Lela Pierce | Variations on a Sun Star

Lela Pierce | Variations on a Sun Star

Bockley presents a new body of work by artist Lela Pierce

For her first exhibition at Bockley Gallery, Lela Pierce turns the gallery's space jet black in an immersive installation with radiantly hued works across media while exploring transformation and threads of her own spiritual interests and heritage. 

“The world we live in is between those two, the darkness that’s deep in the earth and the vastness  of outer space,” she says, “and then there’s this colorful life that we’re living in.”  

Pierce’s large-scale works on paper combine iconography from her African American father’s  lineage and her mother’s European ancestry—from the West African concept of Sankofa, often  rendered as a bird looking back over its shoulder, which refers to going back to retrieve that  which is at risk of being lost, to imagery of psyanky, often referred to as a “Ukrainian egg,” from  her mother’s Lemko and Rusyn forebears. In pre-Christian times, these eggs were often inscribed  with adorations to a sun god, which is the spark for Pierce’s investigation. She notes a corollary  between this egg imagery and the human body: each work is roughly torso-shaped. “I’m thinking  about the way the geometry of transformation and stars sits in the body,” she says. Also infused  in the work are influences from Pierce’s studies in India: over seven years, she returned repeatedly  to study yoga meditation, Madhubani painting (with Manisha Jha) and classical Indian dance  (Odissi).

It all fuels a decolonial art practice, she says: “The purpose of art for me right now is this  persistent practice of imagining transformation. A persistent practice of imagining transformation  is vital for seekers of freedom. Because when you’re stuck, you’re not going to move. And I think  places where that happens is where oppression sits and doesn’t move. That’s where slavery is. If  you can’t imagine things to be different, the systems remain.” 

ABOUT THE ARTIST
Lela Pierce is a Black multiracial artist who grew up in rural MniSota Makoce on ancestral land of the Dakota and Anishinaabe people. She has lived in the Twin Cities for nearly 2 decades -maintaining artistic practices in painting, performance and installation work. Lela has danced extensively with Ananya Dance Theatre as a founding member (2004-2016) as well as Rosy Simas Danse and Pramila Vasudevan of Anichha Arts (both 2015-present). In 2018 she was awarded a Jerome Emerging Artist Fellowship for visual art. Her work has been presented internationally in both Sweden and India as well as several Twin Cities venues. Lela holds a BA in Studio Art with Honors from Macalester College in St. Paul, MN and is currently pursuing an MFA at the University of Minnesota.
 

GALLERY HOURS
 Reception: Friday, June 10, 5 to 7 pm (masks required)
 Exhibition: May 7 through June 18, 2022
 Tuesday through Saturday, Noon to 5 pm

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