This interactive five-day happening was designed to stimulate dialogue and self-reflection. View the final exhibition on Instagram. Protection Politics is the latest version of artist Stephanie J. Woods long-running project Relax. Relate. Release. (RRR), a community-engaged project begun in 2018.
The phrase Protection Politics is about self-preservation, and self governing. What are ways that we maintain our dignity when faced with tribulations? Is it through affirmations and perseverance? And are these coping devices that we have established a form of defense developed for our survival?
The History of Relax. Relate. Release.:
Relax. Relate. Release or RRR is a community-engaged project that I began in 2018. In the initial iteration, I invited participants to take a seat and write a response to a question that is tossed into the center of the installation. Since beginning this project. I have received 321 written responses on lavender cards. I chose to use the color lavender because it is known to be a therapeutic that relieves mild anxiety.
The goal was to stimulate reflection and conversations in what I consider to be a meditative space for those who seek to maintain their dignity in the face of prejudice, aggression, and violence. When creating RRR it was really important that it provided a space for those historically rendered silent – specifically the hyper-visibility, dehumanization, and inevitable erasure of black women. Because of this Satin hair bonnets inspired the formal elements of the project; they’ve since become a visual language in my work that is a metaphor for protection, resistance, and comfort.
Also, in the initial iteration of RRR there were six bonnet seats that surrounded the focal piece, which was a large 8ft bonnet that held the completed responses. Depending on where you sat, you were asked a different question. Each seat had text on it that stated "Radiant, Magical, Determined, Bold, Strong, or Brilliant." Essentially, you choose a word, or if there was only one seat left, the word chooses you.
Stephanie J. Woods is a multimedia artist from Charlotte, NC creating textile, photography, video, and community-engaged projects. Through the use of symbolic imagery and materials referencing black american culture and the southern experience, her body of work examines the cognitive effects of forced cultural assimilation, and how performance is an ingrained part of our identity. Woods earned an MFA from UNC Greensboro and is the recipient of several residencies and fellowships, including Halcyon Arts Lab social impact fellowship, the Fine Arts Work Center fellowship, ACRE Residency, the McColl Center for Art + Innovation, Ox-Bow School of Art and Artists’ Residency, and Penland School of Craft. Woods’ has exhibited her work at the Mint Museum uptown, the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Art + Culture, and Smack Mellon. Her work has been featured in publications such as Art Papers, Burnaway, and the Boston Art Review. Additionally, her art work has been notably recognized by the Chenven Foundation, the South Arts State Fellowship, and the North Carolina Arts Council Artist Fellowship Award.