Capitol Hill Arts Workshop | Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo

By East City Art Editorial Team on October 3, 2023

Sat, October 7 2023 — Fri, October 27 2023

Kimberly King. Inner Observer, 2021
Opening Reception: Saturday, October 7 from 5:30-7:30pm

Capitol Hill Arts Workshop (CHAW) is pleased to announce the opening of Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo, featuring artists Quinci Baker, Jermaine “jET” Carter, Ayana Zaire Cotton, and Kimberly King. The group exhibition, inspired by author Ntozake Shange’s 1982 novel of the same name, is curated by Anisa Olufemi.

About the show, Olufemi states, “Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo is an ode to little Black girls; the golden child, the tomboy, and the black sheep. It is an acknowledgement of the gifts endowed by Southern matriarchs; rootworkers, herbalists, spiritualists, seers, cast iron whisperers. It is an unraveling of Black girlhood’s curiosities and inordinate joys.

A significant contribution to Black Feminist fiction, Ntozake Shange’s text follows the fledgling lives of Sassafrass, Cypress and Indigo, three sisters born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina. Each of them moves through the world with artistic talents and a creative spirit akin to their mother, a locally renowned weaver. Beyond linear narrative, Shange renders s journeys toward fulfillment by conjuring up letters from home, journaled poems, spell-like musings, and family-kept recipes.

With a kindred tapestry-like approach, this exhibition will consist of drawings, sculptures, prints, and paintings by artists who steward a myriad of craft traditions while breathing new life into Black American visual aesthetics and material culture. Through abstraction, figuration, and lore viewers are drawn into a Black feminist terrain in which little Black girls emerge not only as main characters, but as complex protagonists—carriers of craft, ancestral knowledge, and perhaps most importantly, divine protection.

Sassafrass, Cypress and Indigo offers a wide-eyed worldview. Rather than a societal status predetermined by age and physical attributes, girlhood is extrapolated as a mode of being with lifelong utility. It is a lucky charm kept safe within our innermost selves. A liminal space that might be slipped into easily via a memory, a feeling, a crossing of the stars.”

ABOUT CHAW: Established in 1972, Capitol Hill Arts Workshop (CHAW) is a non-profit arts organization and a home for all forms of art: dance, theater, music, and visual arts. In addition to its robust educational programs for both youth and adults, CHAW boasts two theater companies in residence, a dance company in residence, a darkroom residency in the only publicly accessible darkroom in DC, and a six-week intensive gallery residency. CHAW is an incubator space and an organization that prides itself in letting the arts lead the way.

ABOUT THE CURATOR: Anisa Olufemi is a curator, writer, and cultural worker currently living and working in Washington, D.C. Their work is driven by hybridized cultural productions within the ancestral and contemporary African Diaspora, chiefly in The South and the Caribbean — pulling at the common threads between mother lands and chocolate cities in an effort to interrogate, amend, and reimagine Black life pre and post emancipation. Olufemi’s curatorial practice is underpinned by critical fabulation that ponders such mother lands, and the possibilities of what they theorize as The Black Pastoral. To date they have mounted exhibitions in galleries, museums, and DIY spaces located in Washington, DC; and Chicago. In 2020, Olufemi earned their BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Quinci Baker is a mixed-media artist from Prince George’s County, Maryland whose works combine various craft and repurposed materials in an exploration of collective memory, loss, and imagination. Baker’s practice is heavily influenced by the languages that develop through the shared experiences of marginalized people and the mnemonics that elucidate a cultural identity. Baker earned her MFA in Painting and Printmaking from the Yale School of Art in 2022 and her BFA from The Cooper Union School of Art in 2017. She lives and works in Prince George’s County, MD.

Jermaine “jET” Carter is an interdisciplinary artist and Southeast Washington, D.C. native currently residing in Alexandria, VA. Central to Jet’s practice is the worldbuilding and rendering of “Jetco,” an imagined, alternate universe inhabited by caricatures, metaphors, and allegories. He uses nonlinear storytelling and narrative collage to map out his world, an amalgamation of the everyday absurdities and horrors within Black American life. Jet creates surreal drawings, toys, and animations to illustrate scenes that take place within Jetco, dramatizing the precarious nature of the social and political space Black Americans occupy. He holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Cooper Union.

Ayana Zaire Cotton (she/they) is an anti-disciplinary artist and cultural worker from Prince George’s County, Maryland. They are currently based in Dawn, Virginia — tucked in between the ancestral lands of the Mattaponi and Youghtanund — answering the call to steward land that has been in their family for four generations. Braiding code, performance, and abstraction Ayana speculates and worldbuilds alongside science and technology. Sankofa is a word and symbol of the Akan Twi and Fante languages of Ghana which translates to, “go back and get”. Centering a sankofa sensibility, they build databases as vessels holding seed data and experiment with shuffling algorithms to spin non-linear narratives. Ayana calls this methodology “Cykofa Narration”, generating new worlds using the digital and social detritus of our existing world — resulting in a storytelling aesthetic that embodies circular time and troubles human authorship.

Kimberly King, born Chicago, is a Washington DC-based artist and educator, holds a Bachelor of Arts in African American Studies and a Bachelor of Fine Art in Studio Art from Howard University. Her work has been featured in group exhibitions at various centers and galleries across the country, including the Montpelier Cultural Art Center in Laurel, Maryland, the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, Virginia, the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the Strathmore Mansion in Bethesda, Maryland, and the Washington Printmakers Gallery in Washington, DC. Her Healing Spaces Mural is part of the permanent collection at the Children’s Hospital Adolescent Center in DC.

Capitol Hill Arts Workshop is located at 545 7th St SE.