Danièle Dennis and Shantel Miller | Skin Glowing in the Moonlight
April 13–May 27, 2017
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
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 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."