Untitled is centered around the figure of an African American woman who is enveloped by pillow-shaped forms, crystals, bronze accents, shells, and porcelain birds. This “female power figure,” as vanessa calls them, is surrounded by amethyst geodes, a wooden toy pig, more birds in porcelain, and various other mystical adornments. The organization of the objects references the setup of a typical home altar or “nicho,” which are popular throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. The gold background behind the figure signals her importance.

As Chief Curator Gail Stavitsky writes, German is a “self-taught sculptor, painter, poet, and performance artist… [who] calls herself a citizen artist and is interested in art as a form of healing and protection, especially for African Americans. Her primarily female power figures explore themes of strength, love, and justice while engaging with the complicated history of race in the United States.

Linked to her identity as an activist, german's creative practice has its roots in Indigenous and West African folk practices, as well as Black Arts movements from the 1960s onwards. She works primarily with assemblage as she sculpts wood and plaster, which she adorns with a vast range of objects and materials—including prayer beads, doll parts, handmade patterned quilts, skateboards, rope, silk flowers, cowrie shells, coke bottles, vintage porcelain bells, and astroturf. 

Through her powerful work and presence, german offers a redemptive space for visitors. They are invited to identify, experience, and begin to address any feelings of anger and grief brought about by both historical and ongoing racial violence in our society.”

Text Written by Liz Frasco (Social Media and Communications Specialist) and Gail Stavitsky (Chief Curator)

This work is not on view.

Installation view of vanessa german (b. 1976),"Untitled",2020, mixed-media assemblage,Museum purchase; Acquisition Fund, 2020.3
Artwork Details

Title: Untitled

Artist: vanessa german (American, b. 1976)

Date: 2020

Medium: Mixed-media assemblage

Dimensions: frame: 66 x 36 x 16 in. (167.6 x 91.4 x 40.6 cm)

Classification: Sculpture

Credit Line: Museum purchase; Acquisition Fund

Accession Number: 2020.3