Stellar Reverberations: African Masks in Outer Space

Stellar Reverberations: African Masks in Outer Space is a site-specific installation created for the Katonah Museum of Art by Damien Davis. Building upon Davis’s interest in challenging historical portrayals of Black identity, the exhibition uses visual symbols to create a dialogue between African heritage and the cosmic wonder of outer space. Through an Afrofuturist lens, Davis employs familiar silhouettes and icons to celebrate cultural narratives and scientific thinking.

For The Pollack Family Learning Center, Davis found inspiration in NASA astronaut Mae Jemison, who in 1992 became the first African American woman to visit outer space. On her voyage, Jemison brought with her a West African Bundu statue. Davis plays out Jemison’s story, creating an imaginary intergalactic environment populated with freeform symbolic African masks. Young learners can engage with parts of the kinetic installation by turning, twisting, and rearranging larger-than-life moving parts that represent cultural artifacts floating in “zero gravity.” Visit The Pollack Family Learning Center to explore the exhibition and related drop-in artmaking activities that invite young visitors to reflect on themselves, their heritage, and imagined futures.

Damien Davis (b. 1984) is a New York-based artist whose work has been showcased at prominent institutions including the Museum of Arts and Design, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Davis was formerly Curator of the Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling in Harlem and is currently the Residency + Programs Manager at Project for Empty Space and a Visiting Assistant Professor of Sculpture at Purchase College (SUNY). His work has been profiled in the New York Times, Frieze Magazine, The Guardian, Hyperallergic, and Vulture.

Credits

Installation view of Damien Davis, In Orbit (Blackamoors Collage #510), 2021. Courtesy of the artist.