Artist, activist, and curator Nikesha Breeze creates ritualistic art to explore intergenerational trauma and healing.
Taos, NM | nikeshabreeze.com | @nikeshabreeze
Nikesha Breeze, who uses they/them pronouns, creates intensely ritualistic art to explore intergenerational trauma and healing. Their practice is informed by a Global African Diasporic, Afrocentric, and Afro-Futurist perspective. Their parents are African American and Assyrian. They identify as black, queer, intersex, non-binary, and a mother. They are also an activist, curator, and founding member of Earthseed Black Arts Alliance New Mexico. This to say, Breeze is complex. Their art processes and expresses this complexity with stunningly powerful awareness and compassion.
“I create spaces where Black, Brown, Indigenous, and Earth bodies can be seen as undeniably sacred and inviolable,” Breeze says. “My methodologies call upon ancestral memory and archival resurrection to surface faces, bodies, stories, and spirits that have been systematically erased from the master narrative.”
For example, their installation 108 Death Masks: A Communal Prayer for Peace and Justice is a meditation on lost and unknown ancestors, “the endless stream of death and the endless beauty of Black life.”
“Each face is sculpted from a single leather-hard clay slab that has been exposed to weather, tension, heat, gentleness, and violence, creating intimate and unique textures across the surface of the original ‘skin,’” says Breeze. “This skin is then pressed to the size and shape of my own skull. The resulting head-shaped blank face is then dried enough to be carved in detail.” This intimate and meticulous process is repeated to create 108 masks. The number is representative of endlessness and prayer, a signifier of the vast suffering of oppressed people as well as sacred bonds across time and place.
Breeze received the ArtPrize 3D Grand Prize and Contemporary Black Arts Award for this piece. A solo show titled Four Sites of Return: Ritual | Remembrance | Repatriation | Reclamation is on view at form & concept in Santa Fe through mid-June 2021. This deeply impactful show creates spaces of power with large-scale oil paintings, charcoal drawings, sculptures, site-specific installations, and conceptual performance interventions.