Xaviera Simmons has come to Light Work to work on multiple projects, including a portrait series that feature herself with models she has come into contact with in the Syracuse area. Her portraits are either set in constructed studio settings, or in outdoor field settings, both urban and rural. Xaviera makes powerful and compelling statements that put questions of constructed African-American identities and their relationships to their settings squarely on the shoulders of her viewers. She may not be subtle in her way to engage the viewer in the presence of seemingly past cultural and political histories, but Xaviera is profoundly adept at using recognizable vernacular, as well as acutely executed humor, to drive her explorations in the subjectivity of constructed identities, and her images serve to remind us to examine the present through ideologies thought to be past. Luc Sante expresses this fittingly in his essay about Xaviera for a Real Art Ways project, “Simmons is a historian who knows that things are as much and as little now as they have ever been, and that the proper approach to the past begins within the present moment, as much as the present can be found lurking it the shadows of the past.”
Xaviera Simmons is a New York native, holds a BFA in Photography from Bard College, participated in a two-year actor training program with Maggie Flanigan, and held a year-long residency at the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program. She has received numerous awards, fellowships and residencies, from institutions such as The Public Art Fund in New York, NY, the Jerome Foundation Travel and Study Grant, and a Workspace Residency with the Lower Manhattan cultural Council. Her work has been exhibited widely in many solo and group shows, nationally and internationally.