Filmed in Harlem, New York, and in Claude Monet’s gardens in Giverny, France, The Giverny Suite is a cinematic poem that advocates for the safety and bodily autonomy of Black women. Employing techniques including hand-painted film animation and montage editing, Gary first developed the piece during an artist residency in Giverny, where the gardens offered a space of respite.
Centrally featured are person-on-the-street interviews in which the artist approaches women at the intersection of Lenox Avenue (also known as Malcolm X Boulevard) and West 116th Street and asks, “Do you feel safe?” These interviews are interspersed with footage of singer Nina Simone, performer Josephine Baker, political activist Fred Hampton, and Diamond Reynolds recounting the killing of her boyfriend Philando Castile by police in 2016. The installation also includes antique furniture as well as altars dedicated to the Yoruba deities Yemaya and Oshun. “Healing is at the root of the work,” Gary explains. “Making art is a transformative process that transmutes pain or trauma into something beautiful, useful, functional, instructive.”
About Ja’Tovia Gary
Ja’Tovia Gary is a filmmaker and multidisciplinary artist working across documentary, avant-garde video art, sculpture, and installation. The artist is deeply concerned with re-memory and employs a rigorous interrogation and apprehension of the archive in much of her work. She seeks to trouble notions of objectivity and neutrality in nonfiction storytelling by asserting a Black feminist subjectivity, and applies what scholar and cultural critic bell hooks terms “an oppositional gaze” as both maker and critical spectator of moving image works. Intimate, often personal, and politically charged, her works aim to unmask power and its influence on how we perceive and formulate reality. Gary’s films and installations serve as reparative gestures for the distorted histories through which Black life is often viewed. Black spiritual technologies, ancestral legacies, and the interiority of Black life often pull focus in Gary’s multivalent works.