In Plain Sight is the first body of work I created after discovering my families hidden African American ancestry and passing as white. The Journey is a collection of works about my thoughts about hybridity, racism, colorism and caste, with a bit of feminism thrown in for good measure.
The first work I created about my ancestry, Lost and Found, was cobbled together aided by Google and the scant details I knew of my ancestry back in 2018. Since then, through research into the archives of James Madison’s Montpelier and the Montpelier Descendant Community and a genealogist member of my family, we have reconstructed my family’s history from 1830 to present day. And in broader strokes, backwards from then until the birth of our nation. My family surname, Braxton, is descended from Carter Braxton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
During the pandemic I continued to explore my families heritage through my work. The racial reckoning of America after the murder of George Floyd in 2020, created an atmosphere that made it challenging to speak of the work I was creating.. I realized the timing created an atmosphere where this work has a high degree of being misunderstood because I am a white woman making art about my mixed heritage and passing. The subject matter is fraught with complexity. It has been difficult and challenging to figure out how to express myself and I have learned much.I am grateful and proud of my paternal lineage and the story of my Black ancestors and how they persevered.
Interestingly, it's my Black friends who understand my story. Passing is an accepted construct in African American culture. So much generosity has been shown to me, sharing their culture, enabling me to learn about the missing link in my ancestry.
I want my work to speak of inclusion, beauty, respect, authenticity and truth. But also the hurt and damage left behind.
My hope is that this work upends the idea of colorism. Encourages the viewer to look deeper and learn the truth about the history of racial relations in this country. The Journey is the space where my sculptures examining issues of race and equality, that continue to seep out of my being, will live.
“Humanism is our common faith: the belief that we are all interconnected is the higher ground that we call the world to” Reverend John Morehouse, UU, Westport, CT
This is the belief I live by.