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Jessica Wimbley Interview with Mary Anna Pomonis

Still, Potential Space, 2022

Digital Video Collage

2:28 seconds

Memories of Tomorrow's Sunrise, is on view at the Ronald H. Silverman Fine Arts Gallery at Cal State LA. The show show investigated concepts of legacy, personal relationships, cultural identity, and oppression, curated by Jason Jenn & Vojislav Radovanović with Mika Cho.

I asked four artists from the show to talk about their work in a short interview format. The artists create work in part as an effort to survive the very real challenges being presented to their bodies. In light of the present moment, these four artists respond to issues of body autonomy in their work in different ways. Kayla Tange, Marval A Rex, Marne Lucas and Jessica Wimbley to different degrees explore images of bodies under attack. The third in the series is Jessica Wimbley.

JW: I wanted to first start off by sharing a quote with you from the African American Policy

Forum Statement on Bodily Autonomy following the Roe V Wade Supreme Court Ruling:

“We have barely emerged from a week of commemoration of emancipation in which the

legacy of coerced pregnancy that was the foundation of enslavement and the source of the

profits in the slave trade has yet to be addressed. The consequence of our society’s failure

to see coerced pregnancy as a legacy of enslavement has descended once again upon

Black women and all pregnant people with lethal force. Had the project of liberation from

enslavement been rooted in this recognition, then coerced childbirth would have been

prohibited as a foundational principle of freedom. The incompleteness of our conceptions of

liberty thus harken back to the unspeakable past and stretch forward into this painful

moment, proving once again that the intersections of patriarchy, racism, and

heteronormativity will continue to undermine the freedoms that we all take for granted

unless we learn how to address them simultaneously. Our response must not be siloed to a

problem that is historically and continuously interconnected."

– Kimberlé Crenshaw, AAPF Executive Director.

In speaking to body autonomy or commodification, it is impossible, especially within a US

historical context, to decouple the history of slavery and gynecology from black female

reproductive rights. basic autonomy and health. Black women have a current Maternal and

Infant Health Mortality Crisis, as well as higher rates of hysterectomies over less invasive

procedures. These violent systemic injustices are ongoing, and in tandem with the

overturning of Roe V. Wade.

MAP: What is it like to use your own body as a metaphor in a time of the real bodily threats

implied by the overturning of Roe V. Wade?

JW: Intense. Investigating my own body as site has been an important apparatus in

processing having had a hysterectomy. Within Potential Space, the uterus is the site of

multiple temporalities, so that the history of gynecology, founded on the experimentation of

subjugated enslaved Black women, to issues of the high rate of fibroids, endometriosis, and

hysterectomies among black women, the use of Hela cells, mass shooter hate crimes, Roe

vs Wade, to my own family history are included in the work. It is dense with imagery, and

vacillates between the micro and macro, from personal to shared history. These histories

intersect at the site of my body where the actual organ is removed- a site of real physical

trauma where the threat of violence has already been realized.

Still, Potential Space, 2022

Digital Video Collage

2:28 seconds

MAP:How does the issue of bodily commodification figure into the themes of your work?

JW: The very foundation of medical care of the female body and reproductive system in the

modern western world was built by the human trafficked bodies of Black women. Hela cells

are derived from the cancer cells of Henrietta Lacks. The literal commodification of the

Black body in the US from slavery, systemic racism- we have a movement called Black

Lives Matter due to the dehumanization and commodification of Black life in real time, so

the inclusion of these histories within the work speak directly to the historic commodification

of the Black female body in relationship to our current cultural milieu and my own personal

experiences. Locating the narrative at the site of my body under a condition of surveillance

further underscores shared and personal history around bodily commodification, notions of

autonomy, scrutiny and control.

MAP: With the potential loss of future privacy rights along with the attack on the rights of trans

youth families, how do the notions of family or chosen family figure into your creative

practice ?

JW: My creative practice has included family both in the visual and conceptual art form, and

in the building of community within my curatorial project with artist/curator Chris Christion,


Image List:

Still, Potential Space, 2022

Digital Video Collage

2:28 seconds

More information is available at

Wimbley received her BFA in Painting from Rhode Island School of Design, M.F.A in Visual Arts from the University of California, Davis, and her MA in Arts Management from Claremont Graduate University. She has been included in dozens of group shows across the country and has received critical reviews in Hyperallergic, Art and Cake, LA Weekly, Huffington Post, and the Los Angeles Times. Wimbley’s public art projects include, the “Social Justice Billboard Project” in collaboration with the Northeast Sculpture and Gallery Factory in Minneapolis, MN; her billboard Masking: Testament was installed near the corner of 38th and Chicago, the site of the George Floyd murder, and the recently completed Masking Series,2021 featuring video and still photography created in partnership with the State of California and The Center at Sierra Health Foundation, to speak directly to Californians who have been hardest hit by COVID-19. Additionally, as part of The City of Sacramento’s “Your Actions Save Lives” Public Art Campaign, Wimbley’s large scale video work, Masking 2021, is located in Sacramento’s Arden Fair Mall and in Oak Park, Sacramento neighborhood billboard. Masking, 2021 has been featured in the Sac Bee, ABC News, and KCRA, with an ad campaign in 11 markets state wide which include print media, digital billboards, and a tv spot.

Part of a curatorial team with artist/curator, Chris Christion, Wimbley has developed the curatorial project series Biomythography, with exhibitions in academic and non-profit art spaces in Southern California including Cerritos College, California Lutheran University, Eastside International, Los Angeles, University of La Verne, and Claremont Graduate University.


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