Homemade, With Love features a film/moving image, “Gestures” by Jen Everett with footage exploring intimate portraits of the artists’ girlhood and family in Michigan.
Also on view by Everett is Unheard Sounds, Come Through an evolving installation that explores Black knowledge production and transmission through gestures of collection and arrangement of objects ranging from speakers, projectors, slide carousels, transistor radios and other objects that contain or emit in the form of sound, text, or image.
Recently, the curator of Homemade, Blair Ebony Smith sat down for a Research Conversation with the artist, Jen Everett.
BES: Can you talk a little bit about your installation projects that incorporate found objects imagining the Black interior? What brought you to these types of installations?
JE: Collection is a practice I’ve engaged in since I was a child. Whether it was leaves, rocks, trading cards or stickers, I’ve always been interested in gathering and arranging. It’s also something I witnessed my immediate family and elders do, especially in the way they made their homes. I’m sure I learned it from them.
The very first installation I made included a collection of transistor radios and was a dedication to my grandfather. In part, I think loss and my own ideas around preciousness keep me collecting and composing these installations.
BES: The objects you collect for Unheard Sounds, Come Through are collected and arranged to expand the ways we think about Black people’s everyday curation/design of interior space. It is also subject to rearrangement. Tell me about your process of collection and arrangement of materials for Homemade… and about Unheard Sounds… as an evolving work. I’d like to get more into what you arranged for this exhibition and why.
JE: Unheard Sounds…is always unfixed because our interior selves are continuously shifting and evolving. I typically work with objects that hold and protect or transmit. The information can be visual, sonic or textual.
For Homemade with Love… I included a boombox, speakers, a small radio, record sleeve and cassette tapes. I chose them because they reflect the media and shifting technologies of my girlhood. Some of the albums I relate to personally or they are representative of a particular time…music I heard my mother play as we rode around Detroit that became part of my own repertoire of sounds. Through these gestures I’m attempting to map an interior of my girlhood.
BES: How do you think our (art) world can make more space for Black people and girls' everyday interiority and design? What might be your dream for this if there were no concerns for money, etc.?
JE: This is such a big question. It makes me think of something a friend of mine said that I keep returning to. She said “we have to decide what art worlds we want to participate in.” With this in mind, I must define success beyond what the so-called art world’s preoccupations may be. I have to always remind myself that my work as an artist is about more than just me and my motivation cannot be solely material.
I dream of generative collaboration and thoughtful engagement, and I trust that it will come. On a fundamental level, my dream for this work is that it is felt. During the screening with Kamari Smalls, one of her elders commented, “Young lady I don’t know you, but I feel you,” and it meant the world to me.
BES: Can you talk a little about your installations and their relationship to your film archival work? It’s something to see the installation and your video work side by side. It tells a story, one that I am looking forward to narrating with the larger vision of the exhibition expanding ideas/practices about Black girlhood, interiority and design. Your films and installation seem important to you and your larger vision. What might that be?
JE: Collection and reconfiguration underpin so much of my recent work, and I believe arrangement and interiority are relational. Installation and images (still and moving) help me to think about the possibility of rearranging in exciting ways. Because ultimately, the Black interior is a space that suggests possibility. Our stories are unlimited there…always unfolding, evolving and being rewritten on our own terms.
BES: What are you currently working on?
JE: This is a difficult time for me as it is for so many. It has required isolation and slow transformation. It can be lonely, but it’s necessary, and I’m learning to be with myself in new ways. I am primarily focused on my health and wellness. I’m doing lots of reflecting as we prepare to close out the year and thinking deeply about what I want for myself. In short, I’m working on me.