Lola Flash on Incarceration and More

Lola Flash, “Incarceration.” (Courtesy of the artist, via The Brooklyn Rail)

The artist and creative activist Lola Flash has a retrospective exhibit on at Pen + Brush through March 17, and Amy Deneson speaks with her about her work in The Brooklyn Rail. Through photography  – including the cross-color film processing by which she reversed the printed photograph’s colors in her AIDS art series – the queer Black artist has for three decades confronted “the dual injustice of invisibility and stereotypical portrayals of gender, sexuality, race, and age,” writes Deneson.

Using a 4 x 5 large format camera, Flash in her series SALT profiles numerous women over 70, “women who are not only striking but accomplished and making significant contributions to society,” as Flash writes on her website. Another series, “[sur]passing,” explores “the impact skin pigmentation plays on black identity and consciousness.” And the exhibit introduces the first photo of a new series, “Incarceration,” in which Flash herself appears. Flash spoke about it in the Brooklyn Rail interview.

That is the only photograph I am in in this exhibition. Incarceration deals with when I was arrested in 2008—for walking while black. Of course, I got arrested for ACT UP but that’s a whole different experience.

The criminal system is so off the wall. I watched Ava DuVernay’s documentary, 13th, which explores in serious detail, the injustice within mass incarceration, in America. Even though all of my series speaks to the issues of racism, sexism, homophobia—and for real, now that my comrades are getting older, those of us who didn’t die from HIV, those of us who are living with the virus for 30+ years, ageism—all these themes I am married to, dedicated to, and while I work toward showing the beauty in all of these issues, I felt like I wanted to do something that was not beautiful.

Go to The Brooklyn Rail to read what Flash has to say about the various influences on her work, about the themes and connections between photos produced years apart, and about her dedication to “inviting the audience to look but not to judge, to not make assumptions or have prejudices.”

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