Monday’s Child: Gina Washington at Prama
Detritus makes luminous patterns worth following in Gina Washington’s Monday’s Child, now at Prama Art Galleries through Sunday, October 17, 2022.
Based on the poem “Monday’s Child,” one of the nursery rhymes-meet-fortune telling NOUNS, Washington’s show galvanizes the singsong with splendid, large collages of family members whose births aligns with each day.
“I work with these connected-to-childhood sayings and fairytales that influenced my upbringing and others,” says Washington in her artist’s statement. “Those themes reflect how people respond to one another globally . . . In the western tradition, these stories supplanted identity and the understanding of the Black experience. They perpetuated a narrative of inclusive exclusion . . . this project is an archeological dig into a family, identity, expectations, and the dualistic nature of Black Identity in America.”
In Willie – Thursday’s child has far to go, the formal Air Force portrait of Washington’s father has been sliced and reassembled with interwoven strips of genuine silver, while 24 kt gold leaf butterflies cluster above bits from old joke books, snapshots of children, love and notes. Stark, graphic bars of deconstructed photographs set a barrier, contrasting with full-color images of a girl: same smile, different ages, rounded with love.
Layers of meaning surround each family member, as Washington welcomes the viewer and lays bare her family. Harriett – Monday’s child is fair of face, shows the Great-Grandmother, the matriarch of the family, wrapped with fragments of Catholic prayer cards and bits from the Mass, while “Valuable Slaves,” the image of a white plantation-style house, and “My special gift to you” underpin the collage’s bottom border. Harriett’s indelible face watches from beyond a mosaic of patterned gold leaf and segments of family pictures, their importance regulated by each crop and position.
These woven stories of family obscure and reveal each member. Gina – Friday’s child is loving and giving is a hide-and-seek game of the artist barely revealed by kaleidoscope of butterfly-shaped images of lake sunsets, bolstered by sheet music and talismans of family photographs. Did the butterflies escape from one of Great Grandmother Harriett’s mixed media prints on the adjacent wall? And perhaps the ceramic bust, also by Harriett, represents another family member.
Walking through the intimacies of another’s family feels transgressive and blessed simultaneously. You were invited to witness those inside jokes you do not understand. You were allowed to feel as uplifted as the unnamed work that greets you head-on when you enter: a clear-eyed woman crowned with herself and her family, carrying herself out of the waste of school notes, meticulously written ones and zeros like some secret computer code, and fortunes from cookies sharpened like daggers.
Washington also offers a Spotify playlist to accompany the show: Ethel Waters, Mahalia Jackson, U2, Bruce Springsteen, and ELO, among others, lend their voices to Washington’s chorus of images.
“We Black folks need to humanize our experience despite the opposition that tries to prove we don’t matter. Monday’s Child dispels one tradition of influence to allow another to emerge free from or despite the western headset.”