Xaviera Simmons

Artist and Art-Educator

Grantee Cohort Spring 2018, Spring 2019

Xaviera Simmons works with multiple media—performance, photography, sculpture, sound installation, and video—to examine the ways that landscape, language, and portraiture construct identity. She created Number 14 (When A Group Of People Comes Together To Watch Someone Do Something) (2012), which shows a series of photographs documenting her spontaneous performance aboard a train in Sri Lanka. She has worked with students in multiple New York City high schools. This summer, Simmons will be the artist-educator at Recess Assembly and will work with the Women’s Prison Association on an arts and education program.

Art for Justice supports Xaviera and grantee partner’s Fair and Just Prosecution’s efforts to  create a series of audio, video and conversational narrative works with key prosecutors across the nation. These works will underscore the historical and personal makeup of these reform-minded leaders and explore their roles in our current justice system and their efforts to change it. Through exploration of the inner workings of prosecution, archival and historical research illuminate the way we arrived at our current system, and the economically and racially segregated climate we live in today.

With her initial grant, Xaviera developed “Continuum.” Using Jacob Lawrence’s The Migration Series as a framework, “Continuum” focused on themes of discrimination, disenfranchisement, law, and politics. The project culminated with approximately 52 different works to symbolize one piece of work per week. Some topics that were explored are slavery, Jim Crow-era laws, the Civil Rights Movement, and housing discrimination. The artist also collaborated with formerly incarcerated people to produce audio and video clips that answer questions around incarceration, and used different media to examine possibilities to repair the system.