Doreen Garner Sculpts Our Trauma | Art21 “New York Close Up”

Doreen Garner Sculpts Our Trauma | Art21 “New York Close Up”


[“New York Close Up”] I try to create a traumatic experience. I want the audience to walk away feeling
like they can’t unsee what they just saw. Something that is burned in and lasts,
and you can never get rid of it. [“Red Hook, Brooklyn”] [“Doreen Garner Sculpts Our Trauma”] I use the body in my work
mostly because of the trauma that I have, [Doreen Garner, Artist] watching how one small thing
can make the entire body fail. I’m from Philly. My sister, when she was eight years old,
she had a massive stroke. There was basically a blood vessel that burst, and she was left physically and mentally disabled. She lived until she was eighteen
and then passed away in 2007. –This could have used more vaseline. When I was younger, I would end up spending a lot of time
with her in the hospital. I remember one kid that had his leg
in this crazy metal cage with pins in his leg. All these things that are burned into my brain are slowly starting to seep back out
into the real world. I’m working on this show,
“White Man On A Pedestal.” All of my work is focusing on J. Marion Sims,
who’s known as the father of modern gynecology, but made a lot of his progress through
torturing Black women– three of which are documented:
Betsey, Anarcha, and Lucy. So he ended up performing a
vesicovaginal fistula repair on Anarcha over thirty times in the course of five years,
without anesthesia. He said that Black people
experience pain less so he didn’t need to use anesthesia on them. But it was just an excuse
for him to torture them. And if there was a patient that didn’t seem
like they would make it through, he would just leave them in the field to die. –It’s weird, this process of basically giving
him a rub down. –Because it’s like a caring notion, but I
have no care for this guy so… –I guess I should just think of it as caring
for my own work. His statue in Central Park, it’s currently up for debate on whether it
should stay there or not. I think they should take down the statue,
and they should chop off the head, and give it to me so I can use it
for other projects. Pearls and Swarovski crystals and glass beads end up standing in for
fat cells and muscle tissue. It’s not about creating a gruesome work. It’s about creating a work that has
subtle nuances, where you don’t really completely know
how to feel, and maybe that’s what stays with you. I’m doing a silicone skin cast on Sims’s body– peeling that off
and then using that for a surgery where I’m performing
vesicovaginal fistula repair that he performed on Black women. Some crazy shit is going to go down.
[LAUGHS] –Yeah touch it, feel it. –You can smack his face if you want,
punch him. I ended up buying an endoscopy camera, so when it goes inside
people will be able to see what’s going on inside the body, as well as on the outside. When you think about ways that
Black people have been used in this country, it does just come down to the body. Extra sets of hands to do tasks, people to take out
your anger and frustration on, people to do experiments on– just disposable bodies. Me as an artist,
I’m operating in a really weird place. I’m slicing up the skin,
I’m chopping up the bodies. I’m a Black woman horrified by these actions, and yet I have to show all these actions, so that it’s not a situation where people
are able to overlook this information anymore. It’s not a desire that I naturally have, it’s just what I have to do. [In January 2018, the City of New York decided
to relocate the Sims statue] [to Green-Wood Cemetery
in Brooklyn, where he is buried.] [The statue will be installed without its
pedestal.]

7 thoughts on “Doreen Garner Sculpts Our Trauma | Art21 “New York Close Up”

  1. so interesting how in the past men made art using the female body as a vehicle but now I can't even think if one who does it.

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