My Time In Wassaic
Please write a paragraph (or a few!) about your time here in Wassaic. You should say a bit about yourself, where you came from, how you got here, what media you like to work in typically, and what you chose to work on while you were here in Wassaic. Then talk about what Wassaic means to you, how it influenced your work, and what you might want others to know about Wassaic. Write from the heart and write in natural language. We want people to get to know you through this work. Be sure to embed hyperlinked words within these body paragraphs, so that we can link out to your portfolio site, exhibitions, movements, etc. Have fun with this!
By Lucy Commoner, May 2018
WORK/PLAY is the collaborative design duo of Danielle and Kevin McCoy and this is your first involvement with the Wassaic Project. How did you hear about the Wassaic Project?
I first heard about Wassaic through a fellow artist who was sharing different family residencies that he knew about. At the time, I was about 6 months pregnant on residency with my husband Kevin in rural Wisconsin at ACRE. With us growing our family, I was researching residencies where we could bring our daughter along with us. A fellow artist mentioned Wassaic and I soon joined the mailing list and started perusing the website.
There are clear political messages in your work — the racial inequality of black Americans, the need to combat racial stereotypes found in the media, and the economic distress experienced by many Americans today. What is your view of your responsibility and potential as an artist to affect the social, economic, and political issues that we face in this country today?
As black artists living in America, we are not shrouded in comfort. We grew up reading about disparities in our communities that we can now witness in real time. Issues of the past still linger in the present, which was a call to action for us to use our practice to examine messaging. We live in a world dominated by master narratives and carefully constructed images that media outlets distribute to the masses. As artists, we use research to excavate buried histories to subvert these master narratives and refocus the lens. Hopefully our practice serves to call attention to deep-rooted issues and elicits a response to combat them.
Your practice integrates conceptual design and hand-printing techniques to produce individual works and site-specific installations. You often work with textiles and incorporate text and images to convey cultural and political messages. What attracted you to the flag format as a canvas for the expression of your thoughts?
Funny enough, the flag form chose me. My husband and I were driving back from Chicago, Illinois on July 4 and this idea about making an all-black flag at ACRE hit me. Most ideas come to me in my dreams and/or visions and this one was clear as day. My husband Kevin began taking notes because here we were on “Independence Day” as Black Americans in a country that doesn’t view us as equal citizens. Flags are either symbols or they are a communicative device. More importantly you have to think about what the American flag represents. To many, it represents freedom. To others, it represents oppression and inequality. We have been watching the killing of unarmed black people on what feels like a continuous loop and we decided to challenge what the American symbol represents. During our residency at ACRE, we had conversations about a garage-sized American flag we saw while working through ideas. It felt like a clear sign to follow out our initial vision. One of the organizers asked us how we felt about the flag’s presence and while we don’t celebrate its stars & stripes, we never felt that the flag represented us as black people. From there, my husband designed each alternating stripe with traditional West African patterns and I sewed the pieces together producing what you see exhibited.
Can you elaborate on the experience that you would like viewers to take away from your specific works in this exhibition: Delta, Echo, Bravo, Tango and Statelessness?
Here we have two topics that may or may not be common knowledge. Both works are examining histories and societal issues of our unitary state. We are prompting people to uncover other disparities that exist within our country — realities we all have to face. While some of these realities may not affect certain groups of people initially, we will all (eventually) be affected.
Photo by Verónica Gonzále Mayoral