jamea richmond-edwards’ ‘stay fly’ tackles black style

March 22, 2019
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The installation, Stay Fly, by artist Jamea Richmond-Edwards offers a multilayered look at the complex intersections of Black style, capitalism, fashion, aspirational longing, and personal creativity. There is, then, some irony that the work is hosted by, and situated in a newly developed high-end retail and residential district in Washington D.C. (CityCenterDC), directly located next door to a Gucci store. Presented by CulturalDC, an organization dedicated to affordable, sustainable artist spaces in the District, the project marks their 10th activation of their Mobile Art Gallery and an effort to help artists generate meaningful dialogue with surrounding communities.

Jamea Richmond-Edwards, ‘Stay Fly’ at CulturalDC, Installation view (Photo: Ryan Maxwell Photography)

Referencing the 1990s, a coming-of-age period for the Detroit-bred and D.C. area-residing Richmond-Edwards, Stay Fly’s installation of snapshots prominently features her own prom pictures among the polaroids, portraits and candids of her aunts and family-members. The saturated colors of analog photographs are a time capsule; as a group, they create a constellation of images that reveals the personal styles which surrounded the artist as a young woman, back in the day.

Jamea Richmond-Edwards, ‘Stay Fly’ at CulturalDC, installation view (Photo: Ryan Maxwell Photography)

A variety of fashionable artifacts offers a three-dimensional and tactile element to the installation. There’s a stack of luxurious luggage in shades of green; a row of shoes, that includes platforms and silver, over-the-knee stiletto boots; and one infamous Coogi sweater, a staple of ‘90s hip-hop style. Collage works made by Richmond-Edwards include figurative renderings of young Black women immersed in fields of eclectic color and pattern, reminiscent of textile design, and suggestive abstractions of the relationship between humans and fashion.

Jamea Richmond-Edwards, ‘Stay Fly’ at CulturalDC, installation view (Photo: Ryan Maxwell Photography)

A mix of luxury brands, vintage and custom artworks are all present in Richomond-Edwards’ work, and to some extent, they suggest that style is as much about what you wear, as how you wear it. With controversial and tone-deaf design choices from H&M, Adidas, and, most recently, the houses of Gucci and Prada currently flooding the news-cycle, one can only hope that projects like Stay Fly will continue to incite dialogue around how and where Black consumers spend their money. According to a 2018 Nielsen Report that valued the purchasing power of African Americans at $1.2 trillion dollars, it seems like the time to wake up, is now.

Jamea Richmond-Edwards, “Black Gators with the Diamonds” (2019); Ink, acrylic, rhinestones, faux fur, fabric, glitter, and mixed media collage on canvas; 6 x 4 ft. (Courtesy of the artist)

Jamea Richmond-Edwards’ show, Stay Fly is on view at CulturalDC’s Mobile Art Gallery until April 13th