Above: Helina Metaferia, Headdress 342022, mixed media collage, 42 x42 inches- framed (approx).
Image courtesy the artist.
Praise Shadows Art Gallery is pleased to announce the solo
exhibition, All Put Together, by Helina Metaferia. In this multifaceted presentation, the artist draws from
her interdisciplinary practice to emphasize narratives centered on social engagement. Her process,
rooted in the archives and history of activism in the United States, is simultaneously focused on
contemporary BIPOC women, all of whom are directly involved with the artist through performance-
as-protest workshops. Her work brings to the forefront untold, or unheralded, stories. Using a diverse
range of media, including collage, video, sculpture, installation, and performance, All Put Together
reminds us that progress, or the labor in pushing for progress, is never linear. It is power, it is vulnerability.
It is failure, and it is success. Where we are today is the culmination of this work, and through Metaferia’s
meticulously rendered collage portraits, or through her sensory-filled performances, we are made aware
of the presence of the bodies who have spoken out, marched, and held signs in protest.
This will be Metaferia’s second solo exhibition taking place concurrently in Boston. Generations at the
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, is on view through April 11.
All Put Together features six collages from the artist’s Headdress series, bust portraits of BIPOC
female-identifying individuals. Following workshops she facilitated with students, faculty, and staff of Tufts,
MassArt, Northeastern, and Emerson College in 2021, each participant was photographed, then adorned
with a crown created using archival materials from Boston’s activism history, sourced from Harvard
University and Northeastern University libraries. While the image is in itself sumptuous and richly
decorated, Metaferia ensures that the viewer does not take the work only at face value. Each portrait is
accompanied by annotated information about the sitter and their role as an activist, as well as meticulous
details on source material of the collage.
Some of the individuals featured in the collages also appear in The Response, an edited video taken
during the zoom workshop that pays tribute to our current moment of social justice. In this three-minute
video, the individuals are framed within Zoom backgrounds from black and white images of protests and
marches, with protest chanting just slightly audible. Through a brief, and illuminating, declaration, we
begin to understand who they are through their own voices. “I am joy; I am Marla Mcleod; I walk with my
brother and my tribe; I stand for mental health.”
On Thursday, April 7, Metaferia will activate the gallery space with a multi-part wearable sculptural
performance titled The Willing, consisting of a brass crown inspired by her Ethiopian heritage decorated
with archival etchings. The live performance will also feature a wearable tapestry made from silkscreen
prints also using archival images and other ready-made objects. Immediately following the performance,
Metaferia will be joined by MFA Boston curator Michelle Millar Fisher for a conversation about her practice
and the exhibition. Registration information will be available in March on www.praiseshadows.com.
The Woke is an installation of protest signs, with language culled directly from participants at previous
exhibitions who submitted their response to this call: “what is your everyday revolution?” A larger iteration
of this work, on view at the MFA Boston exhibition, uses the Martin typeface, which was inspired by
remnants of the Memphis Sanitation Strike of 1968. It includes phrases such as, “Overhaul the System,”
“Prioritize Care,” and “Consider Another Perspective.” This is a work that engages the individual viewer
while also reminding us of the power of the collective voice. Submissions for future iterations of The Woke
will also be solicited during Metaferia’s show at Praise Shadows.
Generations, Metaferia’s monograph, shares the name with her solo exhibition at the Museum of Fine
Arts, Boston. The book charts the artist’s collage, video, performance, and installation work over the last
seven years. Centering women of color as protagonists, the artist explores how our inherited histories
inform present-day experiences of activism and community-making.
The book features 36 pages and sleeve with generous color images, an essay by Aruna D’Souza, and an
interview with the artist in conversation with curators Michelle Millar Fisher and Chenoa Baker. Design by
Ramon Tejada. 5.75′′ w x 8.75′′ h. $20 per copy; pre-order on the Praise Shadows Art Shop here.