Fertile Ground brings together the aesthetically and conceptually layered works of FSU Art BFA ’95 Zoë Charlton, María Berrío, and Joiri Minaya. Through their depictions of women’s bodies enveloped by nature—often juxtaposing wild and cultivated landscapes—these artists challenge romantic tropes of “nature” with powerful personal, cultural, and political narratives.
Zoë Charlton marks her intersecting interests in identity, race, place, and cultural tokenism through large-scale collages. By combining hundreds of stickers with cut paper and gouache, she creates sprawling, layered narratives that explode beyond the edges of the paper. Renderings of life-size figures tower over viewers, naked and confrontational. The land is not something on which they stand firmly; rather it envelopes them, swirling energetically from their bodies and concealing their identities.
Charlton addresses race explicitly. Over the years, she has depicted different genders and races to convey personal and political narratives related to labor, the body, and home. In this series, all the titles are phrases taken from Frederick Douglass’s 1852 speech “The Meaning of July 4th to the Negro,” which highlighted the hypocrisy and brutality of America. Charlton is also referencing her grandmother, Everlena Bates, who bought ten acres of land in rural Florida at a time in the early twentieth century when few women of color owned land in the United States. The resulting collages show bodies similar to her grandmother’s, erupting into a profusion of Floridian birds and plant life ranging from palm tress to oaks to Spanish moss, and cultural objects, such as African masks. The pieces reference violence and fertility. They also address the influence of place on identity and the incredibly complicated relationship between black female bodies and land in the United States.
David Winton Bell Gallery, List Art Building, Brown University. 64 College Street, Providence, RI 02912
Exhibition runs August 31, 2019 – November 3, 2019 – Opening Reception September 13, 2019