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Stigma is like a fog: it obscures and diminishes visibility, rendering figures into silhouettes. Angie Jennings’ Extinct Paradise at Abode Gallery tells a science fictional story of the STIGMA FOG SAINT, a character Jennings regularly performs. Bordering on satire but rife with sincerity, Jennings undermines stigma by offering herself as its saint, taking on the burden of trauma that history consistently piles onto the lives of black women.
Near the kitchen hangs Untitled Clock (all work 2018) which is draped with dark, gauzy fabric. Stock images of women are collaged onto the clock face: women laughing, frowning, looking bored, eating salad. It’s an homage to the harrowing statistic that every 52 seconds a woman is victimized by intimate partner violence.1 The clock is an effort that rings earnest in our nightmare political climate where the value of women’s lives is contested in the public arena, from wavering abortion policy, to victim-shaming, to failure to properly handle abuse in online spaces.
The centerpiece of the show is The STIGMA FOG SAINT Wards off Extinction, a video work that shows the titular Saint, played by Jennings, who is black, cloaked in whiteness: painted face, bone-white garment, and veiled in lace like a santera. On screen, we see her as the Saint wandering an overgrown yard. Unable to handle the exposure to the light, she rigs blanket-like tapestries smothered with house paint, compost, sand, beads, yarn, and lace ripped from old quilts to protect her. In the gallery, the same tapestries block every window in the apartment, creating a womb-like and haunted space.
The exhibition is best seen at night; the low lighting gives the apartment a sepia glow of gothic romanticism. The lighting works with and against the viewer: color is diffused, making focus difficult. Jenning’s working metaphor is that racialized and feminized stigmas keep women and people of color at a disadvantage, leaving their experiences less considered or erased. Just as dim lights obscure the details of her tapestries, so too stigma cloaks the dimensionality and complexity of a human life.
Angie Jennings: Extinct Paradise runs March 9–June 9, 2018 at Abode Gallery (840 N. Wilton Pl., Los Angeles, California 90038).