Soulsista Says...
Marilyn Nance

"The chief social function of graphic design is to
represent the identity of people and organizations
through typography, symbols, color, and other visual forms."


I have always been interested in communications-and design-and community. Books and magazines, radio and TV, education, photography, culture, advertising, promotion and propaganda. Community building via the telling of stories and the sharing of documents.

A photographer and storyteller, I am a collector of sorts. I also collect cloth, beads, bowls and sounds. I am finding new ways of sharing my collection of media, objects and stories.

This presentation can be traced back to 1994. Near the end of 1994, I was doing a lot of stuff--exhibits, lectures. I was busy. I published a schedule of significant events and mailed it out to 2,000 or so personal friends. As soon as the cards were printed, they were in need of correction, but were mailed as is ($$$). This one time mailer was titled Soulsista Alert!

I started working on this web page in 1995 and let it go for a number of reasons. (You don't want to know.) I am currently picking soulsista--the web page back up off the floor.

How Did I Get The Name Soulsista?: I had read about people chatting and e-mailing under these kind of CB radio names, so, in preparation for a life on-line, I gave myself the name Soulsista way before I even got close to a modem or a network.

I found that I could live comfortably with this persona in "real-life" as well and began to use the name in real life.

Soulsista "came out" at the opening of the AIR exhibition at the Studio Museum in Harlem, wearing her button-festooned work apron and her self-created Soulsista i.d. card. It was subtle. You had to be there. It was history--if you were watching closely.

I am Soulsista, always messing with people, telling them about good stuff to do, encouraging folks. I considered doing a web page to keep my peeps updated. Yes, I know that many of my people are not on-line. I hope that the expectation of experiencing an excellent web page would be reason for people to get connected. If I can keep the information flowing, I can keep an audience coming.

Studio Museum in Harlem "From the Studio"
Artists-in-Residence Exhibition,
October 19 through December 31, 1994
Reviews and Notes

New York Times review:

The three participants in the Studio Museum's annual artist-in-residence program work in different media and styles and have varying success in matching the objects they make with the ideas that inspired them.

In Marilyn Nance's touching photo-and-text installation, ends and means are superbly matched. Ms. Nance's subject is black spirituality, which she presents in black-and-white, black framed photographs, a format very similar to that used by the photographer Carrie Mae Weems.

Her themes are death and renewal, expressed in images that include a family funeral, the site of the African-American graveyard in lower Manhattan, the Baptist Sunday school classroom in Birmingham, Alabama, where four children were killed in a bombing in the early 1960's, and a wall-filling montage of ecstatic street dancers in a New Orleans religious festival.

Ms. Nance accompanies her photo-documentation with a notebook of short, first-person comments on the photos, which are well worth taking the time to read. They extend and deepen an already moving installation.

Part of the Curator's essay:

The Installation may not read as a traditional linear narrative, but as a spiral narrative, with the reader returning to familiar themes through enriched with new layers of meaning, entering and exiting the story at any point.

Soulsista Says...

The creation of the installation at the Studio Museum in Harlem was very much an act of associative indexing. Humans think associatively. This exhibition was on some terms an acknowledgment and presentation of the products of my own humanity.

My task now is to translate elements from my interactive mixed media installations into a web presentation.

(Spirit Faith Grace Rage @ Soulsista Says...)

Spirit Faith Grace Rage, African Spiritual Culture in America, photographs and storytelling by Marilyn Nance is a project that makes it out of museum, gallery, and alternative spaces and into the "public realm".

Spirit Faith Grace Rage, as a web presentation of photographs and text, will aim to find the intersection of the private and the public, evolving beyond the personal, pedestrian text/image narrative to a more powerful, universal and reflective realm of discourse. The result will be a private testimonial with broader, more public implications for a generation coming to terms with its latent spirituality.

Community informs and enriches the humanistic leanings of this project. Communion with one's ancestors, a concept at the heart of African philosophy, also informs Spirit Faith Grace Rage, juxtaposing current events with the supernatural, American history and folklore.

When will project be presented? The web presentation is scheduled to exhibit on the World Wide Web in June of 1997. An exhibition catalogue will be published.

What's Going On?

More and more Americans are becoming attuned to supernatural, transcendental and psychic experiences. With images and stories, I intend to continue my investigation of the dynamic relationship between American and African culture with a particular emphasis on spirituality, the supernatural, family history, and the souls of Black folks.

Spirit Faith Grace Rage is a project that, through its use of mixed media and diverse communications vehicles seeks to attract a broad base of understanding. Different mediums reach different audiences; I do not privilege one form over another though I feel a certain affinity for artwork that can be put directly into the hands of the people.

I've been working on my project, Spirit Faith Grace Rage: African Spiritual Culture in America for many years. I have discovered that there is trauma behind the spirit, the faith, the grace and the rage. Using different media as vehicles for the telling of the story, I am investigating the nature of trauma, responses to terror, and the necessity of recovery. These issues interest me and might serve as subject matter for interactive media.

In the privileged worlds of art, academia, photojournalism and publishing, I have struggled to build an audience in order to make a living. I struggle, also, to properly "feed my unacknowledged audience of origin"--ordinary working class Black folks.

I can reach people wherever they are, using a variety of mediums, producing artwork that is accessible and familiar, yet new. Work that is understood, respected and held close. Work that is loved. Work that is treasured. Work that touches and can be touched.

Spirit Faith Grace Rage will be seen, heard and felt as:

There are other likely vehicles for Spirit Faith Grace Rage that have not been elaborated on here: Outdoor exhibitions on billboards, bus kiosks; indoor exhibitions in public spaces; mailings, newspaper inserts; flyers and broadsides; public and private speaking.

Photographs and Text © Marilyn Nance
All Rights Reserved.