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

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“This exhibition is my love story to Haiti,” stated Atlanta-based artist Tracy Murrell. Her solo exhibition, Dans l’espoir d’un Avenir Meilleur (In Hope for a Higher Future) . . . Exploring Haitian Transmigration Via 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 components 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 Pressure base exterior 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 school 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 Pageant, and has curated displays 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 attempt to cross to Spain. Initially, I needed to do the exhibition on that have. Then I took the Nationwide Geographic Genome Mission 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 often 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 spotted I may learn a complete lot of books, however till I had conversations with individuals, 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 turned indignant. And I don’t create anger, you already know?

My work is supposed to spotlight the sweetness and charm of the folks that I’m presenting. I knew the artwork would come out ultimately. The individuals confirmed me that they have been going to be the middle [of the exhibit].

ArtsATL: How have been you remodeled by Haiti?

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

The conversations I had knowledgeable the form of questions I used to be asking and the issues I used to be searching for. I needed to see what on a regular basis life was as a result of what you see on the information makes you marvel how anyone is surviving in that setting.

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

Murrell: I wish 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 coloration. My model may be very simplistic. I let the colours inform. I need everybody to really feel peace, as a result of the best way Haiti is offered 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 accomplice 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 came upon how completely different nations have destroyed the pure financial system of Haiti and proceed to try this. I came upon what they’ve left behind, and the way individuals [used to be] self-sufficient. However now you have got all these imported items coming in they usually 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 have got people who find themselves simply attempting to outlive. That’s why the studying room is within the upstairs gallery. Georges Woke Up Laughing is a guide 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 coloration. I wish to take away that stigma of race related to brown. Blue is my method of being, of displaying universality of the human kind. Though it’s apparent they’re individuals of coloration, it’s a method for me to have a double assertion — beneath our pores and skin, our blood is pink.

In case you’re standing in entrance of a silhouette, you see your self. That’s what resin permits me to do. There’s sufficient unfavorable area the place you possibly can see your reflection and I hope on some stage that individuals join with the work.

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

Murrell: Girls are so essential in Haitian society. They hold it shifting, 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 needed girls to be the main target due to what they’re doing day by day.

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

ArtsATL: What’s your hope for the longer term?

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

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



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