ARTWORK: IF I THOUGHT THEY COULD THRIVE
If I thought they could thrive is part of the Relics of Home series, the physical embodiment of fractured Black histories and familial memory. Composed of photographs, installations, and sculptural elements, the series is grounded in narratives told by Speller's relatives that occupy land in Windsor, North Carolina, where her ancestors labored as enslaved people.
Largely research-based and centered around what Speller calls 'the Speller Plantation" in Windsor (not its real name, but an accurate description of its history), the series traces origin stories and depicts sites significant to her family history: the Roanoke River, where enslaved people disembarked and were brought to auction; the last house her family owned; the ever-present cotton fields; and the house her grandfather grew up in. These works are representations of a place and time remembered, by the land, and through stories told by those who still inhabit this history.
JOVAN C SPELLER
Jovan C. Speller is a multidisciplinary artist based in Minneapolis, MN. Her work – visual, textual and performative – interprets historic narratives through contemporary discourse. Her research-based practice is centered around elevating, complicating and inventing stories that explore ancestry, identity, and spatial memory.
Speller holds a B.F.A. in Fine Art Photography from Columbia College, Chicago. Her work has been exhibited in various exhibitions nationally, with an upcoming solo project in 2022 at the Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia). She is a recipient of multiple grants and fellowships, including the McKnight Visual Artist Fellowship. Speller was awarded the 2021 Carolyn Glasoe Bailey Foundation Minnesota Art Prize. She is represented by Aspect/Ratio Projects in Chicago.