Tar Baby Jane
presented by Greg Scott Williams, Jr.
A review by Mad Matthewz:
Tar Baby Jane is a short portrait documentary about sculptor and performance artist, Vanessa German. The film focuses on Ms. German's simultaneous preparations for an upcoming gallery exhibition and a production of her one woman show, Root, at the African-American Festival of Theater and Music in Martha's Vineyard.
As a subject, Ms. German's life is in no short supply of dramatic narratives - an extremely talented, black lesbian artist struggling to keep a roof over her head and quite literally to maintain her sanity (she suffers from mental illness including bouts of depression that have brought her to the brink of suicide.) But despite such overwhelming adversity, it is her magnetism as a performer that resonates most throughout the film. Her booming monologues are lyrical and soulful as the blues, painting vivid portraits of the downtrodden and oft forgotten folks.
Her sculptures provide an ironic counterpoint to her performance piece - she constructs ornate black dolls out of papier mache, plaster and a variety of found objects that are beautiful, sad and whimsical all at once. They speak volumes without saying a word. At a single glance, Ms. German's "tar babies" conjure up hundreds of years of oppression and directly confront and challenge long-standing Eurocentric ideals of beauty. Each sculpture practically cries out for our love, understanding and acceptance despite their stoic countenances.
There is a profound symmetry in Ms. German's work as a sculptor and performer - both discplines manifesting in a sort of soul hollering, beseeching the viewer to recognize America's shameful legacy of slavery, brutality and injustice, to stare it right in the face, to acknowledge the complicit nature of our relationship as oppressors and oppressed and hopefully to embrace ourselves and one another for the sake of a shared future.
Saturday, December 15 6:30p