Keisha Scarville’s primary theme is the relationship between transformation and the unknown. Grounded in photography, she works across media to explore place, absence, and subjectivity. After the death of her mother in 2015, Scarville deepened her use of photography as a way to explore how the loss of such an anchor point can affect one’s identity and sense of both absence and self in the world. Scarville’s new exhibition, titled Alma, presents a selection of photographs whose larger subject is transformation born of loss.
She has worked on this project for more than three years and has approached it in several different ways that she describes as “chapters.” Initially the work was about body as medium and then, place-as-container, particularly Guyana, South America, Alma’s birthplace, and Crown Heights, Brooklyn, an enclave of Caribbean immigrants where Scarville grew up, which she continues to call home. Working with Alma’s richly patterned clothing and possessions, Scarville says she looks for ways to visually conjure her mother’s presence. “I am interested in how the absent body lives in the photograph and the materiality of absence. I am seeking invocation, something celebratory that rethinks absence as a threshold.”
Keisha Scarville has exhibited at Aljira Center for Contemporary Art, BRIC Arts Media House, The Brooklyn Museum of Art, Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute, Institute for Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, Lesley Heller Gallery, Museum of Contemporary Diasporan Arts, Rush Arts Gallery, and Studio Museum of Harlem. She has participated in artist residencies at Baxter Street CCNY, BRIC Workspace, Center for Photography at Woodstock, Light Work Artist-in-Residence Program, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Workspace Program, Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and Vermont Studio Center.
Keisha Scarville: Alma and Light Work Lab’s Portfolio Review Workshop were made possible in part by the generous support of the Syracuse University Humanities Center and are part of the 2018-19 Syracuse Symposium: Stories.