Latitude 53


Danièle Dennis and Shantel Miller | Skin Glowing in the Moonlight

April 13–May 27, 2017

Danièle Dennis 1.jpg

Opening reception: Thursday, April 13 at 7 pm

In "Skin Glowing in the Moonlight" Ontario artists Shantel Miller and Danièle Dennis present two viewpoints that confront the barriers and stereotypes surrounding the perception of Black identity in society today. Dennis’ video performance work in "Colour Me Bad" investigates race, culture and identity through blackening her own body with makeup, markers and dirt. And in Try a Little Tenderness, she exposes the contradictions forced on Black women to soften their appearance by covering her body with pink cotton candy.

Miller’s “Side Profile” series uses classical oil painting to depict Black men in mug shot poses. By using this imagery Miller unravels how politics and surreptitious stereotypes have affected and now obstruct individual Black identity in men.

These works appear alongside each other to explore the issues around Black identity in society today.

Edmonton's youth poet laureate Nasra Adem wrote this piece reflecting on the themes of Skin Glowing in the Moonlight. She performed this poem on April 13 at the exhibition opening.

the shadow of the black boy speaks

says, in a whisper that stretches across millennia

"feel my pulse, i am not over yet"

the whisper defies his current truth

his body lain across the cement

halo'ed by his own red

juice a lifetime collected in a shallow pool

he is alive, still

as long as the light knows his name and pulls the yellow from it

slathers it across walls and the furled brows of mothers

who collect shadows and teeth and memory as if they have none of

their own

as if the door has been shut on purpose

again and again

leaving only a sliver of light between the earth

and the opening to a God that has not forgotten them

if the black boy in this story does not die

will you still listen?

if instead of grave, instead of body, instead of perpetual rigid casing

the boy builds a castle in the sky

with no walls and no King and too many smiling clouds

if instead he invites the shadows of all the boys he's loved stands

them in a line and asks their names

says "here, you are whomever you say you are"

and the first boy cries "Lion!"

and he grows a mane of fire and lightning

then and there

tosses his head back and becomes his own roar

the second boy, with a curve in his back sings

"I want to be water"

and the ocean bows to him, sends up a wave of cool blue he is again

a child of the womb and home, at last

the third boy has forgotten how to speak

instead claps and slaps his chest as if to say

"i am here too, I deserve a name that can keep this rhythm" so the

thunder orchestrates an applause in 4/4

he smiles the length of a horizon

seen and finally heard

if the castle in the sky was real

and instead the earth bound

the boys would need their mothers

would watch as the women carved valleys in the earth with their feet

growing calloused and ancient

by the weight and wisdom of each step

the women would build the castle up with their song command the

stone to break and mend and grow tall would teach the moat of boys

to protect

to bend at the waist for God and beauty

to allow only light in

if the castle on earth was real

it's holy would soon fade

the boys would grow old

sneak away often and pass cigarettes smoke the thick amnesia

blow out a fog that would cast itself across the kingdom (castle, now a Kingdom)

the women, busy being pelt with rice they will soon be asked to prepare

do not notice the cloud or the greying of their skin

would not begin to wonder why their song no longer mends why they

are required to blush at boys who hold no pink of their own

would forget their names and be given Black instead

would forget that Black is all beginnings

a gumbo of light

a beckoning home

an end that means no end

if the castle burnt to the ground and left only ash

the black boys and black women would still have their shadows

shadows that need no body or casing

shadows that cling to anything that moves


like their names: lion, water, thunder, tradition, yellow, freedom,

black, sun, black, moon

shadows with ever reaching whispers

"feel my pulse, i am not over yet."