Speaking with Oasa DuVerney you could wonder how any artist of color could bemoan a lack of inspiration. That is of course unless their work takes up no cause beyond itself as an object. Truth be told, whether of the diaspora or not, society is dishing up plenty of edible nuggets these days and while some are hard to digest, the food for thought quotients are through the roof.
Neither are these nuggets hard to find, in fact, in plain sight. For Oasa, all she must do is walk outside of her Crown Heights apartment in Brooklyn, New York, to observe a wealth of alarming circumstance.
Oasa is a Brooklyn, New York-based interdisciplinary artist in the areas of drawing, public works, and video. Over the years her exhibitions and public projects have garnered New York and international media attention for their poignant socio-cultural focus.
When you look at DuVerney's work in total, you see a full spectrum. Creating language and a space for dialogue for the diaspora, sending signs and signals to the entire community, and a wake-up call to gentrifiers to take responsibility for their actions.
More importantly, the dialogue of Oasa's works points to much deeper implications; matters of accountability, channeling and directing frustrations, and gravitating towards dynamics of the structure. When looking at the entirety of her work over the last HOW MANY years, the artist's bodies of works counter these implications by encapsulating a holistic pursuit that is at once literal, symbolic, and activated.
Her ongoing graphite series of drawings range from familiar objects of nature to text and portraits to render matters such as inequality, appropriation, and reacting to ahistorical concepts informing white or wealthy culture subconsciously and consciously. (I don't know which is the most alarming of the two.) From symbolic images of majestic wings, portraits of iconic victims, heroes, and villains of our times. In singularity, these images are striking alone, together they are a compilation of the artist's manifesto of resistance.
Oasa's practice institutes prefigurative notions that embody expression and direct action. In 2010 DuVerney co-founded The Brooklyn Hi-Art Machine with Mildred Beltre. The pair set out to use art-making as a community building tool. From knitting fences with notes of resilience from the underground and silkscreen workshops for everyday activism to tenant rights resources.
DuVerney's here and now perception is aware of the temptation to play to the choir, the people who really need to be exposed to her work never seeing it or acknowledging themselves complicit of the act—It always being an act performed more dubiously by that one over there. However, the artist's aims are also the choir; the people negatively impacted the most. The objective isn't to stoke the flames for the sake of a big fire. Her work aspires to ignite self-reformational actions, as her projects bring marginalized people together so that they and their actions of community building may be seen—the act of un-marginalizing yourself; in a sense, countering the ever-changing landscapes of social inequality with an updated tool book. I frequently reference the seminal work of Jacob A. Riis, "How the Other Half Lives," an illustrated tour of New York's slums, published in 1890. But today it isn't uptown or downtown but side by side divides. The other half is right there beside you, but you are blinded by that new hot "Carribean" restaurant, organic grocery shop, artisanal something rather that allows you to live the material life you imagined Brooklyn to be. Meanwhile, under the shimmering lights of all that is new, what it means to be marginalized is seen through an outdated lens.
Proceeding this ahistorical advance, displacement becomes acceptable, normalized. When it comes down to it, those who would label themselves progressive aren't going to give up a portion of what they consider to be their slice of the pie. Leaving those who the odds are stacked against engendering a sense of failure. Such senses lead to frustration and even anger.
All of these forms of inequality and corruption are arising at the same time, they're inextricably connected, one in the same. The same crew is benefitting the most as we innovate towards the future. Same folks getting left behind. Hearing the same excuses as we heard in the 60s. Be patient. Even a suggestive reference to imaginations gone awry.
My guess is that one day all of her various practices will willfully and wantingly bow to a singular projection while also maintaining their autonomous strands.