Exert from Jessica Wimbley Interview with Mary Anna Pomonis, www.hystericcurators.com
Memories of Tomorrow's Sunrise, is on view at the Ronald H. Silverman Fine Arts Gallery at Cal State LA. The show show investigated concepts of legacy, personal relationships, cultural identity, and oppression, curated by Jason Jenn & Vojislav Radovanović with Mika Cho.
Still, Potential Space, 2022
Digital Video Collage
I asked four artists from the show to talk about their work in a short interview format. The artists create work in part as an effort to survive the very real challenges being presented to their bodies. In light of the present moment, these four artists respond to issues of body autonomy in their work in different ways. Kayla Tange, Marval A Rex, Marne Lucas and Jessica Wimbley to different degrees explore images of bodies under attack. The third in the series is Jessica Wimbley.
JW: I wanted to first start off by sharing a quote with you from the African American Policy
Forum Statement on Bodily Autonomy following the Roe V Wade Supreme Court Ruling:
“We have barely emerged from a week of commemoration of emancipation in which the
legacy of coerced pregnancy that was the foundation of enslavement and the source of the
profits in the slave trade has yet to be addressed. The consequence of our society’s failure
to see coerced pregnancy as a legacy of enslavement has descended once again upon
Black women and all pregnant people with lethal force. Had the project of liberation from
enslavement been rooted in this recognition, then coerced childbirth would have been
prohibited as a foundational principle of freedom. The incompleteness of our conceptions of
liberty thus harken back to the unspeakable past and stretch forward into this painful
moment, proving once again that the intersections of patriarchy, racism, and
heteronormativity will continue to undermine the freedoms that we all take for granted
unless we learn how to address them simultaneously. Our response must not be siloed to a
problem that is historically and continuously interconnected."
– Kimberlé Crenshaw, AAPF Executive Director.
In speaking to body autonomy or commodification, it is impossible, especially within a US
historical context, to decouple the history of slavery and gynecology from black female
reproductive rights. basic autonomy and health. Black women have a current Maternal and
Infant Health Mortality Crisis, as well as higher rates of hysterectomies over less invasive
procedures. These violent systemic injustices are ongoing, and in tandem with the
overturning of Roe V. Wade.
MAP: What is it like to use your own body as a metaphor in a time of the real bodily threats
implied by the overturning of Roe V. Wade?
JW: Intense. Investigating my own body as site has been an important apparatus in
processing having had a hysterectomy. Within Potential Space, the uterus is the site of
multiple temporalities, so that the history of gynecology, founded on the experimentation of
subjugated enslaved Black women, to issues of the high rate of fibroids, endometriosis, and
hysterectomies among black women, the use of Hela cells, mass shooter hate crimes, Roe
vs Wade, to my own family history are included in the work. It is dense with imagery, and
vacillates between the micro and macro, from personal to shared history. These histories
intersect at the site of my body where the actual organ is removed- a site of real physical
trauma where the threat of violence has already been realized.