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Curated by Sasha Bonét 

100% Cotton. 

Please Note: This exhibition includes images that may contain sensative material for some viewers. Viewer discretion is advised.

Press Release

Text 2

Dawn Williams Boyd, Peaches and Evangeline: Bibbs County, FL 1942, 2004
 

I have never touched pure cotton, but I think it might feel like my hair. 

Refusing to shrink in the presence of moisture. The water gathers into beads around the crown. Never completely absorbing until fully submerged. Like cotton it has memory, taking the shape of whatever it encounters. 

I am careful where I lay my head.

Image 3

Women and children in a cotton field in the 1860s. J. H. Aylsworth, via the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

My maternal grandmother was a cotton tenant for twenty summers near Lake Bistineau in Louisiana. She told me she would often be punished for pricking her fingers and bleeding on the crop. I never knew the fluff was secured inside a brown boll until I saw this strange flowering plant inside a concept shop in SoHo. The white seeps out like a cloud. I wondered how the dark hardened shell birthed these soft peculiar insides.

Text 5

Dawn Williams Boyd
Sankofa, 2010

I keep looking for my grandmother’s lineage online but I have yet to find evidence of her birth. It’s as if she appeared from the air.

And what does that make me?

A descendent of clouds.

Image 6

Dawn Williams Boyd
Nurture, 2017

Image 7

George Washington’s Teeth. George Broome.
On display at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh.

1795
Mt. Vernon, VA

Instead, I discovered a different Betty Davis, the enslaved seamstress of George Washington and his wife Martha. With the pads of her fingers she wove cotton and wool and linen into elaborate garbs for the nation’s first president. The blouses, the buttons and even his teeth thread delicately by the Blacks surrounding him. Betty would birth five children with white visitors and an English indentured servant between Mount Vernon and the White house. Like cotton, her function was for costumes and comfort. She would die there, and the nation’s leader would merely mock her departure, “It is happy for old Betty…that she is taken off the stage. Her life must have been miserable to herself, and troublesome to all those around her.”

America is the stage. A sequence of tragedies.

And I keep discovering new ways to die.

Text 9

Dawn Williams Boyd
The Trump Era: Racism No Longer Has the Decency to Hide its Face, 2019

Christmas Eve, 1865

Pulaski, Tennessee

Imagine your family preparing the presents and the ham. Arranging the cookies and the milk. Imagine tucking the children away to bed and then going to meet up with other white ladies and gentlemen to devise a plan for discreet but immense destruction. Before the hoods they would wear horns stuffed with cotton. As were the sheets that disclosed their identities. Not that they needed this to avoid persecution. This was but mere dramaturgy. The first Grand Wizard, Nathan Bedford Forest, (America’s beloved Forest Gump namesake) was among the wealthiest cotton plantation owners of the south. I wonder if he provided the materials.

Image 10

A Ku Klux Klan initiation in Mississippi, 1923. Courtesy of The Library of Congress

                                                              Make money with cotton.

                                                              Make money with cotton.

                                                              Make money with cotton.

Image 12

Dawn Williams Boyd
The Trump Era: Incarcerated, 2019
Assorted fabrics
60 x 60 inches

1880 ?

Angola, Louisiana

It is not entirely clear when Angola prison became a prison and stopped being a plantation named after the country its inhabitants were taken from.

The line between prison and plantation is obscure.

Money is made of Cotton.

Money is made of Cotton

Money is made of Cotton.
 

Image 16
Image 17

Dawn Williams Boyd
Bad Blood: Tuskegee Syphilis Experiments – Macon County, AL 1932 – 1972, 2016
Assorted fabrics
53 x 68 inches


1932

Tuskegee, Alabama

You have bad blood, nigger! Let me drain you.

In 1997, President Bill Clinton issued an apology to the eight remaining survivors of the Tuskegee syphilis experiment that included 600 local Alabama Black men. The Public Health Service sent decent presenting white medical professionals in shiny automobiles to watch men deteriorate slowly, painfully, in the name of science. The observations from this study would be used to help cure paler Americans.

“The United States government did something that was wrong — deeply, profoundly, morally wrong,” Clinton said. “It was an outrage to our commitment to integrity and equality for all our citizens. To the survivors, to the wives and family members, the children and the grandchildren, I say what you know: No power on Earth can give you back the lives lost, the pain suffered, the years of internal torment and anguish. What was done cannot be undone. But we can end the silence. We can stop turning our heads away. We can look at you in the eye and finally say on behalf of the American people, what the United States government did was shameful, and I am sorry.”

Image 19

Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment. Courtesy of the CDC.

America is a bad experiment and Black people keep trying to make her keep promises she never intended to hold.

Text 21

Dawn Williams Boyd
Waiting for Medgar: Jackson, MS 1963, 2004

Home is often incorrectly conflated with safety.

Cowards always come in the night.

 



2332 Margaret W. Alexander Dr.

Jackson, Mississippi

6. 12. 1963

Medgar Evers assassinated in his home. One shotgun bullet blasts through the back of his t-shirt that read,
Jim Crow Must Go.

 

Image 23

Fred Hampton Assassination Crime Scene:
Hampton’s front door.

2337 West Monroe

St.Chicago, Illinois

12. 4. 1969

Fred Hampton was assassinated in his bed by Chicago Police Department and the FBI.

99 bullets fired into a sleeping man drugged with barbiturates. 99 bullets formed pathways for the blood to soak through the mattress to the floor. His partner beside him. His son swaddled safely away in the womb of his mother. He may not have seen that mattress that night, but his cells absorbed the shock. My body will never forget the first time I saw the image of the bedroom. The way it convulsed and tried to turn itself inside out.

Image 24

Fred Hampton Assassination Crime Scene:
Hampton’s bedroom. Courtesy of Paul Sequeira.

Image 26

Deborah and Fred Jr.
Still from the ABC Documentary, The FBI and the Panther (2019). Directed by Cyndee Readdean.

Image 27

Dawn Williams Boyd
Three Marys: Freedom Riders, 2012
 

Image 28

Breonna Taylor Crime Scene Image.
Courtesy of Louisville Metro Police.

3003 Springfield Dr.

Louisville, Kentucky

3. 13. 2020

Breonna Taylor killed by police in her home. She watched films and ate popcorn before bed. Her boyfriend was the last to taste her. Her sheets, the last to absorb her.

Image 29

Breonna Taylor Crime Scene Image.
Courtesy of Louisville Metro Police.

Image 31

Dawn Williams Boyd
Baptizing Our Children in a River of Blood, 2017

Image 32

Dawn Williams Boyd
Six Feet of Water: Evangeline, LA 1927, 2016

Image 33

Dawn Williams Boyd
The Trump Era: Puerto Rico 2019, 2019

Great Flood (1927) –––––––– Hurricane Katrina (2005)

The more I stare into the eye of a satellite image of Hurricane Katrina approaching the southern U.S. coastline, the more it looks like raw cotton in motion. On spin with vengeance.

In 1991 Aaron Neville remade Randy Newman’s song Louisiana, 1927. It feels like a new song entirely. The lyrics and arrangements are only slightly altered, but from the depths of Neville emerges an ancestral sonic experience that cannot be learned. The song grips you in the way he calls out the name of his homeland like a yearning for his mother. Home is inherently maternal, and only in the womb does submergence pose no threat. Perhaps when Newman wrote these lyrics in California after the Great Flood, he could not fully comprehend the perils that hover over the marshlands. The sticky breeze is a reminder that it’s never too far away. What Neville left unsaid but communicated between each breathe is the inheritance of resilience. For when we cannot float, we fly. Neville’s voice fades like the sea receding from a shoreline with a melodic wail, “they tryna wash us away.”

Image 35

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite image of Hurricane Katrina, taken on August 28, 2005. NOAA

Image 36

Found portrait of a couple after Hurricane Katrina.
Courtesy of Will Steacy

Image 37

Dawn Williams Boyd
Please Mr. President, 2018

The American flag created in 1777 was made of cotton.

I have always believed that the stripes of the flag represent the white establishment alongside the blood of the Negro. And the blue, that’s twelve making sure that order sustains.

Image 39

Dawn Williams Boyd
Human Rights in the New Millennium: Freedom Of Speech, 2016

                                                            The fabric of our lives.

Image 41

Dawn Williams Boyd
We Shall Overcome, 2017

                                                        This country is threadbare.

Image 43

Dawn Williams Boyd
The Trump Era: Trump’s America, 2020

Selected Works

Selected Works Thumbnails

Dawn Williams Boyd
Please Mr. President, 2018
Mixed media
108 x 66 inches

Inquire

Dawn Williams Boyd
The Trump Era: Puerto Rico 2019, 2019
Assorted fabrics
60 x 60 inches

Inquire

Dawn Williams Boyd
Six Feet of Water: Evangeline, LA 1927, 2016
Mixed media
70 x 70 inches

Inquire

Dawn Williams Boyd
The Trump Era: Trump’s America, 2020
Assorted fabrics
59.5 x 59.75 inches

Inquire

Dawn Williams Boyd
Baptizing Our Children in a River of Blood, 2017
Assorted fabrics
36 x 48 inches

Inquire

Dawn Williams Boyd
Waiting for Medgar: Jackson, MS 1963, 2004
Mixed media
80 x 56.5 inches

Inquire

Dawn Williams Boyd
We Shall Overcome, 2017
Assorted fabrics
69 x 46 inches

Inquire

Dawn Williams Boyd
Waiting for Medgar: Jackson, MS 1963, 2004
Mixed media
80 x 56.5 inches

Inquire

Dawn Williams Boyd
The Trump Era: Racism No Longer Has the Decency to Hide its Face, 2019
Assorted fabrics
60 x 60 inches

Inquire

Dawn Williams Boyd
The Trump Era: Incarcerated, 2019
Assorted fabrics
60 x 60 inches

Inquire

Dawn Williams Boyd
Bad Blood: Tuskegee Syphilis Experiments – Macon County, AL 1932 – 1972, 2016
Assorted fabrics
53 x 68 inches

Inquire

Dawn Williams Boyd
Nurture, 2017
Assorted fabrics
48 x 72 inches

Inquire

Dawn Williams Boyd
Three Marys: Freedom Riders, 2012
Mixed media
54 x 89 inches

Inquire

Dawn Williams Boyd
Sankofa, 2010
Mixed media
73 x 51 inches

Inquire

Dawn Williams Boyd
Peaches and Evangeline: Bibbs County, FL 1942, 2004
Mixed media
72 x 53.5 inches

Inquire

Dawn Williams Boyd
Please Mr. President, 2018
Mixed media
108 x 66 inches

Dawn Williams Boyd
The Trump Era: Puerto Rico 2019, 2019
Assorted fabrics
60 x 60 inches

Dawn Williams Boyd
Six Feet of Water: Evangeline, LA 1927, 2016
Mixed media
70 x 70 inches

Dawn Williams Boyd
The Trump Era: Trump’s America, 2020
Assorted fabrics
59.5 x 59.75 inches

Dawn Williams Boyd
Baptizing Our Children in a River of Blood, 2017
Assorted fabrics
36 x 48 inches

Dawn Williams Boyd
Waiting for Medgar: Jackson, MS 1963, 2004
Mixed media
80 x 56.5 inches

Dawn Williams Boyd
We Shall Overcome, 2017
Assorted fabrics
69 x 46 inches

Dawn Williams Boyd
Waiting for Medgar: Jackson, MS 1963, 2004
Mixed media
80 x 56.5 inches

Dawn Williams Boyd
The Trump Era: Racism No Longer Has the Decency to Hide its Face, 2019
Assorted fabrics
60 x 60 inches

Dawn Williams Boyd
The Trump Era: Incarcerated, 2019
Assorted fabrics
60 x 60 inches

Dawn Williams Boyd
Bad Blood: Tuskegee Syphilis Experiments – Macon County, AL 1932 – 1972, 2016
Assorted fabrics
53 x 68 inches

Dawn Williams Boyd
Nurture, 2017
Assorted fabrics
48 x 72 inches

Dawn Williams Boyd
Three Marys: Freedom Riders, 2012
Mixed media
54 x 89 inches

Dawn Williams Boyd
Sankofa, 2010
Mixed media
73 x 51 inches

Dawn Williams Boyd
Peaches and Evangeline: Bibbs County, FL 1942, 2004
Mixed media
72 x 53.5 inches

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