Jan 26, 2022
Join 2020—21 artist in residence Widline Cadet for a multi-generational and multi-disciplinary roundtable conversation with artists Didier William, Madjeen Isaac, and Abigail Lucien. With practices that span photography, painting, printmaking, sculpture, and time-based media, the artists connect as kinfolk of the Haitian diaspora. The discussion will include topics such as home, family, (be)longing, nostalgia, memory, legibility, identity, (im)migration, and place.
This program will be streamed on Zoom and will feature live CART captioning and ASL interpretation.
Widline Cadet in Conversation is presented on the occasion of (Never) As I Was: Studio Museum Artists in Residence 2020–21, held at MoMA PS1 while the Studio Museum constructs a new building on the site of its longtime home on West 125th Street.
The Studio Museum in Harlem’s Artist-in-Residence program is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts; Joy of Giving Something; Robert Lehman Foundation; New York State Council on the Arts; Doris Duke Charitable Foundation; Jerome Foundation; Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation; and by endowments established by the Andrea Frank Foundation; the Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Trust; and Rockefeller Brothers Fund.
Digital programming is made possible thanks to support provided by the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation’s Frankenthaler Digital Initiative.
Additional support is generously provided by The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.
Widline Cadet is a visual artist born in Pétion-Ville, Ayiti and currently based in the United States. Her multi-disciplinary practice combines photography, video, performance, sound, sculpture, and installations to create a visual language uniquely her own. Her work incorporates public and personal history as source material to explore Haitian cultural identity, Black (im)migration to the United States, intergenerational memory, Black feminine interiority, and hyper-visibility in relation to notions of selfhood.
Didier William is originally from Port-au-Prince, Haiti. He earned an BFA in painting from The Maryland Institute College of Art and an MFA in Painting and Printmaking from Yale University School of Art. His work has been exhibited at the Bronx Museum of Art, The Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach, The Museum at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, The Carnegie Museum, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and The Figge Museum Art Museum. He is represented by James Fuentes Gallery in New York and M+B Gallery in Los Angeles. William was an artist-in-residence at the Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation in Brooklyn, NY, a 2018 recipient of the Rosenthal Family Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a 2020 recipient of the Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters & Sculptors Grants and a 2021 recipient of a Pew Fellowship from the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. He has taught at several institutions including Yale School of Art, Vassar College, Columbia University, UPenn, and SUNY Purchase. He is currently Assistant Professor of Expanded Print at Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University.
Madjeen Isaac (b. 1996) based in Brooklyn, NY has rooted her practice in her Haitian-American identity and Afro-Diasporic stories. She explores themes of nostalgia and familiarity by reconstructing and assembling mélanges of urban and tropical environments to create utopias and realms of her imagination. Growing up in a predominantly Caribbean neighborhood and being a first generation American influences Isaac’s process of commemorating memories and cultures that have shaped her upbringing. Ultimately, her work centers narratives of liberation, leisure, and transformative futures. Isaac received a BFA from Fashion Institute of Technology (2018) and an MA in Art+Edu & Community Practice at New York University (2021).
Abigail Lucien (b. 1992) is a Haitian-American artist working in sculpture, time-based media, and language. Their practice looks at ways cultural identities and inherited colonial structures transmit to the body and psyche by challenging systems of assimilation through material. Lucien was named to the 2021 Forbes 30 Under 30 list, is a recipient of a 2021 VMFA Fellowship and a 2020 Harpo Emerging Artist Fellow. Their work has exhibited at museums and institutions such as SculptureCenter (NY), MoMA PS1 (Long Island City, NY), Atlanta Contemporary (Atlanta, GA), The Luminary (St. Louis, MO), UICA (Grand Rapids, MI), and The Fabric Workshop and Museum (Philadelphia, PA). Raised in Cap-Haïtien, Haïti and the northeast coast of Florida, Lucien is currently based in Baltimore, MD where they teach sculpture at the Maryland Institute College of Art.
(Never) As I Was marks the third year of the multiyear partnership between The Studio Museum in Harlem, The Museum of Modern Art, and MoMA PS1, and features new work by the 2020–21 Artist-in-Residence cohort: Widline Cadet (b. 1992, Pétion-Ville, Haiti), Texas Isaiah (b. Brooklyn, NY), Genesis Jerez (b. 1993, Bronx, NY), and Jacolby Satterwhite (b. 1986, Columbia, South Carolina).
With practices spanning new media, painting, sculpture, and photography, each artist proposes dynamic ways of experiencing time, space, and locality set into this current moment of complex transformation. In response to the seismic impacts of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, for the first time in the Museum’s history the artists participated entirely in remote form for the duration of the residency. Communication was deeply mediated by the digital—this way of collaborating presented new modes of being, bending and recharting the territories of domestic, social, and studio space.
Widline Cadet’s photo and video works examine intergenerational memory, selfhood, and erasure within the diasporic experience. Texas Isaiah offers a space for mourning, celebration, prayer, and remembrance, asserting the significance of imagination in the abolition of gender while exploring the healing capacity of rest as a place of connection. Genesis Jerez’s collaged paintings layer family photographs, oil paint, and charcoal to create works that interrogate her own personal histories and reckon with questions of diasporic fracture. Jacolby Satterwhite’s refocus on painting during the residency marked a shift inward: across these paintings, he engages fantasy as a mechanism for healing and a veil for trauma, flaying open a psychic space for transcendent possibility. Each artist took on the challenge of thinking critically and durationally about the ways the tensions and possibilities of private vs. public and interior vs. exterior can be expanded, reimagined, and renegotiated through and beyond their work. The outcomes are tender and lyrical explorations of family histories, memoir, spirituality, and memory. In reflecting on their private pasts, these artists have created works that look toward what collectively lies ahead, to a world that is at once achingly the same and never as it was.
Curatorial Essay by Legacy Russell, former Studio Museum Associate Curator, Exhibitions (now Executive Director and Chief Curator, The Kitchen). ->
(Never) As I Was is organized by Legacy Russell, former Studio Museum Associate Curator, Exhibitions (now Executive Director and Chief Curator, The Kitchen), with Yelena Keller, Curatorial Assistant, Exhibitions, The Studio Museum in Harlem, and Josephine Graf, Assistant Curator, MoMA PS1. Exhibition research is provided by Angelique Rosales Salgado, former The Studio Museum in Harlem and MoMA Curatorial Fellow, and Elana Bridges, former Mellon Curatorial Fellow, The Studio Museum in Harlem.
Support for (Never) As I Was at MoMA PS1 is generously provided by the Tom Slaughter Exhibition Fund and the MoMA PS1 Trustee Annual Fund.
The Studio Museum in Harlem’s Artist-in-Residence program is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts; Joy of Giving Something; New York State Council on the Arts; Doris Duke Charitable Foundation; Jerome Foundation; Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation; and by endowments established by the Andrea Frank Foundation; the Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Trust; and Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Additional support is generously provided by The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.
Widline Cadet’s photographs entangle the past with the present as she uses the medium to communicate the often intangible feeling of being an immigrant. She explores themes of race, memory, erasure, migration, immigration, and her Haitian cultural identity from within the United States by staging family photographs within more contemporary photographs that reflect on her life as a child. In doing so, she blurs time and space as a means of building an archive of her family history.
Cadet tells me she doesn’t have many photographs, or evidence, of her childhood in Thomassin, Haiti. Her practice is how she makes sense of her relationship to loss, and she builds a visual language that incorporates visceral elements that remind her of her youth: vivid details of landscapes, water, colors, and uniforms. Such tactile traces of her past allow Cadet to assemble an image that captures the liminal experience of being an immigrant: being both seen and unseen. In the series Seremoni Disparisyon (2019–ongoing) Cadet, explores the nuances and contradictions she experiences as a person who occupies multiple worlds at once. Some of these worlds are real, some are imagined. Nonetheless, the artist couples her experiences—either because of her race, gender identity, or native language and homeland.
She captures this intersection of her multiple worlds in Seremoni Disparisyon #1 (Ritual [Dis] Appearance #1) (2019), in which she uses self-portraiture to depict herself simultaneously in the past and present, in the US and Haiti, and on solid ground and in water. Standing with her back to the viewer, Cadet makes it clear she is the custodian of her own image. Gazing ahead, the artist faces her past life, looking onto photographs of her younger self rendered onto a backdrop depicting Haiti. Her shadow is cast onto the artificial background as she stands knee-deep in a body of water, all while the scene in the background reflects onto the surface of the water. At the same time that these memories of Haiti have impacted Cadet, her shadow is evidence of her manipulation of her past as she attempts to fill the gaps in her memory. The photograph of Cadet as a child appears three times, each iteration presenting a clearer representation of the image as she scans the Haitian horizon. To the right of that setting, Cadet affixes three unrecognizable landscapes to the frame that shapes her imagined reality within her present world. Striped, black lines interrupt the scene in the three backgrounds that hang unsteadily onto the frame and one another, further warping the staging. Seremoni Disparisyon #1 (Ritual [Dis] Appearance #1) is a mediation on Cadet’s use of memory, especially the lack of memories, to make sense of her loss. For Cadet, her experience as an immigrant means to belong to several worlds and therefore, to constantly shift perceptions of herself as she makes sense of her relationship to her family, homeland, and adopted country.
I think my sense of self is something that’s shifted, and as that has shifted, so has my relationship with my parents, my siblings, the rest of my family, as well as the place that birthed me. It’s complicated because when I think about what’s lost and what’s gained, there’s no tangible way for me to measure these things. A loss is not always inherently a bad thing, and neither is a gain inherently a good thing. What I'm interested in is thinking beyond the binary of losses versus gains or calculating a total of the losses incurred. My work is more concerned with acknowledging and giving language to the entirety of my experiences. Not just the popular narrative of the immigrant chasing the American Dream.