Sisters of Two Waters II

Andrea Chung
Sisters of Two Waters II

Andrea Chung, Sisters of Two Waters II, 2019, Collage, glitter and beads on handmade birthing cloth paper, 17.5 x 11.75 in, Museum purchase, Nancy Gray Sherrill, Class of 1954, Collection Acquisitions Fund 2021.3.1 

Andrea Chung, VEX XI, 2020, Collage, ink and beads on handmade paper, 29 x 21.75 in, Museum purchase, Nancy Gray Sherrill, Class of 1954, Collection Acquisitions Fund 2021.3.2

The Davis recently acquired two collages by Andrea Chung, the first works by this important contemporary artist in the collections. A graduate of both Parsons School of Design (BFA), and Maryland Institute College of Art (MFA), she has been featured in numerous exhibitions and biennales, including her first solo museum exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego in 2017. As an artist who works across media, Chung creates art that touches on themes personal to her experience and heritage, such as womanhood, motherhood, colonialism, and the African diaspora. Her artistic practice focuses on the Caribbean, an important locus for multiple diasporas, and reflects her global ancestry that traces family members to Jamaica, Africa, China and more.
The collages, from the series Sisters of Two Waters and Vex, each feature a photograph of a Black woman surrounded by cut images of plants and decorated with beads, applied to paper Chung made from birthing cloths. The photographs are from ethnographic images of Black women from Africa and the diaspora taken primarily by white men, and were circulated in Europe and the United States as postcards. The plants depicted are from the Caribbean, such as the papaya in Sisters of Two Waters II and the Bird of Paradise in VEX XI. In the series VEX, Chung chose photographs of women that look angry (or “vex” in Jamaica), stripped them of their surroundings, and gave them their own space and autonomy to heighten the focus on their expressions. Hearkening to the tradition of minkisi (pl., nkisi, s.), African power figures in which nails are driven into the wood to activate the sculpture, Chung drove needles into the photograph and adorned it with beads, using colors of the Orishas (Yoruba deities) who protect women. Chung has explained that the needles provide “…a form of protection and guarding, and also being able to remain private and take your subjectivity for yourself, not allowing anyone to turn you into that object. It makes the viewer understand their place in looking at the images of these women.” Chung imbued each layer of these physically tactile works with meaning, down to the paper she made from old birthing cloths that reference motherhood and the roles of women and their communities, and in so doing she honors the photographs of the anonymous women, giving them back power and autonomy.

 1 “Andrea Chung with HereIn” interview with the artist, October 16, 2020.