Neither Free | Nor by Brittney Leeanne Williams
In this new series, Brittney Leeanne Williams investigates the black body as a site of suffering, mourning, and memorialization, yet still one that is available to transcendence. In Neither Free | Nor, bodies transition from persecution, through a kind of preservation, to emerge as deliverer or liberator. Williams’ draws from painters such as Fairfield Porter, Alex Katz, and David Hockney, creating an inviting allure often at odds with the scenes depicted. Taking Fairfield Porter’s “The Plane Tree” (1964) as muse, Williams dramatizes the 20th-century landscape painting, repurposing the pastoral scene into memorial ground. The tree leaves, blossoms, and branches become ceremonial objects through their proximity to the black body.
The series also engages narratives of “Whiteness,” frequently situating contrasting images within the same frame as Black subjects, creating a visual tension that exposes the chasm between Black and White communities. As one community feasts, the other grieves. Finally, the work explores the role of black femininity within the iconography of the female form. The images evoke the possibility of salvation as women bow in prayer or weep. Ultimately, Neither Free | Nor addresses the inevitability of physical suffering co- existing with the inescapable hope and possibility of redemption.