Karice Mitchell’s take care project with Hamilton Artists Inc. promotes self-care as a way of individual and collective healing
Displayed on the side of the black brick wall of Hamilton Artist Inc. is a billboard with the words take care printed on top of an image from a Black erotic publication. Through the photographic installation, artist Karice Mitchell hopes to re-appropriate and reclaim Black erotic imagery while also reminding Black folks, particularly Black women, to practice self-care.
Available until May 29, take care is the latest Cannon Project Wall installation at Hamilton Artists Inc.. The project accepts new proposal every year to showcase on the billboard outside of the organization’s building. Mitchell’s work has been up since July of last year.
Mitchell is a photo-based artist who works with found imagery mostly from Black erotic magazines published in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s and manipulating them digitally. At its core, her work seeks to engage radically with Black women’s bodies and sexuality without influences from the white gaze and patriarchy. Mitchell obtained her master’s in fine arts last year and is currently lecturing in photography at the University of British Columbia.
The inspiration for take care came about during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic as issues around mental health and self-care became a rising concern. She was also inspired by a quote on self-care by Audrey Lorde, an African American writer and feminist.
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare,” stated Lorde.
In this way, the installation and the act of self-care seek to counteract the historical and present mistreatment, discrimination and oppression Black folks and Black women experience. It symbolizes resistance and resilience in the face of societal pressures and injustices.
“This work seeks to unapologetically represent blackness as a site of resistance. The words take care gesture to the importance of carving space for Black women to take care of themselves and how self-care can be a radical act,” said Mitchell.
The work’s location in a public and easily accessible space also alludes to the concept of healing as a collective.
“Rarely, if ever, are any of us healed in isolation. Healing is an act of communion,” stated Gloria Jean Watkins, also known by her pseudonym bell hooks.
Mitchell wanted to represent the same ideas of a community self-indulgence in hooks’ quote and further drive home its point by having it displayed on a hard-to-miss outdoor billboard.
In the past several months, the display has garnered a positive response from the community. Going into the project, there were concerns regarding how it may be perceived as it deals with topics of bodies, nakedness and sexuality. However, she was pleasantly surprised about the support she received on the project.
“The work is really important for me. It was really important for me to show Black body in this public display — like the display of skin — to kind of monumentalize it in a particular way,” said Mitchell.
Reminders of self-care are great, but how do we practice self-care? Acts of self-care is individualized and they can look different for different folks. However, the take care artist suggests a few ideas. In her personal life, Mitchell engages in self-care by checking in with loved ones and friends.
“I think [checking-in with people] is really important if you have the capacity to do so, especially with the pandemic, when it can feel so isolating. Now more than ever, community and communion are so important and integral to our own development and care,” said Mitchell.
Mitchell also emphasizes the importance of enjoying small moments in life. Whether you like going on walks, meditating or stretching, taking time to indulge in inner reflection is critical.
“I encourage, notably Black women, Black folks and Black friends, to take care of themselves. It’s a radical act and an act of self-preservation that I think is crucial to our existence and well-being,” said Mitchell.
Project take care forces its audience to reconceptualize self-care as a political display of resistance, partially as a way of healing from the past and in current times of uncertainty and political polarization.