see.culture.made.radical: the visual history makers – xaviera simmons

February 7, 2014

Xaviera Simmons (b. 1974) is a New York City based, but globally refined artist with the distinct goal of producing visual works of art crafted by contemporary cultures, and developed by historic overtones. Simmons’ artistic style exudes realness, blackness and the essence of the exploration, apparent in every piece. Not settling for one form of media, Simmons is equipped with an arsenal of methods aimed to achieve creative expression. Simmons expresses her talents through photography, videos, sculpting, as well as performance and installation pieces.

By Jarrett Johnson, AFROPUNK Contributor *
All images © Xaviera Simmons

Simmons is partially known for works consisting of a solitary figure surrounded by a vast, but highly descriptive landscape. Also apparent, is the contrast between the main character and the background, the main character often cloaked in dark clothing surrounded by a bright background. Simmons’ choice of scenery seems to depict times of exploration and expansion, a notion that could be extended beyond a literal meaning, toward figurative ideals concerning self-exploration. Before graduating from the prestigious Bard College, Simmons and a group of Buddhist monks retraced the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade from the United States to Africa, a voyage that is a testament to her dedication to the exploration of history.

Simmons’ commitment to her craft has not gone unnoticed, as she has received numerous accolades for her visual manifestations, including; The David Driskell Prize (award to honor and celebrate contributions to the field of African American art, and art history) and fellowships at Art Matters and SmARTPower. Simmons was also the 2012 Artist-In-Residence at The Studio Museum In Harlem. Simmons works are displayed both nationwide and abroad, residing in such venues and private collections as; The Museum of Modern Art, The Guggenheim Museum, and Nouveau Museum National de Monaco, and most recently The David Castillo Gallery in Miami, FL. Visual media is a useful tool for conveying messages often overlooked when presented by more traditional means. Through eclectic photos, and thought-provoking installation pieces, Simmons broadens the horizons of black identity. Simmons’ artistic endeavors have garnered the much needed exposure of the African-American artist, and their relevance in American History. Allowing art enthusiast, students, and the general public alike to embrace the tangible nature of history—more importantly, black history, Xaviera Simmons is undoubtedly, a visual history maker.

* Jarrett Johnson’s website: