“The idea of the conjurer—someone who, through a combination of spiritual interventions, psychology, and herbalism transforms the world—was a recurring theme in Bearden’s art.” —Richard Powell, Conjuring Bearden
The conjurer is a central figure in the African-American folklore that inspired Romare Bearden’s art. In plantation life of ferocious everyday hardships, a conjurer could be asked for extraordinary help and defense. In exchange for an offering, the conjurer could provide a charm or incantation and transform the supplicant, or her adversary, from one form into another.
My recent work explores human cultural and physical hybridity by imagining the effects of transgressing and crossing species. When invited to make a piece for The Bearden Project, I asked myself what the role of a contemporary conjurer could be in this.
I created a page from a fictional book called Empathic Plant Alchemy (shape shifting under a conjure woman’s charm). This is one in a series of works on paper presenting visions captured by a conjurer as she sets off the merger of human and plant DNA. I use these hybridized humans to investigate the classification of humans and why we might choose to embody monstrous forms outside of known categorization.