Elizabeth Eugene Debuts Multimedia Piece “Allow Me To…” at the VAV

Eugene’s Exhibited Artwork Gives Space to the Experience of Fat Black Women in “Hyper Real”

  • Elizabeth Eugene’s multimedia piece “Allow Me Too…” opens the viewer to the conversation about what it means to be a fat Black woman. Photo Maggie McCutcheon

  • Eugene wanted her piece to give the allusion that she is reaching out to the audience with the sculpture. Photo Maggie McCutcheon

“In Hyper Real, nine contemporary Black artists take on a range of multifaceted themes,” reads the blurb for the Visual Arts Visuels’ latest show. “Each grounds their creative expression in a particular subject. Yet they bring varying and even contradictory approaches to these subjects.”

Between Nov. 12 and Nov. 30, intermedia cyberarts student Elizabeth Eugene is exhibiting Allow me to…­ for the first time, at Hyper Real: Black History Exhibition and Event Series. Located at the back of the gallery, Eugene’s piece incorporates video projection, sound, as well as sculpture.

A lot happens in the piece over the course of a minute. Two separate videos are projected simultaneously as Eugene’s recorded voice recites poetry out of Guyanese poet Grace Nichols’ book titled The Fat Black Woman’s Poems.

“Beauty / is the fat Black woman / riding the waves / drifting happy oblivion / while the sea turns back / to hug her shape,” reads Eugene.

Two sculpted hands reach out of the corner’s left wall as geometrical hues of orange and white are projected onto it. Meanwhile, a different video runs along the wall on the right, depicting “the reflection of the light on the water.”

“That piece is about […] the fat, Black female body,” Eugene explained. “I found a poem by Grace Nichols and I decided to include that in my piece. I read the poem, that’s what you hear with noises of water.”

In the context of a university class, it took Eugene three weeks to create the artwork. Part of the process was to cast her hands for the sculpture.

“You cannot see that person, you just see the hands and that’s enough,” said Eugene. “You know that someone is included in the piece.”

“I like that idea […] like I’m stuck behind the wall and I’m trying to reach out; I’m trying to reach towards the viewers.”

Speaking to the transcendent quality of poetry, Eugene said the elements of the piece came together cohesively as she discovered Nicholls’ work.

“I think that poetry has something that makes you understand, even though you don’t. Because it’s a lot of images, and a lot of words, short sentences, so that you understand the message in a really soft way,” said Eugene.

“That’s the title of my piece, Allow me to…, so I’m asking people to allow me to talk about that, and to allow a space for people to be seen and heard.”

Video art is Eugene’s preferred medium. She explained that it allows her to express herself through time with a series of images. Eugene she said hopes Allow me to­­… yields questions and sparks conversations.

In addition to the exhibition, the VAV Gallery is co-organizing a screening Nov. 22 with Cinema Politica Concordia at the VA Amphitheatre and a workshop with SistersInMotion and Shanice Nicole Nov. 29 at the VAV Gallery.

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