• Unearthing: Toward a Black Feminist Ecology in Contemporary Earth Art
    Kiyan Williams

Kiyan Williams, “Reaching Towards Warmer Suns (Richmond),” 2020. Courtesy the artist

The American land art movement largely coalesces around the practices of white men artists who imagined the deserts of the Southwest as a blank canvas to carve out large scale, minimalist incisions into the landscape. “Land holds history, and memory too,” Black feminist scholar M. Jacqui Alexander reminds us. In Unearthing, Kiyan Williams connects their work to a tradition of artistic practices using soil as material and metaphor to unearth decolonial histories and futures, outlining a divergent genealogy of American land art. The artist closely examines the aesthetic and conceptual innovations of artists who mine histories of displacement and dispossession; enduring legacies of settler colonialism and chattel slavery; as well imagine possibilities for decolonized, fugitive futures.

Kiyan Williams is a visual artist, writer, and professor from Newark, New Jersey who works fluidly across sculpture, performance, video, and writing. Their recent work uses dirt and soil as material and metaphor to unearth Afro diasporic history and non-normative gender embodiment. Williams earned a bachelor’s with honors from Stanford University and a master’s in fine arts in Visual Art from Columbia University. Their work has been exhibited at SculptureCenter, The Jewish Museum, Brooklyn Museum, Socrates Sculpture Park, Recess, The Hirshhorn Museum, and The Shed. They have given artist talks and lectures at The Guggenheim, The Studio Museum in Harlem, Princeton University, Stanford University, Portland State University, and Pratt Institute. Their writings appear in Future/Present: Culture in a Changing America (Duke University Press, 2021) ARTnews, the Feminist Wire, TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly (Duke University Press, 2020), and The Archive (Leslie Lohman Museum, 2019). Williams’s honors and awards include the Astraea Foundation Global Arts Fund and Stanford Arts Award. They were selected to participate in the 2019 In Practice: Other Objects emerging artist exhibition at SculptureCenter and are among the inaugural cohort of artists commissioned by The Shed. Williams is the recipient of the 2019/2020 Fountainhead Fellowship at Virginia Commonwealth University, where they are on faculty in the sculpture and extended media department.