Not your frontline
The 2021 exhibition Not your frontline mounted at the Wright Museum of Art showcases the recent work of artist LaNia Sproles.
The Wright Museum would like to acknowledge the grace and flexibility of LaNia has shown in mounting this exhibition. Not your frontline is being exhibited in a year when the Beloit campus remains closed to the public due to the pandemic. Through close and careful collaboration LaNia and the Wright staff developed new solutions to make this important body of work accessible to Beloit College students and to the broader public.
The Wright Museum would also like to thank Rashayla Marie Brown (RMB) for providing a thoughtful reflection and critical insight into LaNia's work, to help provide a better understanding of this rich tapestry of images.
LaNia Sproles’ body of work spans several disciplines including: printmaking, drawing and collage. The philosophies of self-perception, queer and feminist theories, and inherent racial dogmas are essential to her work. She examines the works of feminist artists and writers such as Octavia Butler, Kara Walker and Rebecca Morgan.
She recently completed her year as a 2019 Mary L. Nohl fellow and teaching artist in residence at the Lynden Sculpture Garden in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Some of the work in this exhibit and the essay Love that Matters, that is Free were produced with support from Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s Mary L. Nohl Fund Fellowship for Individual Artists program.
The inevitable truth of never wanting to be left and unloved reveals a deeply rooted longing. The figurative elements embody invasive memories of heartbreak and abandonment. A display of the struggle and lack of self curative labor exposing obsessive idolization. My work addresses what different forms of pain look and feel like for me, and at times cannot be distinguished for their gender, sexuality, or virtue. Each repetitive shape, cut and bonded from paper range in emotional tones and validate varying forms of attachments.
Not your frontline highlights the displays of Black femininity and its struggle to remain peacefully uninterrupted. Even in moments of vulnerability, the worth of Black femmes is subjected to speculation and often discredited. Over time, Black femmes have stood to be the backbones and pioneers of many social justice movements, yet they have been excluded from their own autonomies, and shamed for expressing even their most crude desires. Is there a space where Black femmes can exist authentically and ostentatiously as they desire?
One More Time, 2020
Hand-colored copper etching print on BFK rieves
13 1/2 x 10 1/2 inches
The figures differ in complexity and anatomic configuration. Sometimes they are imminent, strong and are cut shapeless with little detail. And some figures are cut and bonded delicately symbolizing fragility. They are alone and lust for a place to call home. A flaunting of relentless otherness, they represent my deeply rooted disconnectivity. Through collage and assemblage I strive to conduct work that pays homage to imagery free from the boundaries of social constructs and honest in the work’s vulnerability.
RoDawg’s Picnic, 2020
Collaged cut paper, gouache, intaglio print
48 x 60 inches
Love that Matters, that is Free
By Rashayla Marie Brown
The circulation of images of Oluwatoyin Salau in life and death speak to the limitations of visibility for young Black femmes. Viewing her only as an elegant teen model with an edgy hairstyle or as a firebrand, sharp-tongued activist for all Black lives elides the facts of her circumstances, her complexity and fragility. She was a homeless teen girl and needed a flowerbed to plant herself in to flourish and blossom, to bleed and be born, to dress herself in more than thorns.
LaNia Sproles’ work in images--the large cut-outs and the paintings that take up space, your space--gesture to this contradiction of being seen and needing private gardens for our beloveds. Her work in a variety of activist and community-oriented murals and collaborations are elaborations of the
Let the smoke fill your eyes, 2019
Colored pencil drawing 12 x 9 inches
Dyke gets ready for night out, 2020
Colored pencil drawing 12 x 9 inches
shero’s personal journey to see oneself. This is no small thing. This is perhaps the only visibility that actually matters, because to see yourself as sexy, strong, right and left, sky and ground is the thing that keeps you alive when the same world you seek to save wants to tear you out by the root. This is the demand of Sproles’ work--to cultivate an intimacy and a tenderness with oneself in pain, without shame, to be planted in love of self.
The queer femmes in each image--inspired by close friends, the viral nonbinary, the internet, the networks of the realest daddies, queens, siblings, and kin--do not need others to see them as human. They defend a universe of perversity and love coexisting, and they do not need to remind you that they matter. Wild and fragile queer women of color who speak for themselves often fight for others at our own expense and without remorse.
We know visibility and hypervisibility. We acknowledge the tight spaces, the endless walls we climb before we are killed by our own taming, the treacherous path between Olympia and Venus we often tread in our attempts to be seen. Sproles’ images have no problem being both desperate and confident. They are your younger self wishing you had the ability to speak up for yourself. They are the adult telling you no one deserves what happened to you. And then they take the split wound and place unknown pleasure in it.
Sproles’ characters, their colors and their attire, their defensive shoulders and large lips, collaborate with other Black women in the live, not with Fenty’s marketing team nor CGI influencers’ endless selfies with friends i.e. marketing partners. In that way, they operate in fugitive modes of reversing the claim for visibility, and instead they draw attention to the limits of images. They refuse to be dignified in a claim for humanity.
Each leg, each torn limb, asks for the Black femme to be free to evacuate this body, because it is not hers. She is a fugitive body, like Sojourner Truth selling her likeness, and she is a person we know “nothing” about, and she does not matter--insofar as “Black lives” do. She is not a thing insofar as she is not-a-thing, but a human blossom. She is free to evacuate respectability’s demands when she is the only audience that matters.
Rashayla Marie Brown (RMB) is an “undisciplinary” artist-scholar, creating visually poetic and emotionally engaging artworks with a deeply critical eye towards knowledge, medium and audience. RMB’s work and words have been featured in Art Forum, Artsy, Chicago Magazine, Hyperallergic, Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art, Performa Magazine, Prospect.4 New Orleans, Radical Presence (CAM Houston), and the cover of the Chicago Reader.
The Weeping Hunty, 2019
Gouache, paper marbling, collaged
cut paper, monotype print
32 x 44 inches
Gurls Thyme, 2020 Gouache, Caran d’ache crayon 21 5/16 x 28 inches
Nont for Sale, 2020 Gouache, Caran d’ache crayon 18 x 14 inches