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Arts in Milwaukee

A Public Service Of Milwaukee Artist Resource Network

MARNsalon II: Jessica Lynne

MARNsalon II: Jessica Lynne

Jessica Lynne is a Brooklyn based arts administrator and critic. She received her BA in Africana Studies from NYU and has been awarded residencies and fellowships from Art21 and The Cue Foundation, Callaloo, and The Center for Book Arts. Jessica contributes to publications such as Art in America, The Art Newspaper, The Brooklyn Rail, Hyperallergic, and Pelican Bomb.  She's co-editor of ARTS.BLACK, a journal of art criticism from Black perspectives, and a founding editor of the now defunct (but still special) Zora Magazine. Currently, Jessica serves as the Manager of Development and Communication at Recess. Find her on Twitter and Instagram at @lynne_bias.

Click here to apply for MARNsalon II with Jessica Lynne.

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2016: Applications for MARNsalon II opens
Sunday, February 19th: Applications due at midnight
Monday,  February 20th: MARNsalon committee selects artists for critique
Tuesday, February 21st: Applicants notified of the selection
Sunday & Monday, February 26/27th: MARNsalon II with Jessica Lynne

Purview Statement


In her seminal essay, Toward a Black Feminist Criticism, Barbara Smith understands criticism to be a tool through which a “...body of literature becomes recognizable.” She goes on to write that “[f]or books to be real and remembered they have to be talked about. For books to be understood they must be examined in such a way that the basic intentions of the writers are at least considered.” In this text, Smith, a literary critic, scholar, and publisher of Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, is specifically thinking about the necessity of a criticism that works to understand the breadth of Black women’s writing, particularly that of Black Lesbians. It strikes me that in 2017, a Black feminist criticism also provides a necessary framework for my position as an art critic.

I am often asked: who are you writing for?  This question is typically followed by: why do you write?  To employ a praxis of Black feminist criticism means that I write to place care around the practices of Black women artists. Their work. Their archives. Their fullness.

Aren’t you afraid of becoming the token, a friend once asked. We were discussing what it meant to be a young, Black, woman art critic which means we were discussing a question that has loomed over so many writers who have come before me. Perhaps another way of framing this inquiry is to ask: to whom are you responsible? Art criticism is not pure. It is not objective. With it comes the residue of our positionalities. And so, as a critic, I am thinking about rigourous, contemporary responses to the work of Black women artists. Black thinking women, to borrow from Elizabeth Alexander.

Such work is not simply a means through which a body of critical discourse forms around an artist’s practice, but it is also a tool through which we may map the vastness of black female cultural production. Criticism, then, is a way of showing up. It is a way of placing intellectual frameworks around the gestures and processes of artists. It is a way of preventing gaps and exclusions. What is most urgent for me now is engaging in a critical practice that moves against silences and undertakes assessments of visual, performance, and literary culture in a manner that centers and prioritizes the complexities of black womanhood (s).