Spelman alumna and current art educator Jessica Felder is an established visual creative who specializes in transforming spaces with antique installations and art performance. Many of her pieces are a combination of cultural, historical and ancestral experience. For example, Felder’s 2015 digital collage, Victorian Ancestry II displays the juxtaposition and cultural merging of an African woman with ancestral face paint, dressed in Victorian-styled clothing. Felder will be exhibiting some of her exquisite drapery pieces at Culture and Cocktails, Spelhouse homecoming event at Negril in Atlanta on Oct. 27. Rolling out had the pleasure of picking Felder’s brain on the subject of her art.
What inspired you to create the digital collage with African ancestors in Victorian clothing?
I did a lot of internal searching and researched my families’ history. My grandfather had an old recording himself naming his various ethnicities. I learned that I am of African American, Filipino and Native American descent. Also, I researched historical Victorian culture, and how the living room was a scared space. I combined my experience with living room and African-American culture and created a hybrid visual manifestation of my ideas.
Your performance art titled, “Living Ancestor” looks amazing on your website. What does the performance entail?
I am altering space in a physical and social or psychological way. I that space, there are no paintings by, or portraying people of color. I am a black woman in foreign space, trying to do everything properly. I begin by sitting in a chair. I walk up the stairs and walk towards people. People draw me as I recreate the drawings at the museum and sometimes I even pose for people.
Why is taking up space in your performance art important, versus painting or creating a black image for the museum to hang on the wall?
Bringing in the physical black body and being present leaves more of an impact. The body has content and it starts with dialogue.
What is your mission as an artist?
I am an experience creator who would like to leave a lasting impact on others. My mission changes as I am involved with different communities. My goal as an educator is to teach others to appreciate and create art.
Does your art solely focus on historical aspects?
It starts with history. As Sankofa said, “We must go back and reclaim our past so we can move forward.”
The “Passage of Sankofa & Nkonsonkonson” is a performance art, with the help of the Spelman College glee club. Do you have any other pieces that include students?
I am on the Metropolitan Museum of Art board that supports exhibition space for up-and-coming artists. I also have a project called “New Kids on the Block” which is an art show put on by Georgia State and Spelman students, to showcase their art and give them a platform.
What pieces can people expect to see at the “Culture and Cocktails” event this weekend?
I am honored to help curate this event. Handbag designer Yanique Moore, and photographer Intisar Abioto will be showcasing their creations at Culture and Cocktails. I will be exhibiting a few drapery pieces as well.
Does it mean more to you, when you have art viewings at Spelman since you are an alumna?
I’m tied to it in a different way. To come home is a unique experience. I’m always excited to come home.
Do you have any new pieces you are working on?
The last work influences the next piece. My newest piece is titled “The New Guest” for the Emmanuel 9. It is a sculpture of tall metal chairs that will be displayed outdoors. I am also thinking of creating my grandfather’s old house into a museum for up-and-coming artists to display their work.