Home Arts “From the shooting range to the art gallery”

“From the shooting range to the art gallery”

by godlove4241
0 comment

Reverend Joyce McDonald first entered rehab in 1980. “I was there, and my sister brought me a Bible, a pad of paper and a pencil,” she says. “The Bible, I didn’t know what I was looking at at the time. But I took this pencil and started to draw. And I realize now that the deepest and darkest secrets of my life were coming out of me, on this paper.

McDonald speaks from his studio in Brooklyn, New York. She wears a kaleidoscope of colors, her braided hair flowing down to her waist and her laughter rising inside her as she speaks. Around her neck are white pearls, a tribute to her late mother, the woman who introduced Joyce to the art as a child.

McDonald speaks, today, as one of London Gallery Weekend’s most anticipated new artists, with gallerist Maureen Paley opening a solo exhibition of McDonald’s work at Studio M gallery today, titled simply, Reverend Joyce McDonald.

McDonald covers his face in embarrassment at this sudden rush of attention, aged 72. “I don’t want to know,” she said. “I can’t imagine it. All the things that happened to me, I can’t imagine that now.

Reverend Joyce McDonald © Reverend Joyce McDonald

This is, in all honesty, perhaps an unlikely story. McDonald is open about the decades of addiction and abuse that nearly cost her life, forced her into prostitution, destitution and incarceration and led to her contracting the AIDS virus. But she also struggles to articulate it. “It’s always like talking about the tip of the iceberg,” she says, recalling the decades she lived with “a $100 a day drug addiction.” Getting clean took 14 years and 60 separate visits to a rehab center.

Now, in the 29th year of his sobriety, McDonald’s work as an entertainer is only part of his time. Most of her energies are channeled into the demands of being an ordained reverend at her church, The Church of the Open Door, on Gold Street, Brooklyn, one block from where she was born and raised in Farragut Houses, a large social housing. project near the Manhattan Bridge in Brooklyn. As the church’s sole reverend, McDonald spends much of her time supporting women living in conditions that were once hers; on the streets, in shelters, prisons and hospitals, or accepting an AIDS diagnosis.

McDonald attended church with his family as a child; she sang in the choir and stood on the pews in her Sunday best. But she didn’t return to church as an adult until 1994, and at 43 found herself, “addicted to drugs”, on a nearby street. “I heard a voice,” she said. “He was telling me to go to this church. I hadn’t been to church in 30 years. I went upstairs to do drugs. Next thing I remember I was walking through the doors of the church.”

Returning to such a familiar and powerful place, she said, was like an out of body experience. “I don’t even remember it, but I found myself in front of the communion,” she says. “I told them how I had been abused, how I had been drawn into prostitution, brought into prostitution, how I had been beaten, kidnapped, raped,” she says. “I told them this quickly and felt like I surrendered my heart to God. It was the turning point in my life.”

McDonald can trace the beginnings of his addiction issues to an early event. “We had a great childhood,” she says of her upbringing in Farragut homes. “It was like a village. Everyone knew and trusted each other. »

My dear love2020 © Reverend Joyce McDonald, courtesy Maureen Paley, London and Gordon Robichaux, New York

His parents did everything to give him a stable education. Her father was born in Alabama and served in the US Army before getting a job in Brooklyn as a local mail carrier. It appeared to him as “the most powerful thing there is”. He was an amateur artist who built his own furniture and a tailor who designed his own clothes. He recognized his daughter’s talent in drawing. “One day he came home and gave me books on Leonardo da Vinci and Picasso,” she recalls.

Her mother was brilliant with her hands. She designed her own clothes, made curtains and furniture for their home. “She was a very talented seamstress,” McDonald says. “She was always well finished. She had a sweet and strong beauty, but she spent her time taking care of her five children. She devoted herself to it.”

She remembers, when she was five years old, playing outside with her brothers. Back at her parents’ apartment, she took the wrong elevator and found herself on a strange floor in the block. A neighbour, a man her family knew and trusted, offered to help her get home, but instead took the five-year-old to her flat. “I was assaulted by him,” McDonald says.

McDonald’s didn’t tell anyone. “But I don’t know how I kept that to myself,” she said. “I don’t know why, at five years old, I couldn’t find the words to tell my parents. I never understood why I hadn’t said anything.

The sadness and loneliness McDonald felt after such a traumatic event is reflected in his art today. “I believe a lot of the things I felt then are in my art now,” she says. “The protective angels, the little girls curled up in a fetal position, it’s all there.”

McDonald’s childhood coincided with New York’s crack epidemic and the AIDS epidemic. “Heroin came to the neighborhood, then AIDS came, then crack came,” she says.

Untitled, 2021 © Reverend Joyce McDonald, courtesy Maureen Paley, London and Gordon Robichaux, New York

She lost her father when she was young. “But I never cried for him,” she said. “I never cried for him. And at some point I made a conscious decision to take heroin, to dull the pain.

McDonald fell into an abusive relationship with a drug addict. She moved from her Brooklyn community to Harlem, on the other side of Manhattan, and ended up sharing needles with other junkies. Her family supported her throughout and she would return home to Farragut Houses before returning to continue her habit. She was diagnosed with HIV in 1995, a year after her sobriety. The doctor told her she had probably lived with it for years.

His modern practice includes drawing, painting and photography. But the exhibit at Studio M focuses primarily on McDonald’s exceptional sculpting abilities.

When she was stoned, McDonald often didn’t know what to do with her hands. She imitates how she would instinctively play with things, compulsively feel their edges. She would fund her habit through sewing; manufacture and sale of hats and clothing. But, during his rehab, he was given clay.

“The first time I put my hands on this clay, I felt overwhelmed,” she says. “Every horrible thing that happened to me, everything that I went through, I felt like I was able to handle it all through the clay. It came out of me, into the clay.

She cannot separate her work as an artist from her work as a reverend. She quotes the Bible: “I will not die, but I will live and publish the works of the Lord.

Gallery owners Sam Gordon and Jacob Robichaux discovered McDonald’s work in Brooklyn in 2016, after it won an award at Visual Aids, a New York arts organization that supports HIV-positive artists. They began representing her a year later when they opened the Gordon Robichaux Gallery in 2017, hosting her first exhibition at the gallery in 2021. Last year Paley saw McDonald’s work at the Independent Fair from New York. Paley sought a date and agreed to exhibit her in London. “God took me from the shooting range to the art gallery,” McDonald said, a smile spreading across his face.

McDonald’s exhibition at Paley’s Studio M gallery covers the 29 years she has been sober and includes some of the first pieces she made while in rehab. But a series of contemporary sculptures will form the centerpiece of the show.

Mr. Senior, 2021 © Reverend Joyce McDonald, courtesy Maureen Paley, London and Gordon Robichaux, New York

When Covid-19 hit, McDonald sequestered herself in her apartment. She was unable to leave her home, even briefly, because she was HIV-positive. Remembering her father, an avid photographer, she began photographing, from a distance, the range of people who delivered food to her every day during the lockdown.

On May 25, 2020, news broadcasters began picking up a series of videos shot on the street by the Cup Foods convenience store in the Powderhorn Park neighborhood of Minneapolis, Minnesota. A Cup Foods store worker had called police after a customer, a black man named George Floyd, allegedly tried to buy food with a fake $20 bill. Floyd died after a police officer, Derek Chauvin, arrested and handcuffed him, then knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes.

When McDonald learned of Floyd’s existence on the news, she began creating him out of clay. She speaks of the experience as a religious experience. She felt Floyd’s shoulders and neck forming under her fingers, and remaking his body in clay made her cry. “I didn’t eat, I didn’t bathe, I don’t even think I drank water,” she said. “I sat there covered in clay, crying, until it was fully formed. It took me all night.”

When the artists came to her studio to bring the sculpture to the gallery, she found it difficult to part with it. “I escorted him here,” she said. “It looked like a funeral procession. And now it’s over there in London.

• The Art Newspaper is a media partner of London Gallery Weekend

You may also like

Leave a Comment

@2022 – All Right Reserved. Designed and Developed by artworlddaily