Opening Reception, Sunday March 30th, 4-6pm
Artist Talk, Sunday April 13th, 4-6pm moderated by Renee Cox
Rush Arts is pleased to present the works of Qiana Mestrich in the Corridor Gallery Project Space. Qiana Mestrich was selected from the 2013 artists submissions. The Namesake Series explores the original meaning of "Qiana" as a nylon textile that is a cheaper alternative to silk, and explores the prison systems cataloging of arrests through mugshots. This concept explores our social history, consumerism, advertising and racial profiling through the blurred photograph in The Namesake Series.
A selection of twenty-five portraits made from mugshots of predominantly "Black" and "Hispanic" women named Qiana, including myself. All of us were named after a synthetic polymer (nylon) manufactured by the global chemical company DuPont.
Founded in 1802, DuPont began as a manufacturer of gunpowder and during the American Civil War (1861-1865) supplied half the gunpowder used by the Union Army. Due to political tensions with Japan in the 1930s, the United States could no longer procure silk (one of the strongest natural fibers) which was coveted for its domestic, industrial and commercial purposes. In the search for an alternative, DuPont invented nylon in 1935. First used in toothbrushes, nylon made its more fashionable debut at the 1939 World's Fair in the form of women's stockings.
Introduced in 1968, "Qiana" was a cheaper alternative to silk yet just as luxurious and required no ironing. The fabric was used to manufacture clothing and accessories popular in the disco era, like "butterfly collar" shirts for men and the infamous DVF wrap dress. The name "Qiana" was created by "a computerized combination of random letters" and reached its height as a popular baby girl name in 1978. It continues to be a popular name within the African-American community.
It was an essay by historian, critic and photographer Allan Sekula titled "The Body and the Archive" (1986) that led me to further investigate what my connection might be to a group of incarcerated women also named Qiana that I discovered one night during a Google Image search on my first name. Performing that search multiple times in 2012, I've gathered close to fifty mugshots of women named Qiana. Yes there were other women named Qiana whose images were not mugshots, but those “selfies” intended for social media didn't hold my attention.
As presumed criminals these women had no control over images of them in their weakest moments being posted online for what could be eternity. I wanted to know how these women who had such a unique name could succumb to whatever circumstances would usher them into the penal system? Why were the majority of these women identified as women of color, mostly African American? Finally, how could I use the medium of photography (from which the mugshot and the inhumane act of profiling was born) to investigate the strong pull I felt from these seemingly tenuous connections?
Qiana Mestrich is a photo-based visual artist and writer from Brooklyn, NY. A graduate of the ICP-Bard College MFA in Advanced Photographic Practice, her autobiographical work establishes a study of heritage within complex and convoluted visual histories.
She is the founder of Dodge & Burn: Diversity in Photography History, a blog which profiles photographers of color. In 2012, Qiana Mestrich co-edited (with fellow ICP-Bard alumna Michi Jigarjian) How We Do Both: Art and Motherhood (Secretary Press), a book about and by contemporary artist mothers.