Courtney Desiree Morris

COURTNEY

DESIREE MORRIS

(she/her)

HIGHLIGHTS
 

  • Her work was recently on view at the Yerba Buena Arts Center
     

  • Though most of her work is centered on the African diaspora, one of the most powerful experiences in her practice occurred on a research trip to the Gaza strip where she learned of hunger strike occurring among 40 Palestinian prisoners and in response she created the work i am ceremonial
     

  • Morris is an accomplished Anthropologist who has written for both academic and popular journals. In a long tradition of Black critical thinkers and artists, she considers the way her discipline has shaped contemporary aesthetic sensibility and, at the same time, an insufficient tool for telling the stories of colonial oppression and anti-Black violence
     

  • In 2019, she had the opportunity to exhibit her work at the Jamaica National Gallery which was the first showing of her work internationally and personally meaningful given her father was born there. For more on Morris and her father in Jamaica, see her essay and photo series “My Father’s Land
     

  • Courtney considers all of her work to be part of practice of ritual and engagement with ancestral memory

THEMES

Anti-Racism, Black Lives Matter & Racial Inequality; Climate Change; Equality & Equity; Feminism; Immigration & Migration; LGBTQ+ Rights & Queer Ecologies; Power & Privilege; Slavery

Courtney Desiree Morris employs photography, video, installation, and performance art to examine the ways we inhabit place—through migration, ancestry, and shared social memory—and how places inhabit us. Foregrounding the interplay between landscape and human subjectivity, she uses her own body as a staging ground for remembering her families’ experiences of loss, dispossession and the persistent struggle to make a place for oneself in the world. Her work focuses on examining these ancestral narratives and everyday ritual aesthetics among communities throughout the African Diaspora, with a particular emphasis in North America, Latin America, the Caribbean, and West Africa. Central to her practice is the experiences of female ancestors and elders whose stories are often disappeared in family histories and official historical narratives. Working between live and mediated presence, her work takes an expansive approach to how history persists in both the body and the environment, surfacing connections between ecology, memory, and a constant search for “home.”


Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, including at that Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (San Francisco, USA), the National Gallery of Jamaica (Kingston, Jamaica), Ashara Ekundayo Gallery (Oakland, USA), Photographic Center Northwest (Seattle, USA), and the SF LGBT Center (San Francisco, USA). Morris’ creative practice draws on her work as a social anthropologist and assistant professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, where she teaches courses on critical race theory, feminist theory, and environmental politics. She is currently completing a book entitled To Defend this Sunrise: Black Women’s Activism and the Geography of Race in Nicaragua, which examines how black women activists have resisted historical and contemporary patterns of racialized state violence, economic exclusion, territorial dispossession, and political repression from the 19th century to the present.

In my work as a social anthropologist and visual artist, I’m preoccupied with how to listen to, and speak to, the dead. The ancestors do not like to be forgotten, they walk among us waiting for us to listen to the stories they have to tell.

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