Rowan Renee: Solo Exhibition
Rowan Renee Solo Exhibition: No Spirit For Me (2019) and Bodies of Wood (2016) on Governors Island, KODA House 404b on Colonels Row. June 25, 2022-July 24, 2022.
No Spirit For Me (2019)
“In 2018, I acquired the contents of my father’s criminal case file from the Florida State Attorney who prosecuted him. The file included the official records used to condemn my father – court records, witness statements and police evidence photographs. Through these documents, I was able to track how the justice process failed in a case that the State hailed as an example of justice served.
Using lithography, weaving and metalwork, I re-presented over 1000 pages of these records as “hanging files” in a fictitious police evidence room. The repetitive motions of printing 1000 pages through an etching press, of tracing the shapes of redaction on the loom, of welding dozens of steel joints was a method to use my body – the site of violence – as a vehicle for justice.” Rowan Renee about the No Spirit For Me series (2019).
Bodies of Wood (2016)
“Bodies of Wood is series of self-portraits exploring my relationship to my father, who was incarcerated ten years ago for a sexual offense against a 13 year-old boy. What was left out of the criminal investigation was the abuse he directed against his wife and daughters; abuse against women that was protected by the institution of the heterosexual family. There was never any legal intervention, or any justice, for what my father did to me.
In Bodies of Wood, I used the camera to transform experiences deemed unspeakable. Within the photographic frame, I found a way to express emotions that were excluded from other cultural processes of healing. Each self-portrait became a performative ritual for the camera. I worked alone with a vintage Yashica and a remote cable release, putting my nude body into public and domestic landscapes in order to feel – and have power over – how I was framed. I sought a pure jouissance: a pleasure in my own labor of creation that was inseparable from, and deepened by, pain.
I worked with bright colors and soft light to evoke the dream-like hyperreality of the traumatic memory, vividly emblazoned yet always distorted. I used the suggestive symbolism of the home, finding sinister shadows and phallic protrusions amongst its ordinary objects. I posed nude to capture the simultaneous empowerment and vulnerability of my body, yet I defiantly turned my gaze away from the camera, or cut my head out of the frame. This posture is both an act of refusal, touching on the power of “no” for victims of sexual violence, while also underscoring how victim’s bodies are made faceless to dehumanize them. By making these experiences public, I saw something beyond testimony. These images were acts of transformative justice.” Rowan Renee about the Bodies of Wood series (2016).
Rowan Renee (b. 1985, West Palm Beach, Florida) is a genderqueer artist currently working in Brooklyn, NY. Their work addresses intergenerational trauma, gender-based violence and the impact of the criminal legal system through image, text and installation. They have been exhibited in solo exhibitions at Smack Mellon (2021), Five Myles (2021), Aperture Foundation (2017), and Pioneer Works (2015), with reviews in publications including VICE, Huffington Post, Hyperallergic, and The New York Times. They have received awards from the Aaron Siskind Foundation, the Harpo Foundation and the Jerome Hill Foundation, and have been an Artist-in-Residence at the Center for Book Arts, NARS Foundation, Red Bull Arts and the Textile Arts Center. In 2022, they will be the second Artist-in-Residence at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, NY. Currently, their project Between the Lines, supported by We, Women Photo, runs art workshops by correspondence with LGBTQ+ people currently incarcerated in Florida. Their installation, No Spirit For Me (2019), was included in the critically acclaimed exhibition Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration, curated by Dr. Nicole R. Fleetwood at MoMA PS1.