Seeking the Source of Perfection

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  • Provenance

    Mariane Ibrahim Gallery, Seattle

  • Catalogue Essay

    Born 1977, Livingston, NJ

    2005, Universität der Künste, Berlin, DE
    1999, Spelman College, Atlanta, GA

    Selected honors: National Black Arts Festival's (NBAF) Visual Arts Award (2017); and New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) Fellowship for Photography (2014)
    Selected museum exhibitions and performances: San Francisco Mexican Museum, San Francisco, CA; Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, IL; The Studio Museum in Harlem, NY; Museo del Hombre, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
    Selected public collections: The Newark Museum, NY; The Studio Museum in Harlem, NY; Princeton University, NJ; JP Morgan Art Collection, USA; World Bank Art Collection, Washington D.C.; Wedge Collection, Toronto, CA; University of South Africa (UNISA), Pretoria South Africa

    Ayana V. Jackson is a photographer and performance artist based in South Africa, Paris and New York whose practice is deeply rooted in both her personal experience as a black woman, and in the history of black enslavement on a global scale. Jackson’s work is an interrogation of stereotypes surrounding both race and gender, with her photographs exploring how the tropes are rooted in the ongoing impact enslavement has on contemporary culture. Seeking the source of perfection, 2017, is a work from her series entitled Intimate Justice in the Stolen Moment which pulls thematic influence from 19th and early 20th century photographic representations of black women. Seeking the source of perfection depicts the artist gazing downwards, having just jumped – seemingly weightlessly – into an indeterminate black void-like space. Her style of dress in the photograph informs the viewer of both the performative aspect to her practice, as well as provides reference for the history her work focuses on. However, the work’s form and her autonomy in its creation – as both the photographer and the subject – indicate that Jackson’s work is a reinvention, rather than a reproduction, of the image of the Black woman’s body, delivered to us by ways of her own creative and physical presence.

    When speaking about how she sees herself within the greater historical context, Jackson says that “While I am not only proud, but thankful for this inheritance, I nevertheless continue to battle personally with the contradictions within what it means to inhabit a Black woman’s body. I am certain that strength and endurance are part of our legacy, but I am just as convinced that it is not the entirety of our experience. Even within captivity there must have been stolen moments of reprieve, pleasure, self-nurturing sensuality, fragility and love. Therefore, this must also be coded within my DNA. Regardless of definitive proof or documentation of this truth, I feel compelled to remind and be reminded because as I scan my own subjectivity I encounter as much powerlessness as power and I yearn to be protected as much as I am secure in my self-sufficiency – likewise my sensuality is as passive as it can be self-determined.”


Seeking the Source of Perfection

archival pigment print on German etching paper
43 x 43 in. (109.2 x 109.2 cm.)
Executed in 2017, this work is from an edition of 8 plus 3 artist's proofs.

Estimate on Request



New York Selling Exhibition 10 January - 8 February 2019