The first time I saw Victoria's work was in a show at Rush Arts in Chelsea, Manhattan about 3-4 years ago. She had a large powerful installation that stood out in my memory where she was combining the use of traditional fiber art techniques with found objects and existing in that lovely blurry place of abstraction to representation with complex meanings and dialog that I love so much. Since then I have had the pleasure of getting to work with her and am blown away each time she shares new work. I hope you enjoying getting to know her and her work as much as I have!
Let's start with how you source your materials. You use a lot of re-purposed items and found objects in your works, particularly second-hand clothing which has great significance in your work. How do you go about sourcing everything you need? Can you go into a little of the history and purpose using these re-used materials for those that might be new to your work?
I work with a lot of re-purposed materials, primarily second-hand clothes. I am interested in the materiality as well as the historicity of the second-hand clothing with which I work: how it travels the world from the West to the Global South, carrying the personal as well as social histories of the people involved in this economy, and how those histories begin to be complicated when others acquire the clothing and wear it. My process involves shopping and collecting used clothes from various marketplaces or textile recycling companies as well as sourcing scraps, used burlap, paper, plastic bags and other recycled materials.
One part of your work I love so much are the head dresses. I've seen you show them as sculptural forms alone as well as paired with your colonial gown costumes (for lack of a better word) and area rugs where they create a museum like setting, historical in reference, yet very contemporary at the same time. This series seems incredibly important especially given the current political status here in the US. Has anything in current politics changed how you will create or think about new work, and how do you feel about the collaboration or integration of art and politics in general? Do you think Art can help affect social change?
In as much as I'm not sure what change my works could effect in the society, I do hope that my works can shift the perception of her immediate viewers, and by extension the larger society; even if its just a moment of pondering, the purpose would have been served. For the projects I did in Lagos, the outstanding episode for me was working in the second hand market, engaging with vendors and tailors in the market place whose livelihoods are dependent on this industry. Unfortunately, most of them did not quite understand my mission initially rather. There were moments they felt their businesses were being threatened given their assumptions that I was a government ally sent to investigate their businesses for possible closure. As a result, they began expressing their concerns and economic dependency on this product.
Another thing I particularly love about your work is your use of negative space, be that through holes left in the paintings surface, to the headdresses left with the "face" empty in your installations, or the open paths to wonder within them to your headdresses that will have segments creating thick lines and those wonderful empty spaces within their form. What does this empty space mean to you?
There is something haunting about the negative space in the evocation of absence materially and metaphorically. Art historian Alison Landsberg describes the way that piles of belonging in the museum evokes the aesthetic of absence because they evoke the absence of the people to which they belonged. In my recent project on immigration and border control, I have explored the notion of absence, alluding to the anonymity of countless migrants passing through countries to better their lives while also referencing the many refugees who do not survive the journey.
You've gotten the opportunity to do some really interesting residencies during your career. Can you describe some of those experiences, any highlights that stick out to you that really made you think differently about your work and practice?
International residencies and Exhibitions have offered me the opportunity to make new works in Europe, Africa and now living in the United States. These experiences have not only helped develop my career but have informed and shaped the content of my work. A good example was my very first residency in Europe, spending weeks walking through the museums in Venice and Paris impacted my earlier work a lot, this marked the beginning of the ‘museological’ presentation of my work. The Venetian Caprice portraits I saw around the museum also inspired my ‘Venetian’ portrait series that was part of the ‘second- hand museum’, a major aspect of the project I actualized in Venice. (image below)
Most recently, the cold wind of intolerance and nationalism rhetoric blowing across America and Europe, coupled with personal immigration struggles compelled my response to notions of border security and immigration. As a result, “The Republic of Unknown Territory” was birth - a multimedia installation/performance project that interrogates the nature of borders, immigration, and privilege by simulating and re-contextualizing the experience of obtaining a visa at a customs office while highlighting the contribution and struggles of immigrants. (image above)
I know you had been looking for new studio space when we last spoke, has that been resolved? Are you enjoying a new space now, and if not, if you're in that in-between spaces, how do you go about creating new work?
I work quite large scale and New York rooms as you know is barely enough space for personal life, let alone studio work. Finding myself in between studio means, I focus my time more on planning, drawing, sketching, researching and writing proposals for upcoming projects.
Do you have any favorite female artists?
I do have some female artist whose works I love, I would start with, Louise Bourgeois and Senga Nengudi.
Do you have any upcoming events or news that you'd like to share?
Am looking forward to heading out for a Residency Fellowship at Instituto Sacatar, Bahia, Brazil.