Untitled: an interview with Xaviera Simmons

April 23, 2014 | Published Articles, Writing

The following interview was originally published by Artslant in April, 2014.

Xaviera Simmons is a New York-based artist whose practice manifests in performance, photography, sculpture, installation, sound, video, and more. That dynamic interdisciplinary material is fueled by research, contemplation, and feeling, three modes that enable Simmons to not only reflect the complexity of the human condition but also empathize with it. No subject would seem unconquerable: she tackles history, the landscape, and the human figure within it; she plays with cultural narratives as well as stereotypes, and her work is somehow capable of reflecting problems while facilitating a transformative, aesthetic experience. Simmons’ work is currently featured in When the Stars Begin to Fall – Imagination and the American South at the Studio Museum in Harlem.

Caroline Picard: How do you decide what medium to employ when addressing a particular concept?

Xaviera Simmons: There is simply no way that I can work in one medium and be fulfilled as an artist. Period! I like to think of my practice as one of weaving, where elements are folded into each other. I am always sketching, researching, going through texts, writing, looking online, and seeing exhibitions; that’s how things come together. I never try and stifle the flow, meaning if I cannot produce something right away it will be written down and stored for later reference. I wish that my studio could keep up with the amount of production I would like to do, but things have to be paced, I suppose.

Sometimes an idea or concept needs to be worked out in more than one medium. For instance, I spent a few years looking at international illegal migration patterns and how migration plays out on land and sea. I couldn’t just make one photograph about that; I also produced sound works on the topic, a text/sculptural work, and a video. Elements from that project begin to pique my interest in other ways, and those elements lead me to produce something else, often in another medium. read more