Lina Iris Viktor is widely recognized for her exploration of art’s connection to history, spirituality, and prophecy. Recasting factual and fantastical narratives surrounding America’s involvement in the founding of Liberia, Lina Iris Viktor: A Haven. A Hell. A Dream Deferred. explores a mythicized history of the West African nation. Established as an act of American “altruism” following the abolition of slavery, the Republic of Liberia appears as an uneasy utopia, both a paradise lost and a cautionary tale on the pathology of colonization.
Central to Viktor’s gilded portraits is the mercurial figure of the Libyan Sibyll; from the Latin sibylla meaning prophetess, she is an ancient figure of fate and foresight, later invoked by eighteenth-century abolitionists as the predictor of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Across the series, Viktor’s soothsayer navigates an evocative landscape which references modern and traditional West African textile culture, contemporary African portrait photography, and the national iconography of both Liberia and the United States. In resurrecting a long-forgotten history collective to Liberia and the antebellum United States, A Haven. A Hell. A Dream Deferred. embodies the artist’s enduring interest in transforming perceived absences into sources of light … and life.
Lina Iris Viktor: A Haven. A Hell. A Dream Deferred, created for the Great Hall, is organized by the New Orleans Museum of Art and is sponsored by Reuben O. Charles II, Pulane Kingston, Alida and Christopher Latham, and Jim and Christina Lockwood. Additional support provided by Mariane Ibrahim Gallery.