Oxford AASC: Photo Essay

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PHOTO ESSAY

African American Women and Photography

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KEISHA SCARVILLE: ROCKS LINED UP

Keisha Scarville. "Untitled," 2012; archival digital print, 24x24 in. Courtesy of the artist.

Keisha Scarville (b. 1975), born in Brooklyn, New York, earned a B.S. in photography from Rochester Institute of Technology. She turned to photography, in her own words, "out of a need to interpret and deconstruct reality." Similarly to some of Adrian Piper's earlier pieces, Scarville's work addresses memory, reality, and transformation of the physical and metaphysical bodies. One could also argue that she addresses movement between lived experiences and the traceable, though not necessarily visible, marks those experiences leave on the physical and spiritual realms. In "i am here," a project about the concept of home and belonging, Scarville attempts to make memories manifest in the corporeal plane with black and white images of sections of her body, as well as the marks her body has left on her actual house through apparent, deeply personal rituals, such as placing a row of pebbles between her feet on the floor. Much like Lorna Simpson, Scarville obscures views of the entire body and views of her domestic space, suggesting that one cannot truly be perceived without the other: a home or a place of belonging requires occupancy, and through finding and claiming a place to belong, an individual can ground herself in the world. The images' ethereal quality underscores the relationship between belonging and personhood, and their abstraction from the whole suggests that we are seeing glimpses of a ritual the subject performed to lay claim to a space that she discovered is her own. The theme of belonging and its relationship to personhood and subjectivity is woven throughout the African American experience of displacement and continuous dislocation. Scarville successfully elevates a single perspective from the millions that exist.

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