Leaf by Leaf at the Chicago Artist Coalition presented three Chicago-based artists examining geography’s connection to power, placemaking, and cultural identity. Through the media of photography and installation, Whit Forrester, India Martin, and Yasmin Spiro explored how experiences specific to diasporic communities are inscribed into postcolonial topographies and their natural ecosystems. In Leaf by Leaf, portraits of house plants referencing botany’s colonial history were in dialogue with sublime landscape photographs of Hawaiian foliage, or contrasted against repetitive grids patterns woven into sculptures inspired by urban development in Kingston, Jamaica. By exploring elements from organic environments–wood, gold, sunlight, bodies of water, plant life–and human-made materials from urban cities, they forged connections across transnational borders and ancestral homelands.
Whit Forrester, India Martin, and Yasmin Spiro drew from the frameworks of decolonization, systemic power structures, postcolonial ecology, social politics and ritual to understand cultural diasporas as networks of connected identities, not fractured communities. Together, artists in Leaf by Leaf challenged narratives surrounding colonialism and imperialism to demonstrate how our relationship to the living world is the conduit that has allowed us to exist as a moving organism of interdependent, diasporic relations.
Programming for the exhibition included a panel with the artist collective Du Monde Noir in dialogue with Chelsea Frazier, a PhD candidate at Northwestern University in African-American Studies, and a performance showcasing a collaboration between Yasmin Spiro and Jamila Raegan. Du Monde Noir discussed black ecologies and Surrealism in the context of the Caribbean, in addition to their most recent research in Martinique.
Photos by Ally Almore