tangle of twilight
Spirit in the Land
Nasher Museum of Art

By May 25, 2023

“tangle of twilight” is best viewed on desktop.

the painted image of an otherworldly lavender hued creature, waving its arms upward, the surrounding landscape is soil-like, as if the figure is a planted seed seen from below the ground
Wangechi Mutu, Subterranea Flourish, 2021; ink and emulsion paint on photographic print. 72 by 48 inches. Courtesy the artist.
Visit the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University and spend the day a world away!

what didn’t you do to bury me

but you forgot that i was a seed

Dinos Christianopoulos

Spirit in the Land—organized by Trevor Schoonmaker, the Mary D.B.T. and James H. Semans Director of the Nasher Museum of American Art—delves into the intricacies of humanity’s relationship to the natural environment. Featuring thirty artists, the exhibition alludes to the historic legacies of many communities that have been harmed by colonial systems of destruction, including the Gullah Geechee of the Sea Islands, the Maroons of Mauritius, and the Houma Nation of Yakni Chitto. Yet, members of the very communities that have been brutalized as a direct consequence of imperialism, settler colonialism, and other dispossessing forces are the knowledge-bearers and sharers who work spiritedly to repair homelands, restore resources, and resist ongoing extraction.

Featured in the exhibition is Wangechi Mutu’s Subterranea Flourish (2021), in which the artist depicts soul as seed, illustrating humanity’s natural capacity for rebirth. Viewers witness the fluorescent body’s germination and sprouting, tentacle-like roots, dotted with what could be nourishing mycorrhizae. These rhizomes proliferate in fertile soil, burgeoning with dark, lush leaves and ripe, yellow blossoms that stretch out towards the painting’s crest.

How distant is our common ancestor from plant or fungi? What could change if we cultivated community like a scuppernong vine—precious about the collective fruit, respectful of each other’s desire for repose, curious about our shared gestation? As we surrender to late spring, I invite you to consider the people who are blooming beside you: waiting at the traffic light, cradled in your arms, sitting on the other side of a window screen. Each of us tangled in twilight. Sweet, swelling subaltern, may our roots mingle and magnify as we grow wild along the riverbeds.

Because if roots can fly, can’t we as well?

— Bryn Evans

Title: tangle of twilight
By Destiny Hemphill
This poem is a response to Wangechi Mutu's painting, "Subterranea Flourish," created in 2021

The poem begins:
beyond the ragged edge of the terror
of terra nullius. in the tangle of twilight tendril and bloom. beneath the aureole, that moon-jellied eclipse with its membrane of smoke, you might find...
not as buried reliquary of this world but as subaltern assemblage, buzzing fuchsia and radiating wisteric. our four akenes, xanthic and ablaze. our fibrous tentacles, creeping crepuscular. dancing a fluorescent fluorescence. rupturing the topsoil and burnishing the earth's wretchedness. come close:
we are not here for mining or extraction. do not call us for repair or relief. redemption is not our name but we have come to disorder this order.
Visit the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University and spend the day a world away!
Wangechi Mutu, Flying Root IV, 2017; red soil, paper pulp, wood glue, wood, and cow horns. 23 by 16 by 17 inches. Courtesy the artist and Gladstone Gallery.

Spirit in the Land is on view at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University through July 9, 2023.

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