Profile: Shervone Neckles (1979-)

Shervone Neckles  is an interdisciplinary artist, educator, and community worker. Her work draws inspiration from the duality and transitional nature of her Afro-Grenadian-American identity. Neckles’ practice combines mixed media techniques of printmaking, textiles, book arts, sculpture, installation, and social investigations to further explore concepts of past and present-day colonialism, notions of provenance as it relates to origin, authorship and ownership.

Life and education

Neckles was born in 1979 in Huntington, New York to parents of Grenadian descent and raised in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, New York. She has earned an MA from Teacher’s College, Columbia University, MFA from Queens College and BFA from The College of New Rochelle.

Work

Neckles’ practice takes an interdisciplinary approach. Grenadian folklore, Afro-Caribbean diasporic storytelling, to West African philosophy inform the ways in which ideas on womanhood, matriarchy, spirituality, astrophysics, memory, to home, fuse in her work. By using mixed media techniques of printmaking, assemblage, collage, textiles and embroidery that are rooted in her Afro-Caribbean practices and traditions, she forms a connection, continues a tradition, preserves memories, and inserts herself and her ancestors into history.

In 2004, she developed the Red Rag Rosie character, a young black girl rendered in silhouette from whose perspective the viewer follows from childhood to motherhood. She created this character to fill a void—frustrated by the lack of positive representations of herself in children’s literature. Neckles’ inspiration for Red Rag Rosie was inspired by the Grenadian masquerade tradition known as Jab Jab­—where masqueraders cover themselves in molasses, burnt cane, or black grease, as a display of racial pride, and march through the streets during Jouvet morning Carnival festivities with chains, ropes, and serpents. A folkloric tradition that references historic acts of resistance demonstrated by the enslaved, indentured workers and others oppressed in the Caribbean. Her solo exhibition Give and Take, exhibited at Space Gallery (Portland) in 2016, featured Red Rag Rosie and investigated the social meaning of beauty, identity, and cultural authenticity within black womanhood.  In 2017, Neckles’ work was presented as part of the group exhibition Race and Revolution: Still Separate – Still Unequal at Smack Mellon (New York). Her work Primary I (2004) is described by writer Seph Rodney as a small black puppet, a combination of a jigaboo figure and a faceless S&M character, with a horn extending out from the back of its head—a caricature of how some see black children through racist and fetishistic lenses.

For her solo exhibition Provenance at Five Myles Gallery in 2019, Neckles exhibited print series featuring a liminal figure maneuvering through space with a house structure worn as a mask / headdress. The house structure was a replication of the artist’s maternal family home in Grenada, West Indies. Using mixed media techniques of collage and embroidery, the artist explored concepts of past and present-day colonialism, and notions of provenance as it relates to origin, authorship, and ownership. The writer Seph Rodney noted in his review for Hyperallergic that: “These representations of the bodies of Black women attest to their audiences that this body is fey, incalculable, and thus must be seen and can only be intimately understood through the language of myth and poetry.”

These figures were also the protagonists of Neckles’ presentation at the 58th Venice Biennial’s Grenada Pavilion. This presentation featured her memories about the immigration of her family from Grenada to Brooklyn, New York in the 1960s and 70s. Many of the materials of the installation spoke to impermanence—as the art itself over time degraded and disappeared.

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