Critics’ Picks

Tameka Norris, Meka Jones: How She Got Good, 2014, mixed media, dimensions variable.

Tameka Norris, Meka Jones: How She Got Good, 2014, mixed media, dimensions variable.


Tameka Norris

Emerson Dorsch
5900 NW 2nd Avenue
February 14–April 11, 2015

The centerpiece of Tameka Norris’s solo exhibition is the eighty-minute-film Meka Jean: How She Got Good, 2014. In it, Norris plays the eponymous character, an African American woman who hopes to become a singer and painter, against the backdrop of a similarly aspirational post-Katrina New Orleans. Based on Norris’s own life, the film is less a linear narrative than a series of vignettes, in which her alter ego embodies an array of characters: the confident artist, the overtly sexualized woman, the hip-hop groupie, and the hysterical victim, to name a few.

Also on view, her short video Recovery, 2015, features interviews in which Norris describes Meka Jean’s origins in the way the music industry, academia, and the art world exploited Norris’s authorship, image, and body. The creation of the character and exaggeration, then, are modes through which Norris asserts her own representation and explores the artifice of knowable identity. As she poignantly explains, the person with whom she collaborated on Meka Jean made an unauthorized film based on their footage. Through Recovery, she reasserts her empowerment.

The exhibition also includes beanbags of various sizes, made from tablecloths and other fabric provided by her family. Painted on their surfaces with soft acrylic washes are images of dilapidated homes and states in which Norris has lived. Indeed, Norris implicates her viewers in her exploitation: It is difficult, sitting on these objects, not to feel complicit in the diminishment of the artist’s subjectivity by larger forces—over which, via the work, she’s ultimately exerting control.