‘The best way I know how to protest is through making art’
LA-based artist Genevieve Gaignard shares the inspiration behind three of her new works, created during her residency at MCLA in Massachusetts this year, and discusses her recent installation at Soho Warehouse in Downtown Los Angeles
By Corinna Burford Above image: 'Disinfect our politics' by Genevieve Gaignard Sunday 1 November, 2020 Short read
Luckily, she was able to make it to the Northeast by March and started a six-month creative journey that involved processing the events of 2020 and channelling it into a cohesive, new collection. ‘As COVID-19 progressed and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement was reignited after the death of George Floyd, I battled a range of emotions – from horror and sadness to anger and grief,’ says Gaignard. ‘I have been making work that addresses topics around race in America throughout my career, but in the past six months there has been such a rise in hatred behaviour. The best way I know how to protest is through making art.’
The result, entitled A Long Way From Home, explores issues of race, gender, politics and protest through a series of installations that incorporate collage, intricate wallpaper designs, and cut-outs from vintage magazines. ‘I wanted to make a body of work that reflects the reality of systemic racism in our society,’ she describes.
Here, she provides insight into three pieces from the exhibition, which is currently on virtual display through MCLA’s Gallery 51 and Vielmetter Los Angeles, as well as her recent installation at Soho Warehouse called ‘Never Too Much’.
‘I wanted to make a [piece of] work that addressed the pandemic, but also the absurd response from Trump about wearing a mask. I was thinking about his comment when he said he liked wearing a mask because he looked like the Lone Ranger. Two women stand on either side of this fictional “politician” and attempt to disinfect him with Lysol, pulled from a vintage advertisement.’
‘Salty Karens’, 2020 © Genevieve Gaignard, courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles (above)
‘Ironically, this was the first piece I started but the last one I finished for the show. I think it took me so long because it made me feel uneasy. The visual of a hooded figure isn’t imagery I usually work with. Often the works that make me the most uncomfortable have the strongest impact.’
‘Never Too Much’, 2019 © Genevieve Gaignard, on display at Soho Warehouse
‘The installation, called “Never Too Much”, is a custom wallpaper design with dimensional elements added to the surface of the paper. The title is borrowed from one of my favourite Luther Vandross songs. This work is a continuation of my practice and speaks to the complexities of race and gender in America. I set out to create a piece for Soho Warehouse that celebrates Black women. “Never Too Much” is a space for visitors to reflect on the beauty and strength that Black women embody. It’s an affirmation for them, and all women, that you are never too much.’
‘There are many access points to my work. The layered meanings allow people to engage with the work in different ways – by using iconic imagery, colour palettes, moments of nostalgia, references to home, and additionally, through titling. Often the title says it all.’
A Long Way From Home is on display at MCLA Gallery 51 and online via Vielmetter Los Angeles until 7 December. Gaignard also has an exhibition on display at NYC’s Rockefeller Center as part of the Art in Focus series until 21 November.