|Artwork created prior to residency.|
Residency: May – June 2007
About the Artist
Jina Valentine has a BFA from Carnegie Mellon University and has had fellowships and residencies at the Santa Fe Art Institute, Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture and the Atlantic Center for the Arts, New Smyrna Beach, FL. She has exhibited at the Fleisher/Ollman Gallery, Philadelphia, PA, Steve Turner Gallery, Los Angeles and the Drawing Center in New York City, among others. She is currently completing her MFA at Stanford University.
This series of work, the four women, is about my attempt to identify with the antebellum women of Nina Simone's song "Four Women". The original work is just a set of four mirrors, which are hung at a height appropriate for an 8-foot tall woman, and the labels read "mirror for aunt Sarah" "mirror for peaches" "mirror for Sweet Thang" "mirror for Sephonia". In my difficulty to relate directly to these four woman, I thought it made sense to replace these four with four woman I feel are more contemporarily tragic figures (Phyllis Hymen, Dorothea Dandridge, Josephine Baker, and Hena Horne). Remarkable for their individual artistic visions and for the tragedies and hurdles they were able to overcome, their pairing with herbal remedy boxes admittedly was on a lark. I’d found these little herbal remedy boxes at the thrift here in Utica and was drawn to them for their all but lack of indications/warnings etc. and aesthetically they’re just really beautiful objects. At the time I was looking for larger boxes of foodstuffs to continue the exploded-food-stuffs series, but finding the remedies has been a really interesting point of departure for researching women's health & folk medicine. The idea of the woman of the house as an obeah of sorts…how she treats/cures her family, self, and alleviates social & personal ills. I started off my research with Tansy. The indication on this box reads: "this cold infusion is said to be a tonic; the hot infusion, diaphoretic and carminative." The chapter in "Plants & Empire" devoted to herbal abortifacients (as well as numerous herbal websites describe Tansy) as something "ill-intentioned" women ingested to destroy their unwanted child, often used secretly by midwives, and particularly by slave women who couldn’t bare to bare a child into the life they led. Also on this list are pennyroyal, sage, scullcap, and witch-hazel bark, though none of these packages indicate potentially dangerous side effects!
In short, the show is about the histories entrapped in these objects which literally burst forth, either eroding the surface or completely obliterating it, freeing whatever contents therein contained.