog: Un|Fixed Homeland - Page 70

Keisha Scarville b. United States 1975 Born in New York to a Guyanese father and mother, Keisha Scarville spent her childhood raised in a Brooklyn community. Her parents maintained their connection to Guyana, returning often and taking their children with them. Scarville’s ongoing mixed-media series Passport pays homage to her father Keith Scarville. The passport photo is an incredibly charged object with notions of belonging, displacement, dislocation, homeland, exile, freedom, migration, and exclusion. What the artist sees in this singular passport photo from her family’s personal archive—it’s signs of age and decay visible via its yellowing tones, frayed edges, and a faint timestamp on its right corner—is a “young man frozen in the distant past.” The date of the photo is 1955: a time when the then-British colony was rife with political turmoil and haunting racial violence between Africans and Indians. By 1968, two years after Guyana gained its independence, Keith would find his way to New York where he took on new roles: an immigrant in the United States, a young black man witnessing America’s civil rights era, a husband and father. In Passport, this humble five-by-seven-inch archival image becomes both canvas and symbol of the “transformative effects of immigration,” states Scarville. The passport photo is heightened and downplayed in the artist’s various treatments via collaging, distorting, scratching, damaging, and layering the portrait with found objects. In these artistic gestures, Scarville confronts notions of femininity and masculinity and engages ideas of invisibility, erasure, and censorship—of both her father and herself. In several other reinterpretations, Scarville replaces her father’s face with objects that threaten to drown and devour him. These symbolic objects suggest the collective histories of a homeland—slavery past, ethnic strife, exploited labor, colonizers’ greed—this young man carries, confronts, and aims to break free from. Joining Passport are two pieces from Scarville’s black and white, selfportraiture series, i am here, 2013, where the artist engages her body with the passport photo of her father. In positioning parts of her body with the image, Scarville merges both time and space—two generations, two homelands, and the complexities in between. Keisha Scarville Untitled, from the series, i am here, 2013 Archival digital print 24 x 16 in. Courtesy of the artist 70 71