About the Artist: Ricky Williams is a Michigan based Artist working out of the Metro-Detroit area. During her undergraduate studies at Eastern Michigan University (Ypsilanti, MI) she became enveloped in the idea of a “double-consciouness”. She began to scratch the surface of her identity issues and questioning her own subjectivity. She created work based upon personal experiences hoping to generate a greater dialogue concerning race and gender. She graduated from EMU April of 2014 with her BFA. Between then and now she had 2 more children. As a mother of three she began to connect more intimately with the mothers that raised her. Ricky became interested in the shared narratives that exist within her community of black mothers. She is now working with similar themes at Cranbrook Academy of Art (Bloomfield Hills, MI). Where she expected to graduate with an MFA In May of 2018. Her work is evolving into a more interdisciplinary media while functioning in a similar realm of thematic concerns.
Artist Statement: In this new body of work I have begun photographing intimate fragments of a psychological space that I imagine exist between the taking off and putting on of a code. This body of work explores the inherited collateral damage of using codes to navigate the perpetual wilderness of white supremacy and patriarchy at the intersection of being a black woman.
Read below the interview our Art Director, Finn Schult, had with the artist!
What brought you to begin making the work for "Somebodies Got To Do It?"
I was about 8 weeks postpartum after a c-section. I had just returned to Cranbrook after having my youngest, Kameron. I had 2 other little ones, Karter and Kylie, 1 and 7 years of age. My partner went back to work in North Dakota 7 days after Kameron was born, right before I learned he had viral meningitis. The stresses of having a new baby, healing, Grad school, and a precarious relationship with my partner had begun to envelop me. I remember sitting on the couch in my living room wanting to have some “me time”. The silence was swallowed by echoes of the different codes I deployed throughout the day to help ease me through certain situations. I walked over to the mirror and tried to get a glimpse of myself. I had disappeared. I questioned where I went, how I went, and why I went went? I knew that existing in a specific intersection and navigating that in a specific way was taking a toll on my subjectivity. I then wondered if the subjectivity was ever there and if that’s something that was was stolen from us too? So I began to explore this space that existed between the shift.
Can you talk to me about your use of a visual code and how you implemented that code into this body of work?
My strategy with this body of work was making seductive images that allowed the audience to access a heavy narratives. I was thinking a lot about the commercialization of black culture and more specifically Black Girl Magic, aesthetically. What that looks like as a campaign and also in reality. I’m defining what that means for me and also critiquing the pop culture definition. I felt the color palette was also important for imagining this hyper real space and alluding to the psychological impact of navigating white supremacy and patriarchy through code switching. The costuming represents elevated expectations,he legacy of the black women in my family, and shared narratives. The sharp nails are symbolic of resistance and homage to African American Women's culture.
How do the lemons play into the code as a signifier?
Lemons are a sensory grounding technique used when one is disassociating. They are metaphorically representing dissociative identity disorder, which I felt created an entry point to understanding code switching. The various ways in which the lemons exist come back to my questions about subjectivity. Am I really grounding myself, what is there after I’m grounded? In a more simplistic way “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade”, I’m critiquing the possibilities that exists given those resources.
How do you feel this work relates to our current social and political climate?
This work feels so relevant to our social and political climate. Images of black women shown in the media are very stereotypical and exaggerated. Code switching is a form of stigma management. White nationalism is growing, the political climate is very tense. Black women, at large, are still very invisible in most arenas. Inside and outside of our communities, we are constantly organizing and advocating for social justice for EVERYBODY. Somehow still ignored by major organizations. Black women are known to tote the emotional and physical burdens of everyone around them and receive no praise for it. That goes for political and social. Black women’s cultural identity is stigmatized until its purchased /stolen by a white socialite like Kylie Jenner. Then everything about black women, except the black part is not only praised but also commodified. This work is celebratory of our strength and resilience while simultaneously seeking visibility.
What's next for you?
The featured work feels like there is video work to be made and a few more images that I’ve been thinking about. However, In this moment I’m still thinking about the commodification of black girl magic. I’ve been playing with that concept and working on some digital sketches.