December 20, 2019–August 23, 2020

Ja’Tovia Gary (American, b. 1984) is an American artist and filmmaker whose work investigates the ways in which visual and media cultures shape our perceptions around race, gender, and specifically Blackness. Her poignant and distinctive visual language combines documentary elements, direct animation, and archival footage.

Gary created Giverny I (NÉGRESSE IMPÉRIALE) during a 2016 residency at Claude Monet’s historic gardens in France as part of the prestigious Terra Summer Fellowship for emerging filmmakers, scholars, and artists. While in this bucolic setting, surrounded by the ponds and water lilies that inspired Monet’s celebrated late paintings, Gary learned about the Pulse nightclub shooting in Florida, as well as the deaths of Philando Castile in Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Louisiana by police gunfire. With its combination of images and quick, crisp editing, the work of art encourages viewers to consider these tragic events in relation to the luxury of the garden, the role of the artist throughout time, and the vulnerability of Gary’s own body.

Giverny I (NÉGRESSE IMPÉRIALE) interweaves images of Monet’s garden with archival materials and excerpts from Diamond Reynolds’ Facebook live recording of the death of her boyfriend, public school worker Philando Castile. By contrasting the harrowing experience of Diamond Reynolds and her daughter during the aftermath of Castile’s death with the artist’s own body in the gardens, Gary connects her everyday experience as a Black woman with art history. Other archival footage features slain activist and Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton discussing the concept of Negro Imperialism and how political education should be a part of organizing efforts towards Black liberation. As Gary has explained, her work recontextualizes archival images to show how connections between colonialism, state violence, and media affect visual perception: how we see, experience, and understand the visual world.


Centering Black Women: A Conversation About Art and Organizing

Thursday, August 13, 2020 | 7 pm | FREE

Gary’s work investigates the ways in which visual and media cultures shape our perceptions around race, gender, and specifically Blackness. In the crossroads of the current global pandemic and the growing movement for Black lives triggered by the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and many others, Gary’s centering of her experience as a Black woman in connection to art history is particularly relevant to examine. MAG Time-Based Media Curatorial Assistant Almudena Escobar López, independent curator and writer Dessane Lopez Cassell, and artivist and cultural curator Rachel DeGuzman will discuss the importance of centering Black women’s voices in the current political context both nationally and locally, in the contexts of both art and political organizing.

above: Dessane Lopez Cassell photo by Henry Murphy.


press release
“Ja’Tovia Gary at Memorial Art Gallery” – Cornelia Magazine
“Selfhood and safety in black America” – cover story – CITY Newspaper

shown top: Ja’Tovia Gary, still (detail) from Giverny I (NÉGRESSE IMPÉRIALE), 2017 © Ja’Tovia Gary. Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York.