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Conjuring Past Injustices Through Contemporary Critique: An Interview with Nona Faustine

Degree Critical - Interview - August 4, 2016

When considering the work of photographer Nona Faustine, William Faulkner’s famed quote that “The past is never dead. It’s not even past,” rings especially true. Born and raised in Brooklyn where she still resides, Faustine has a historian’s passion for the chronicle of New York City, where she’s lived all her life. In her breakout photographic series White Shoes, shown in its entirety this past winter at Smack Mellon, she plumbed an uncomfortable and often-overshadowed aspect of New York’s story: the role it played in America’s slave-owning past. Faustine, who is African-American, photographed herself nude, excepting a pair of white, high-heeled shoes on her feet posed in sites around lower Manhattan and in Brooklyn that were key to the system of bondage until New York State abolished slavery in 1827. The series garnered much attention, and she will have several upcoming solo exhibitions of this and other work, including at the Institute of Fine Arts in New York this September and at the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago, in 2017. On a mild spring evening earlier this year, Faustine and I sat talking for hours in a cozy bar in her Brooklyn neighborhood.


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