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Q&A: Tracy Murrell discovers Haiti in her DNA and celebrates the island in her artwork

“This exhibition is my love story to Haiti,” mentioned Atlanta-based artist Tracy Murrell. Her solo exhibition, Dans l’espoir d’un Avenir Meilleur (In Hope for a Higher Future) . . . Exploring Haitian Transmigration By the Feminine Lens is on view via December 16 at Hammonds Home Museum, curated by longtime mentor, Arturo Lindsay.

From encaustic resin, collaging and sculptural parts to sketches and video and studying rooms, the vibrancy of Murrell’s work and love of humanity is palpable in every of the 44 works on show. Her experiences in Haiti, her curiosity and her compassion knowledgeable the exhibit.

Murrell in entrance of one in all her work at Hammonds Home (Picture by Nyeusi Mwezi)

Murrell was born on an Air Drive base outdoors of Cellular, Alabama, and spent most of her childhood in Mississippi. Whereas there are artists in her household, artwork wasn’t a profession aim. She went to varsity in Louisiana aiming to be a psychiatrist, however rapidly found it wasn’t for her.

This 12 months, Murrell was awarded a Practitioner Fellowship at Brown College’s Heart for the Examine of Race and Ethnicity in America. She’s participated in dozens of group exhibits and residencies, labored with the Nationwide Black Arts Competition, and has curated reveals for Auburn Avenue Analysis Library and Hammonds Home, the place she served as curator for 5 years. She is a member of the Atlanta BeltLine Public Artwork Advisory Council and was president of the Atlanta-based African People for The Arts (AAFTA) from 2011-2018.

Murrell spoke with ArtsATL about her exhibit, her DNA, her love of humanity and the way she found Haiti.

ArtsATL: Why Haiti? What’s your connection?

Tracy Murrell: I’d explored migration and had a monthlong residency in Tétouan, Morocco, a Spanish territory the place Africans would go to try to cross to Spain. Initially, I wished to do the exhibition on that have. Then I took the Nationwide Geographic Genome Challenge that traces the migratory path of your DNA. My DNA confirmed near 56 % similarity to that of Haitians.

Hammonds House
“Gabrielle Antoine” (Picture by Travis Grissom)

ArtsATL: You determined to go to Haiti, an island that’s normally portrayed in American information media as a chaotic and troubled place. Have been you occupied with your artwork throughout that journey, or simply about your ancestry?

Murrell: I noticed I may learn a complete lot of books, however till I had conversations with folks, I didn’t actually get a real understanding. There have been occasions I needed to step away as a result of I made the error of watching the information after which I grew to become offended. And I don’t create anger, you recognize?

My work is supposed to focus on the wonder and charm of the those that I’m presenting. I knew the artwork would come out finally. The folks confirmed me that they have been going to be the middle [of the exhibit].

ArtsATL: How have been you reworked by Haiti?

Murrell: I wished to see the on a regular basis Haiti, to reply the “why?” Why would somebody need to go away their house nation the place they converse a sure language and journey to a different land in hope of a greater life?

The conversations I had knowledgeable the sort of questions I used to be asking and the issues I used to be looking for. I wished to see what on a regular basis life was as a result of what you see on the information makes you surprise how anyone is surviving in that surroundings.

ArtsATL: What’s going to viewers expertise on this present?

Murrell: I need to transport viewers to the Haiti that I went to, and to welcome them. You come into the room and also you expertise land, you expertise sky and colour. My fashion could be very simplistic. I let the colours inform. I need everybody to really feel peace, as a result of the best way Haiti is introduced on this nation, peace is rarely there.

In 2019, I used to be launched to Rosebrune Vixamar, the founder and president of Worldwide Girls of H.O.P.E. primarily based in Lawrenceville, Georgia. She invited me and my associate Rubin Whitmore (a filmmaker) to journey with them to Cap-Haïtien, [a community in the north of the island]. They launched me to my nation.

ArtsATL: Did you discover your “why?”

Murrell: It was answered via the journey. I discovered how totally different international locations have destroyed the pure economic system of Haiti and proceed to try this. I discovered what they’ve left behind, and the way folks [used to be] self-sufficient. However now you’ve gotten all these imported items coming in and so they can’t compete.

There’s a historical past of management that has just about not solely raped the nation however destroyed it. After which you’ve gotten people who find themselves simply making an attempt to outlive. That’s why the studying room is within the upstairs gallery. Georges Woke Up Laughing is a e book that ready me and knowledgeable this exhibition.

Hammonds House
“Mama Haiti” (Picture by Travis Grissom)

ArtsATL: What’s the story behind your signature blue silhouettes?

Murrell: I fell in love as soon as with that depth of blue and determined it was going to be my colour. I need to take away that stigma of race related to brown. Blue is my means of being, of displaying universality of the human kind. Regardless that it’s apparent they’re folks of colour, it’s a means for me to have a double assertion — beneath our pores and skin, our blood is crimson.

For those who’re standing in entrance of a silhouette, you see your self. That’s what resin permits me to do. There’s sufficient unfavourable house the place you may see your reflection and I hope on some degree that individuals join with the work.

ArtsATL: You focus totally on silhouettes of girls in your work. How did this creative lens inform your journey to Haiti and this exhibit?

Murrell: Girls are so vital in Haitian society. They preserve it transferring, day after day, minute to minute, ensuring you’re fed, have a spot to sleep. I’m not taking away from what males present, however I wished girls to be the main focus due to what they’re doing on daily basis.

They put their lives on the road simply to make life higher. [Many Haitians leave their family] and go into the unknown. That would’ve been my life.

ArtsATL: What’s your hope for the long run?

Murrell: I need to amplify particular person tales, together with with video. I need to return to Haiti and I need this exhibition to journey. I need to discover a means that what I do provides assist. Once I first began portray, I used to be portray from photographs. Now I paint from those that I’ve met. It’s actual private. My work’s now providing you with a view of what I’m experiencing.


Shelley Danzy has been writing for ArtsATL since 2019. An alumna of Morgan State College, she labored 20 years in broadcasting and acquired her MFA in Writing from Savannah Faculty of Artwork and Design.



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